Ezra Pound

Jefferson and/or Mussolini


Volitionist Economics



April 1935, anno XIII, finally a foreword
The body of this ms. was written and left my hands in February 1933.  40 publishers have refused it.  No typescript of mine has been read by so many people or brought me a more interesting correspondence.  It is here printed verbatim, unaltered.  I had not seen the ms. from the time it left Rapallo till it returned here with the galley proof.  It is printed as record of what I saw in February 1933.  The September preface (1933) indicated a flutter of hope, that has grown steadily more fluttery and less hopeful.

E.P., Rapallo, April, XIII.

First published by Stanley Nott Ltd., 1935
Copyright 1935, 1936, by Ezra Pound





Nothing is without Efficient Cause


Letter sent Autumn, 1934, by Ezra Pound to the editor of the Criterion, London

ONE element of the Duce’s gamut is the continual gentle diatribe against all that is “anti-storico,” all that is against historic process.

Obviously a parliamentary system which is in Italy an exotic, a XIXth century fad, imported ad hoc, for temporal reason, a doctrinaires’ game in North Italy, a diplomatic accident in the South, is not in the blood and bone of Italians.

Vittorio Emanuele had reasons, and even necessities of state pushing him to it, at least as top dressing.

What it signified de facto in Turin, is best exemplified by the specific occasion on which a Peidmontese parliament refused to sign on the dotted line of a treaty.  Victor told the people to elect another that would.

The system went into effect in Naples to avoid technical terms in a treaty with Austria.

Given a little time and leisure (XII years) Mussolini emerges with a scheme for ascertaining the will of the people that will be at least in intention more efficient than elected politicians, divided by geographical districts.  He wants a council where every kind of man will be represented by some bloke of his own profession, by some deputy who has identical interests and a direct knowledge of the needs and temptations of a given profession.

Mussolini has never asked nations with a different historical fibre to adopt the cupolas and gables of fascism.  Put him in England and he would drive his roots back into the Witanagemot as firmly as Douglas.

The blackest lie in autumn (1934) propaganda is the lie of re-employment, considered as possible.

Even the technocrats years ago, showed that re-employment at anything like the old hours per day is impossible.

Human decency demands the division of work among a great number of people, rather than having it piled onto a few.

The economist is faced with a progressively diminishing need of human labour.

If they are honest one wonders why the London Gesellites should be touting re-employment in their Sunday propaganda.

Gesell had a very clear brain wave, and offered that rarest of all possible things an innovation in economics.  It is surprising to find his more vocal disciples still clinging to what should be a very dead superstition.

We do not continue to hoist water with a bucket from the garden or village well, after we have laid on modern plumbing.

The atrophy which conceals this fact from economic and political organizations is not one which I can explain.

There is printed proof of its existence, and I therefore suppose a cause for it exists.

Similar phenomenon presented by a professor from London’s renowned School of Economics:  the bloke went to France but was unable to decipher the inscription on the Chamber of Commerce coinage.

So I suppose his students still remain sheltered from the distressin’ fact that France has two kinds of money, one for home use and one good both at home and abroad.

This topic is curiously unwelcome to members of the London Chamber of Commerce, for reasons which remain (at least to the present author) obscure.

The ends obtainable by adumbration or suffocation of facts are hardly the ends of science however much they may contribute to the hazards of politics.

To the scientist facts are desirable, the scientist wants as many as possible, he wants to know what’s what and what of it.  He doesn’t necessarily want to use all known data in a given instant of time, but neither does he wish to proceed on the assumption that what is not, is;  or vice versa.

It is not from our biologists, or chemists that we hear the admonition:  “Don’t give him an idea, he has one.”  Perhaps this is why so many nice people still think economics is not, and won’t soon be a science.


II


I list another curious case, that of a skilled accountant, conversant with algebra, who has by that latter exercise somewhat dimmed his sense of causality.

You can transpose terms in an algebraic equation whereas you can not by analogy transpose the different parts of a bridge.

We need, we some of us painfully need, a pooling of all these available knowledges;  of all the rigidly zoned rare fruit of particular kinds of experience.  I want all this accountant’s knowledge, or as much of it as I can get under my beret.

I recognize brother Warburg’s acuteness when he observes or repeats that silver is mainly a by-product of other metallic production.  When he tells me that the man who buys a plough commits the same act as the buyer of mortgages, I pity the pore lonely banker.


III


Trade Balance :  a hoax whereby the government concealing a huge part of the national income assures the people the nation has spent more than it’s got.

“ Control of credit and control of the news are concentric,” writes Chas. Furguson.  A book I wrote in Feb. 1933 is still unprinted.  I console myself with the fact that Van Buren wrote his memoirs in the 1860s and they got into print only in 1920.  Control of credit seems in that case to have delayed quite a lot of news about bank method.

On Oct. 6th of the year current (anno XII) between 4 P.M. and 4-30 Mussolini, speaking very clearly four or five words at a time, with a pause, quite a long pause, between phrases, to let it sink in, told 40 million Italians together with auditors in the U.S.A. and the Argentine that the problem of production was solved, and that they could now turn their minds to distribution.

It is just as well that such statements should have reached the general public.

Distribution is effected by means of small bits of paper, many of those bearing one, two and three numerals are for convenience sake carefully engraved, and are (apart from series number) exact replicas of each other as far as human skill can encompass.

Other bits are part printed and partly filled in by hand.

The science of distribution will progress in measure as people give more attention to these bits of paper, what they are, how they come there, and who governs their creation and transit.

I fail most lamentably, at ten and five year intervals precisely when I attempt to say something of major interest or importance.  Trifles or ideas of third or second line, I can always offer in manner acceptable to my editors.  The book I wrote in Feb. 1933 continues to fall out of date, to recede as its statements are verified by events.

By Oct. 6, 1934 we find Mussolini putting the dots on the “i”s.

That is to say, finding the unassailable formula, the exact equation for what had been sketchy and impressionistic and exaggerated in Thos. Jefferson’s time and expression.

By last April Quirino Capaccioli[1] had already got to a vision of the day when the state could sit back and do nothing.  Which sounds again, rather like Jefferson.

OCT. 6th     OBIT     4-14 P.M.

Dead, at 4-14 in the Piazza del Duomo, Milano, anno XII. Scarcity Economics died.

Scarcity Economics being that congeries of theories based on an earlier state of human productive capacity.  Lest the Duce’s Italian have been translated only into set formal phrases it might be well to look at his meaning, and to remember that for XII years the Duce has kept his word whereas it is almost impossible to find a public man in any other country, European or American whose promises are worth yesterday’s newspaper.

Lavoro Garantito, that means that no man in Italy is to have any anxiety, about finding a job.

Le Possibilità della richezza, is plural, “science has multiplied the means of producing plenty, and science prodded on by the will of the State should solve the other problem, that of distributing the abundance, and putting an end to the brutal paradox of grinding poverty amid plenty.”

The will of some states, personified by freshwater professors or fattened bureaucracies might offer a fairly lean hope, but in this case the Stato is sufficiently re-inforced by the human fact of the Duce, who has defined the state as the spirit of the people.

“The indifferent have never made history.”

End of poverty in the Italian peninsula.  Distribution is effected by little pieces of paper.

The Duce did not call on his hearers for either more knowledge or more intelligence, he asked for “energie e volontà” (both in the plural).

“ Self-discipline not only of entrepreneurs but of workmen,” with a correction of all that is vague and impressionistic in Jefferson’s phrasing “equality in respect to work and to the nation.  Difference only in the grade and fullness of individual responsibility.”

Thus plugging the leak left in all democratic pronouncements.

The more one examines the Milan Speech the more one is reminded of Brancusi, the stone blocks from which no error emerges, from whatever angle one look at them.

Lily-liver’d letterati might very well exercise their perception of style on this oration.

Just payment, and la casa decorosa, that means to say adequate wages (or perhaps salario doesn’t rule out the more recent proposals for distributing exchangeable paper).  Decorosa means more than a house fit to live in, it means a house fit to look at.

The Duce who never tries to put in a wedge butt end forward, began this campaign some months ago with the mild statement that in 80 years every peasant should have a house of this kind, or rather he said then “ clean and decent.”

I don’t the least think he expects to take 80 years at it, but he is not given to overstatement.

He must know already what means of distribution exist.  Mere plenty is too easy, and the equation of “silk hat and Bradford millionaire” too unpleasant.  Purist economists who see the problem as mere algebra, mere bookkeeping, or even mere engineering, will continue to see Italy in a fog.  The idea of “nation,” the heap big magic of evoking the Urbs Augusta, the Latin numen is too far from 19th century prose, from Sam Smiles, from finance in general.  It is possible the Capo del Governo wants to go slow enough so as not to see, in his old age, an Italy full of fat peasants gone rotten and a bourgeoisie stinking over the peninsula as Flaubert saw them stinking through Paris.  All this is poesy and has no place in a critical epistle.

This statement will irritate a number of doctrinaire readers, and I hope to continue the process until they can show me at least one other country in which any honest economic legislation occurs, and in which any or either of the plans for a decent monetary system show any signs of leaving the somewhat airy field of suggestion and taking on legal and concrete existence.


Ezra Pound.

The Criterion.  London, January, 1935.

__________________

1 Cenni Sullo Stato Corporativo Fascista (Firenze Stablimento Graf. Commerciale, Via Cimarosa 10. Lire 5).




September Preface


THIS book was written in February (anno XI) when almost nobody “saw Roosevelt coming.”  Certainly no letter reached me from America showing any sign of the break.  I enquired.  A very well-known American editor (call him Ole H.) replied :  “A weak sister.”

Only when I got to Paris in June could I find a trace of anyone’s having foreseen.  Hickok of the Brooklyn Eagle had had only one tip before March :  “Young Vanderbilt” had passed through Paris.  He had worked in the Roosevelt campaign and reported that “people didn’t know what was coming.”  Roosevelt was alive, had political talent, read, knew.  Vanderbilt and another chap were out West reporting local opinion, “never succeeded in reporting anything R. didn’t already know.  Must have read their reports.  Would send in word from say Seattle and get reply :  ‘Don’t that contradict what you wrote on the 14th from Des Moines.’  R’s habit to lie in bed in the morning with papers spread all over the bed, makes as good a desk as ... etc. ...”

Certain men have died and I am heartily glad of it, certain men still live whose death would contribute to my pleasure or at least to a certain mental satisfaction, I mean, such as when the street watering-cart sluices off a certain amount of debris;  a few others do, thank heaven, appear less frequently, in the papers whose abysmal policies, distortions and perfidies have done their utmost to retard the race.

Recommending the book to a British public I could say, read it in relation to what has happened since 4th March, 1933, in the U.S.A. and you may get some faint inkling of what to expect from our country.  I don’t know that this recommendation is wholly useless even in addressing a great part of the American public.  Many of them have apparently never heard of stamp-script, of Woergl, of C.H. Douglas, though several new reviews seem busy trying to tell them.

Many of them, perhaps one might say most of ’em have been very much surprised by Mr. Roosevelt, and it might do them no harm to try to “place” F.D.R. in relation to contemporary phenomena in other countries.


Ezra Pound.



Note :  As I write this 18th September, anno XI, there is NO American daily paper contemporary with the F.D. Roosevelt administration, there are several papers favourable to the administration, but that is not the same thing.  There are a couple of weekly and quarterly publications showing some adumbration of contemporary thought, there is a projected weekly said to be about to be going to be affected by an ex-member of the “brain trust,”* there are lots of old-time bright snappy practical go-getting journalists still worrying about idées fixes of their grandfathers’ time and wholly unconscious of what is occurring about them, or if not unconscious merely muddled and incomprehending.  I have never quarrelled with people when their deductions have been based on fact, I have quarreled when they were based on ignorance, and my only arguments for 25 years have been the dragging up of facts, either of literature or of history.  Journalism as I see it is history of to-day, and literature is journalism that stays news.


A.D. 1933

_________________

* TODAY.  Edited by Raymond Moley.







I
Jefferson and/or Mussolini



THE fundamental likeness between these two men are probably greater than their differences.  I am not diddling about with a paradox.  The top dressing could hardly be more different, everything on the surface is different.  The verbal manifestations or at least the more greatly advertised verbal manifestations undoubtedly differ to a very great degree.

The best government is that which governs least,” remarked Mr. Jefferson.  I don’t propose to limit my analysis to what Tom Jefferson said.  I don’t propose to limit my analysis to what Tom Jefferson recommended in a particular time and place.  I am concerned with what he actually did, with the way his mind worked both when faced with a particular problem in a particular geography, and when faced with the unending problem of CHANGE.

If Mussolini had tried to fool himself into finding or into trying to find the identical solution for Italy 1922-1932 that Jefferson found for America 1776-1826, there would have been no fascist decennio.

There is probably no language simple enough and clear enough to explain this, to make this clear to the American extreme left and to the American liberal.  I mean to say that the left is completely, I mean completely, absolutely, utterly, and possibly incurably, ignorant of Jefferson and nearly ignorant of the structure of American government, both de jure and de facto.

They understand nothing of this subject because they have no desire to understand it, and practically all political parties are swallowed up in the desire for mutual ignorance of their reciprocal difference.

Jefferson’s writings are published in ten volumes but I know of no cheap popular edition of selected and significant passages.  Van Buren’s autobiography was kept in manuscript up till 1920, not, I imagine, because of a vile conspiracy of bogey-men bankers but simply because the professors of history and economics were too lazy and too ignorant to understand its importance.  The final hundred pages would have saved America twenty years’ trouble had they been printed in 1900.  Instead of which our daddies had General Grant.  And we have ourselves been spectators, disgusted in the main, of the undignified procession :  Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

The heritage of Jefferson, Quincy Adams, old John Adams, Jackson, Van Buren is HERE, NOW in the Italian peninsula at the beginning of the fascist second decennio, not in Massachusetts or Delaware.

To understand this we must have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the first fifty years of the United States history AND some first-hand knowledge of Italy 1922-33 or 915-33, or still better some knowledge of 160 years of American democracy and of Italy for as long as you like.

The man least likely, I mean the man in all Europe or in all America least likely, to be surprised at my opening proposition is Benito Mussolini himself.

The popular pictures or caricatures of Jefferson are forgotten.  Mr. Ludwig has done a, shall we say, popular picture of the Duce, or shall we say a picture that has been widely distributed.  Mr. Ludwig saw in Mussolini exactly what one would expect Mr. Ludwig to see.  It is a wonder he didn’t ask the Capo del Governo how much he paid for his neckties.  I once knew a traveller in smokers’ novelties, very like Mr. Ludwig in mind and manner.  I dare say he also would have been distressed by the Duce, for I cannot at the moment recall (amid all the photos and all the cinema newsreels) I cannot recall any photo of the Duce smoking a fat cigar.

I think Emil would have been just as happy talking to Lloyd George or Woodrow, or to those who have afflicted our era and by whom our public affairs have been messed up.

I have myself seen several statesmen, mostly ignorant and, if not ignorant, either shallow or shifty, all engaged in passing the buck, or in avoiding the question, i.e. ANY question whatsoever.




II
Jefferson



JEFFERSON participated in one revolution, he “informed it” both in the sense of shaping it from the inside and of educating it.

He tried to educate another.  It wasn’t technically and officially his business as American Ambassador to France, but being Jefferson he couldn’t exactly help himself.  While fat Louis was chewing apples at Versailles, Lafayette and Co. kept running down to Tom’s lodgings to find out how they ought to behave, and how one should have a French revolution.  The royal bed or whatever they called it was toppled over and T.J. went back to the States.  He was the recognized opposition for twelve years while Hamilton and his pals were engaged in betraying the people, betraying them honestly, sincerely with a firm conviction that it was their duty to make the thirteen colonies into the closest possible imitation of Britain.

The handiest guide to this period is Woodward’s Washington, Image and Man.

After that, Jefferson governed our forefathers for twenty-four years, and you might almost say he governed for forty-eight.  There was the slight cross-current of Quincy Adams, but there was the intensively Jeffersonian drive of Van Buren.

When I say twenty-four years I count Jefferson’s eight years as President and the sixteen wherein he governed more or less through deputies, Madison and Monroe.

“The best government is that which governs least.”  Shallow interpretation puts all the emphasis on the adverb “least” and slides over the verb “to govern.”

Apart from conversation and persiflage, how did Jefferson govern ?  What did he really do ?  Through what mechanism did he act ?

He governed with limited suffrage, and by means of conversation with his more intelligent friends.  Or rather he guided a limited electorate by what he wrote and said more or less privately.

He canalized American thought by means of his verbal manifestations, and in these manifestations he appeared at times to exaggerate.

The exaggeration had an aim and a scope, temporary and immediate.  No man in history had ever done more and done it with less violence or with less needless expenditure of energy.

Given the obvious “weakness” of the American colonies AND geography, he committed the greatest single territorial conquest or acquist that either you or I can at the moment recall.  Get out a ruler and see whether Clive by means of cheating and bribing traitors to commit treachery on the actual field of battle mopped up anything larger, irrespective even of the moral stabilities, and lasting contentment.

Yes, there are differences.  There always ARE differences.  The exact historical parallel doesn’t exist.  There is opportunism and opportunism.  The word has a bad meaning because in a world of Metternichs, and Talleyrands it means doing the other guy the minute you get the chance.

There is also the opportunism of the artist, who has a definite aim, and creates out of the materials present.  The greater the artist the more permanent his creation.  And this is a matter of WILL.

It is also a matter of the DIRECTION OF THE WILL.  And if the reader will blow the fog off his brain and think for a few minutes or a few stray half-hours he will find this phrase brings us ultimately both to Confucius and Dante.




III
Directio Voluntatis



THE whole of the Divina Commedia is a study of the “directio voluntatis” (direction of the will).  I mean in its basal sense.

Dante uses an unfortunate terminology.  He says that his poem is written in four senses, the literal, the allegorical, the anagogical and the moral.  This is as bad as Major Douglas’ algebra.

The literal ?  Oh, well, that’s all right.  Allegory is very old-fashioned.  Anagogical ?  Hell’s bells, “nobody” knows what THAT is.  And as for the “moral” ?

We descend from the pilgrim “farvers.”  A moral man in New York or Boston is one who objects to anyone else’s committing adultery.

I am a flat-chested high-brow.  I can “cure” the whole trouble simply by criticism of style.  Oh, can I ?  Yes.  I have been saying so for some time.

At any rate if you translate the mediæval Latin word by a modern New England word having the same letters (all but the final e) and having ’em in the same order, you do NOT convey Dante’s meaning to the reader, and the reader arrives at the conclusion that Dante was either a prig or a bore.

To cut the cackle, you can have an OPPORTUNIST who is RIGHT, that is who has certain convictions and who drives them through circumstance, or batters and forms circumstance with them.

The academic ass exists in a vacuum with a congeries of dead fixed ideas, or with a congeries of fixed ideas which may be “good” and not quite dead, or rather which MIGHT be useful were they brought to focus on something.

The word intellect stinks in the normal Americo-English nostrils.  Even the word intelligence has come to be unsatisfactory.

Let us deny that real intelligence exists until it comes into action.

A man in desperate circumstances, let us say, Remy de Gourmont in pre-war France might get to the point of thinking that an idea is spoiled by being brought into action, but Gourmont also got to the point of cursing intelligence altogether, vide his remarks on the lamb.  (Chevaux de Diomède).

He then got around to defining intellect as the fumbling about in the attempt to create instinct, or at any rate on the road towards instinct.  And his word instinct came to mean merely PERFECT and complete intelligence with a limited scope applied to recurrent conditions (vide his chapters on insects in La Physique de l’Amour).

The flying ant or wasp or whatever it was that I saw cut up a spider at Excideuil may have been acting by instinct, but it was not acting by reason of the stupidity of instinct.  It was acting with remarkably full and perfect knowledge which did not have to be chewed out in a New Republic article or avoided in a London Times leader.

When a human being has an analogous completeness of knowledge, or intelligence carried into a third or forth dimension, capable of dealing with NEW circumstances, we call it genius.

This arouses any amount of inferiority complex.  Coolidge never aroused ANY inferiority complex.  Never did Harding or Hoover.

Jefferson was one genius and Mussolini is another.  I am not putting in all the steps of my argument but that don’t mean to say they aren’t there.

Jefferson guided a governing class.  A limited number of the public had the franchise.  So far as the first sixty or more or more years of United States history are concerned there was no need for Jefferson even to imagine a time when the more intelligent members of the public would be too stupid or too lazy to exercise their wit in the discharge of their “duty.”

I mean to say T.J. had a feeling of responsibility and he knew other men who had it, it didn’t occur to him that this type of man would die out.

John Adams believed in heredity.  Jefferson left no sons.  Adams left the only line of descendants who have steadily and without a break felt their responsibility and persistently participated in American government throughout its 160 years.

In one case hereditary privilege would have been useless and in the other it hasn’t been necessary.

Adams lived to see an “aristocracy of stock-jobbers and land-jobbers” in action and predicted them “into time immemorial” (which phrase an ingenious grammarian can by great ingenuity catalogue and give a name to, by counting in a string of ellipses).

Old John teased Tom about his hyperboles, so he is fair game for us in this instance.

As to the ratio of property to responsibility, Ben Franklin remarked that some of the worst rascals he had known had been some of the richest.  This concept has long since faded from American government and almost from the minds of the people.  Hamilton didn’t believe it, or at any rate both his Hebrew blood and his Scotch blood coursed violently toward the contrary view.




IV



THE modern American cheap sneers at democracy and at some of Jefferson’s slogans are based on the assumption that Jefferson’s ideas were idées fixes.

Attacks on Jefferson’s sincerity made during his lifetime were made by the same type of idiot, on precisely the opposite tack.  I mean because they weren’t idées fixes, and because Jefferson was incapable of just that form of stupidity.

An idée fixe is a dead, set, stiff, varnished “idea” existing in a vacuum.

The ideas of genius, or of “men of intelligence” are organic and germinal, the “seed” of the scriptures.

You put one of these ideas somewhere, i.e. somewhere in a definite space and time, and something begins to happen.

“ All men are born free and equal.”

Cheers, bands, band wagons, John stops licking the squire’s boots, from the Atlantic strip of the British American colonies to the great port of Marseilles there is a record off-sloughing of inferiority complex.

The drivelling imbecility of the British and French courts ceases to hypnotize all the pore boobs.  At any rate something gets going.

The idea is as old as Æsop, who said :  “We are all sons of Zeus.”

Again a little grammar or a little mediæval scholarship would be useful, Albertus Magnus or Aquinas or some fusty old scribbler passed on an age-old distinction between the verb and the noun.

The verb implies a time, a relation to time.  Be Christian, go back to the newer part of your Bible.  Be Catholic (not Anglo-Catholic), consider the “mystery of the incarnation.”

I really do not give an undertone damn about your terminology so long as you understand it and don’t mess up the meaning of your words.  And (we might add) so long as you, as reader, try to understand the meaning of the text (whatever text) you read.

As a good reader you will refuse to be bamboozled, and when a text has no meaning or when it is merely a mess or bluff you will drop it and occupy yourself with a good literature (either belles lettres economic or political).

What’s this got to do with ...?

If the gentle reader wants to think, he can learn how to start from Fenollosa’s essay on the Chinese Written Character.

AND he can learn how to put his thoughts together in some sort of order from my translation of the Ta Hio (The Great Learning) of Confucius (32 pages and 28 pages respectively).




V



NOBODY can understand the juxtaposition of the two names Jefferson-Mussolini until they are willing to imagine the transposition :

What would Benito Mussolini have done in the American wilderness in 1770 to 1826 ?

What would Tom Jefferson do and say in a narrow Mediterranean peninsula containing Foggia, Milan, Siracusa, Firenze, with a crusted conservatism that no untravelled American can even suspect of existing.

There are in Volterra houses 2,000 years old, and there are in those houses families who have BEEN IN in those houses, father to son to grandson, from the time of Cæsar Augustus.

And there are Italian intellectuals, and from the time of Tiberius the Italian intelligentsia has been talking about draining the swamps.

AND there are in Italy fascist officials who are trying their best NOT to govern one whit more than is necessary.

Do I find my Podestà trying to be modern ?  That is to say do I find him trying to get the peasants from two miles up the hill to behave like American citizens ?  I mean to say to come to his office or to whatever office they should come to for their particular business INSTEAD of bringing eggs to his door at six o’clock in the morning in order to render their feudal superior propitious to their views or their miseries or their wangles ?

Have I gone up and down the by-ways and crannies of this country for more than a decade observing the picturesque overhang of memories and tradition and the idiotic idées fixes of the educated Italian ?

And I remark again that the cultured Italian has been talking about draining those god-damned marshes since the times of Tiberius Cæsar.  And there once was a man named Colà or Nicolà da Rienzi.

ANY ass could compare HIM to Tom Jefferson.  Or, more justly, to Pat henry.

A simpatico and most charming seventy-year-old Italian University President said to me, with eulogy in his voice :  “The error of my generation was the underestimation of Marx.”

The Italian intelligentsia was amongst the last sections of the public to understand fascism.


The fascist revolution is infinitely more INTERESTING than the Russian revolution because it is not a revolution according to preconceived type.


The Italian intelligentsia, like every other incompetent intelligentsia lived with a lot of set ideas, in a vacuum.

Aragon in the best political propagandist poem of our time cheers loudly for the Bolsheviki.

“There are no brakes on the engine.”  Banzai.  Éljen, etc.

NO brakes on the engine.  HOW splendid, how perfectly ripping !




VI
Intelligentsias



LENIN did not have the Vatican in his front garden.  He knew his Russia and dealt with the Russia he had before him.  By comparison a simple equation.  I mean by comparison with the States of Italy, the duchies and kingdoms, etc., united much more recently than our own, and the clotted conglomerate of snobbisms, sectional feelings and discrepancies of cultural level, for on the whole the gap between the old civilization, the specialized cultural heritage of the educated Italian and the uncultured Italian is probably greater than exists anywhere else or at least, one finds it in sharper contrast.

In one sense they’ve all got some sort of culture, milleniar, forgotten, stuck anywhere from the time of Odysseus to the time of St. Dominic, to the time of Mazzini.

Mrs. B.’s cook is taken to the “mountains,” that is to say she is taken uphill about a mile and a quarter, and she weeps with nostalgia for the sea, said sea being clearly visible from the kitchen window.

In twenty minutes I can walk into a community with a different language, the uphills speaking something nearer Tuscan and the downhills talking Genovesh.  I have heard an excited Milanese cursing the Neapolitan for an African.

You may say that this isn’t serious or that one can’t take it in the literal sense.  But under it lies the fact that truth in Milan is anything but truth down in Foggia.

There is the Latin habit of discussing abstract ideas.  In America this habit is restricted to the small undesirable class who write for the New Republic and analogous nuisances.  In England it is confined to Fabians.

This habit has nothing to do with knowledge or a desire to learn.  It is more or less allied to the desire for eloquence.

I have seen the Italian small shopkeeper in the midst of a verbal soar, utterly unable to attend to a waiting customer until he has delivered his “opinione,” rounded out his paragraph for a customer already served.

Language for many of them seems to disgorge itself in huge formed blobs, and nothing but violent shock can impede the disgorgement of, let us say, a three-hundred-word blob, once its emission is started.

Hence the rules of the American Senate, the oriental secular tradition of leisure, etc.

Humanity, Italian and every other segment of it, is not given to seeing the FACT, man sees his own preconception of fact.

It takes a genius charged with some form of dynamite, mental or material, to blast him out of these preconceptions.

“ NOI CI FACCIAMO SCANNAR PER MUSSOLINI,” said my hotel-keeper in Rimini years ago, thinking I knew nothing about the revolution and wanting to get it into my head.  Nothing happens without efficient cause.  My hotel-keeper was also Comandante della Piazza, we had got better acquainted by reason of his sense of responsibility, or his interest in what I was doing.  The local librarian had shut up the library, and the Comandante had damn well decided that if I had taken the trouble to come to Romagna to look at a manuscript, the library would cut the red tape.

“Scannar” is a very colloquial word meaning to get scragged.  It has none of the oratorical quality of “ we will die for,” but that’s what it means.  And my friend M. was expressing a simple fact.

This kind of devotion does not come from merely starting a boy-scout movement.  It doesn’t come to a man like myself for analysing a movement with an historical perspective or with a dozen historic perspectives.

“ Can’t move ’em with a cold thing like economics ” said Arthur Griffiths to the undersigned when Griffiths was engaged in getting his unspeakable and reactionary island out of the control of the ineffably witless British.

Aproposito, an Italian anti-fascist, pure-hearted idealist stood in this room a year or so ago and orated for forty-five minutes in the vein of colonial oratory of 1760-76, with no trace what so bloody ever in his discourse of anything that had been thought in the interim.

When he left an almost inaudible chink or loophole between one clause and another, I interjected :  “ And what about economics ? ”

“ O wowowowowo ah o, I don’t understand anything about eh, such matters.”

It is now generally conceded by the Italian nonenthusers that fascism was necessary and that there was no other way.

The communists had NOT the sense, they simply had not the simple arithmetic and executive ability needed to run a village of five hundred inhabitants.

As to the socialists, a liberal or something of that sort said to me :  “They had the chance and per vigliaccheria ... per VIGLiaccheria refused to take it.”  Which we may translate that they merely howled and put their tails between their legs.  They hadn’t the courage to govern or even to come into power.

On the other hand a minister (cabinet minister) said to me of the Capo del Governo :  “ Once of the left, always left.”  Uomo di sinistra, sempre sinistra.

THE CONTINUING REVOLUTION ” of the more recent proclamations, is almost a refrain out of Jefferson.

I am not putting these sentences in monolinear syllogistic arrangement, and I have no intention of using that old form of trickery to fool the reader, any reader, into thinking I have proved anything, or that having read a paragraph of my writing he KNOWS something that he can only know by examining a dozen or two dozen facts and putting them all together.

There are no exact analogies in history.  Henry Adams thought about constructing a science of history and found himself in hot water.

Lenin had luck and had one set of obstacles.  He had not the Italian obstacles, and it is perfectly useless to seek the specific weight of one man’s achievement on the false supposition that he was solving a different problem from that with which he was, or is, actually concerned.

THE OLDER CULTURE, “Patine.”

I have, you may say, lived among the more refined spirits of my epoch, not for the purpose of writing memoirs to the affect that “on this brilliant occasion there were present ... etc. ...” but because stupidity bores me and I have never yet found the intellectual pace too swift or the mental dynamite too high for my still unsatisfied appetite.

Book learnin’ has little or nothing to do with intelligence, nevertheless until I came to Italy I never sat down to a lunch table where there was a good three-cornered discussion of the respective merits of Horace and Catullus.  That is simply a measure of the desuetude into which classic studies have fallen, especially among practising writers.

It so happens that in the case I have in mind one of the disputants was a professor (not of Latin) and the other had translated some William Blake into Italian;  though very few of his compatriots have discovered it.  Naturally neither of them had heard of economics.

I was going up to San Marino, before the new road was made, and on the wooden seat opposite me sat the Pope Hildebrand or someone who could have sat for Hildebrand’s portrait, a solid and magnificent figure, a knut among ecclesiastics, not a filbert or a table nut, but hickory, native hickory with a gold chain weighing I should have said about half a Troy pound, and with a most elegant green silk cord round his hat, and an umbrella that would have held up half Atlas, and with bright imperial purple, red purple silky saucers under his ecclesiastical buttons.

To the left was San Leo and he began to tell me about the cathedral, quoted Dante, drew a ground plan of the church, best pure Romanesque ... and so forth.

I said :  “ You are the head of the church in these parts ? ”

Yes, he was the head of the church and CONfound it what had they done to him, they had taken him down OUT of that magnificent architectural monument and put him in a place with (the voice went acid with ineffable contempt and exasperation) “a place with a POP—U—LATION ! ”

This is the spirit that filled the Quattrocento cathedrals with the slabs of malachite, porphyry, lapis lazuli.  And his dad must have ploughed his own field.

Put him into the picture along with the refined archæological Monsignori whom I have met in the libraries, or the irreconcilables who were still howling for the restoration of temporal power, or the old “black” families who shut their doors in ’70 when the Pope shut himself into the Vatican and kept ’em shut until Mussolini and the Pope signed their concordat.  Subject matter for two dozen Italian Prousts, who don’t exist because each segment of the country is different.


YOU CAN’T CONQUER A MAP

Down in Foggia an hysterical female, displeased, or rather distressed, that I should leave a monstrous and horrible church, I mean the interior, a composite horror of stucco, dragged me to look at “their Madonna,” plaster, from the Rue St. Sulpice or some other factory, void of decency and void of tradition.  The pained painted horror had lifted up its eyes six years ago when the town had cholera or measles or something and the faithful were saved by the miracle.

At Terracina the sacristan showed me a little marble barocco angel on the floor of the sacristy, the bishop had had to have it taken out of the church because the peasants insisted on “ worshipping IT as Santa Lucia.”  L’adoravano come Santa Lucia.


AGAINST WHICH

Linc Steffens came back from Russia.  Mussolini saw him, and Steff in his autobiography reports the Duce as asking him :  “ You’ve seen all that.  Haven’t you learned anything ? ”

I also saw Steff at that time.  Steff was thinking.

There are early fascist manifestos, or at least one that is highly anti-clerical.  I also was anticlerical.  I’ve seen Christians in England, I’ve seen French Catholics at Amiens and at Rocamadour, and I don’t want to see anymore.  French bigotry is as displeasing a spectacle as modern man can lay eyes on.

The Christian corruptions have never been able to infect the Italian, he takes it easy, the Mediterranean sanity subsists.

My anti-clericalism petered out in Romagna.  I recall a country priest guying the sacristan in the Tempio Malatestiano because the foreigner knew more about the church, “his” church, than the sacristan.

I recall also the puzzled expression of the same priest a few days later as he saw me making my farewells to the stone elephants.  I asked him if he considered this form of devotion heretical.

He grinned and seemed wholly undisturbed by fears for my indefinite future.

An old nun in hospital had a good deal of trouble in digesting the fact that I wasn’t Christian, no I wasn’t;  thank God, I wasn’t a Protestant, but I wasn’t a Catholic either, and I wasn’t a Jew, I believed in a more ancient and classical system with a place for Zeus and Apollo.  To which with infinite gentleness, “Z’è tutta una religione.”  “Oh well it’s all a religion.”

Hence the moderation in the decree :  These services will continue because it is the custom of the great majority of the people.

I find F. in the Piazza San Marco chuckling over “ Hanno bastinato il becco !”  A bit of pure Goldoni that he had just seen in the Venetian law courts.

A row in the Venetian fish market is reported in the daily paper with almost the same phrase as that used in the shindy between Sigismund Malatesta and Count Federico Urbino, Ferrara, 1400 and something.

No American who hasn’t lived for years in Italy has the faintest shade of a shadow of a conception of the multiformity and diversity of wholly separate and distinct conservatisms that exist in this country.

All of ’em carved in stone, carpentered and varnished into shape, built in stucco, or organic in the mind of the people.

“ Bombe, bombe, bombe per svegliare questi dormiglioni di ‘pensatori’ Italiani, che credono di essere ancora al tempo del Metastasio,” citation from letter received this morning, February 8, anno XI, headed Rome.  A letter from a man I met a few years ago still carrying Austrian shell fragments in his system and still crushed.  The nitroglycerine he wants is purely verbal nitroglycerine.  “Bombs, bombs, bombs to wake up these sluggards, these eyetalian ‘thinkers’ who still think they’re in the time of Metastasio.”


FRUBENIUS

The intelligent Teuton said a few bright words, in a recent interview, about the difficulty of communication between civilized men of different races.

“ It is not what you tell a man but the part of it that he thinks important that determines the ratio of what is ‘communicated’ to what is misunderstood.”

Hang up what I’ve said in these chapters.  We come to


THE PROBLEM OF ITALY

at the time of the Peace Conference:  a number of official men or political figures in Paris, no one of whom could be trusted with a fountain pen or a pocket-knife.

Stef says, or repeats, a story that Clemenceau sketched out the bases of lasting peace, for the fun of seeing how quickly ALL of the delegates would refuse to consider such bases.

I take it the only point the Allies at large were, on arrival, agreed on, was that they should not keep their agreements with Italy.

As to the “atmosphere”:  I saw Arabian Lawrence in London one evening after he had been with Lloyd George and, I think, Clemenceau or at any rate one of the other big pots of the congeries.  He wouldn’t talk about Arabia, and quite naturally he wouldn’t talk about what had occurred in the afternoon.  But he was like a man who has been chucked in a dungheap and is furtively trying to flick the traces of it off his clothing.

Any thorough judgment of MUSSOLINI will be in a measure an act of faith, it will depend on what you believe the man means, what you believe that he wants to accomplish.

I have never believed that my grandfather put a bit of railway across Wisconsin simply or chiefly to make money or even with the illusion that he would make money, or make more money in that way than in some other.

I don’t believe any estimate of Mussolini will be valid unless it starts from his passion for construction.  Treat him as artifex and all the details fall into place.  Take him as anything save the artist and you will get muddled with contradictions.  Or you will waste a lot of time finding that he don’t fit your particular preconceptions or your particular theories.

The Anglo-Saxon is particularly inept at understanding the Latin clarity of “ Qui veut la fin veut les moyens.”  Who wills the end wills the means.

There is Lenin’s calm estimate of all other Russian parties :  They are very clever, yes, they can do EVERYTHING except act.

If you don’t believe that Jefferson was actuated by a (in the strict quaker sense) “concern” for the good of the people, you will quibble, perhaps, over details, perhaps over the same details that worried his old friend John Adams.

If you don’t believe that Mussolini is driven by a vast and deep “concern” or will for the welfare of Italy, not Italy as a bureaucracy, or Italy as a state machinery stuck up on top of the people, but for Italy organic, composed of the last ploughman and the last girl in the olive-yards, then you will have a great deal of trouble about the un-Jeffersonian details of his surfaces.

As fast as possible I put my cards and beliefs on the table.  I have had good years in London and Paris and I like some kinds of Frenchmen, and I greatly admire at least one German, but EUROPE being what it is, the Hun hinterland epileptic, largely stuck in the bog of the seventeenth century, with lots of crusted old militars yelling to get back siph’litic Bill and lots more wanting pogroms, and with France completely bamboozled by La Comité des Forges, and, in short, things being what they are in Europe as Europe, I believe in a STRONG ITALY as the only possible foundation or anchor or whatever you want to call it for the good life in Europe.

Jefferson was super-wise in his non-combatancy, but John Adams was possibly right about frigates.  Unpreparedness and sloppy pacifism are not necessarily the best guarantees of peace.

As to actual pacifism;  there are plenty of people who think it merely a section of war propaganda, and until there is at least one peace society that will look at the facts, one may suspect the lot of corruption.

If they are not all cheats and liars they are too dumb to face contemporary economics, and the safety of to-morrow cannot be entrusted wholly to morons.

The DUCE sits in Rome calling five hundred bluffs (or thereabouts) every morning.  Some bright lad might present him to our glorious fatherland under the title of MUSSOLINI DEBUNKER.

An acute critic tells me I shall never learn to write for the public because I insist on citing other books.

How the deuce is one to avoid it ?  Several ideas occurred to humanity before I bought a portable typewriter.

De Gourmont wrote a good deal about breaking up clichés, both verbal and rhythmic.

There is possibly some trick of handing out Confucius, Frobenius, Fenollosa, Gourmont, Dante, etc., as if the bright lad on the platform had done all of their jobs for himself, with the express aim of delighting his public.

I shall go on patiently trying to explain a complex of phenomena, without pretending that its twentyseven elements can with profit to the reader be considered as five.




VII



TAKING it by and large the Russian revolution seems to me fairly simple by comparison.  If I am wrong it is probably because I haven’t been ten years in Russia.

At any rate, as I see it, the Russian revolution is the end of the Marxian cycle, that is to say Marxian economics were invented in a time when labour was necessary, when a great deal of labour was still necessary, and his, Marx’s, values are based on labour.

The new economics bases value on the cultural heritage, that is to say on labour PLUS the complex of inventions which make it possible to get results, which used to be exclusively the results of labour, with very little labour, and with a quantity of labour that tends steadily to diminish.

If the indulgent reader will consider not ONE revolution but the successive revolutions, violent and quiet, political, economic, social, he will see that none of them start from the same point, and that none of them arrive at identical destinations, and that a nation two hundred years behind the rest gives a jump which may carry it further in a given direction than any one has gone, but that the next nation to jump from, let us say, a higher, a more advanced level of culture lands in a different place on a still higher level, or into a still greater complexity.

I find no metaphor for the bathos of those denizens of developed countries who kneel and ask Russia to save ’em.  I am only reminded of the story about George Moore and his braces.

Russian Bolshevism is the outcome of centuries of historic determinism, Russian habit of having a town council or mir where all the moonheads used to go and jaw about it.  Russia full of tribal superstitions, by which I mean “left-overs.”

There is no use in thinking about shoving this state of things suddenly onto a totally different people with utterly different habits.  Results would be just as funny as the first trials by jury among the Hungarian peasantry.

As to communism, the frontier between private and public affairs is NOT fixed, it varies from one state of society to another.  The Anglo-Saxons had a certain amount of common land, vide the name “Boston Common,” which is still in Massachusetts.

The English boob was done out of most of his common land some time or other, probably under whiggery and the earlier Georges.

Quincy Adams was a communist in so far as he wanted to hold a lot of unsettled land “for the nation.”

The idea was unseasonable and would have held back the settlement of the continent for who knows how many decades.

If Adams hadn’t been deficient in capacity for human contacts he might, however, have saved “for the nation,” enough land to be useful in a number of conjectural ways.  It did “belong to the nation.”

A bolshevik friend, attacking fascism, said that Russia “belongs to them,” meaning that it belongs to the people, yet it is very difficult to see how the plural or singular Russian owns his country, any more than I own the gulf of Tigullio.  I can see it, I can swim in it when it is warm enough.

Besides, a Russian who isn’t a member of the party is certainly less a proprietor, than is a member.

I have no doubt that the idea of a sovereign people gave the buff-and-blue hefties a great sensation.  It was a stimulant, a tonic, it may have washed off a lot of inferiority complex, tho’ I can’t believe that the sense of being a feudal underling was very strong in Connecticut in 1770.

Perhaps the greatest work of a political genius is to correct the more flagrant disproportions of his epoch.  If the reader will peruse any record of the utterly drivelling idiocy of the French Court from the time of Henri IV to fat Louis, or the annals of any European country in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries he will find himself growing more and more rabidly Jeffersonian.

It is probable that a reader in 2133 looking over the record of nineteenth-century villainy will feel a revulsion from “irresponsibility,” growing more acute as he comes down into the debauch of Hatrys, Kreugers and other unconvicted financiers whose tropisms conform.




VIII



FROBENIUS, in the interview referred to, said that Mussolini’s miracle had been that of reawakening the sense of responsibility.  I cite Frobenius merely to have my own opinion independently delivered by another man who knows enough of the facts to form an intelligent judgment.

By taking more responsibility than any other man (save possibly Lenin) has dared to assume in our time Mussolini has succeeded in imparting here and there a little of this sense to some others.

The cheery and relatively irresponsible “ought” of the eighteenth-century doctrinaires and enthusiasts has been weighed out and measured by 160 years of experiment.  Jefferson thought people would feel responsible, or didn’t think, let us say, didn’t foresee or clearly think the contrary.

A limited electorate was in being.He, T.J., had enough to do with his present, the conservation of the U.S., the gaining of time for its growth, etc., the problem of slavery which he gradually found was beyond his time.  As well to be clear that he was “agriculturalist” FOR his time and his locus, but that he did see industry coming.

Ultimately our factories, which we needed for independence, were shoved on to us by wars and embargoes, and chiefly by British fat-headedness.

A hundred and more years later Russia knows enough to WANT factories and to want ’em in a hurry.

There will be no clear thinking until you understand that Italy is NOT Russia.  Racially, geographically and with all the implications of both words Italy is not Russia, nor is America Italy, nor is Russia America, etc., and I do not “advocate” America’s trying to be either Russia or Italy, und so weiter.

The most I could DO would be to try to persuade a few of the more intelligent people in all three countries to try to find out, within the limits of the possible, where and what are the others, and what are the relations between them, or the cordialities possible, or at any rate the possible comprehensions.

All of which won’t be helped by holding up a false “artificial horizon,” or painting distorted backgrounds for falsified effigies.

As to Jefferson’s interests, let us say his practical interests :  he was interested in rice, he believed in feeding the people, or at least that they ought to be fed, he wasn’t averse from pinching a bit of rice or at least from smuggling a sack of a particularly fine brand out of Piedmonte.  With the moral aim of improving all the rice in Virginia.

Mussolini has persuaded the Italians to grow better wheat, and to produce Italian colonial bananas.

This may explain the “Dio ti benedica” scrawled on a shed where some swamps were.




IX



NOW what about prejudice ?  Censorship of the Press !

I had read so much about this in foreign papers, particularly in the Chicago Tribune, that I had taken it for granted.  A few weeks ago the editor of the village local paper was vastly surprised when apropos of a fairly strong expression of opinion, I asked him if he could print it.  Of course he could print it, he could print anything he liked.  There was no censorship of that sort.  If he made an ass of himself someone would tell him.I have seen several cheery Italians, fascists, bearing up after a series of reprimands.

As the Duce has pithily remarked :  “Where the Press is ‘free’ it merely serves special interests.”

The kind of intellectual respiration where you print a thing and get spoken to afterward is vastly different from London stuffiness.  Honest thought, I mean serious sober thought intended to be of public utility is, in England, merely excluded from all the Press.  Statement of undenied and undeniable fact is merely blanketed for five years, for a decade, for longer.  They don’t dare publish the reports of their own medical officers on the state of the population, let alone economic thinking.

A great deal of yawp about free Press proves on examination to be a mere howl for irresponsibility.

American journalism has built up an ideal of impartiality.  A syndicate official writes me that as “a news writer he can’t afford the luxury of having opinions.”

That is in part practical, it is in part the result of an ideal, the ideal of being the impartial observer;  of not colouring your report of fact by an “idea” or by a conviction.

But say that a given situation has ten components and that the reporter sees one ?  It is his duty to report it ?  TO WHOM ?

If we had a perfect organ of public opinion or a perfect newspaper earnestly trying to tell thoughtful readers the truth, that would be lovely.

The paper discovering an error of its own would report it and so forth.

As it is, even our supposedly serious quarterlies do not correct misstatements.  My mind goes back to Col. Harvey who was an editor before he wore short pants in London.

Then there is the unavoidable difference in truth itself, which arises from the different predisposition and from the different intention and the different capacity of the beholder.

A field is one thing to the strolling by-passer, another to the impressionist painter, yet another to the farmer determined to plant seed in it, and get a return.

There are some things which should be reported to “the authorities” first;  and to the public only when the authorities are wilfully inattentive, incompetent or dishonest.

English free speech, the privilege of Hyde Park oratory, etc., is mostly a mark of contempt for thought in any form whatsoever.  Britain believes that the talk is a safety valve to let off steam, or that, at any rate this form of cerebral secretion is incomprehensible.

The Latin can’t help believing that an idea IS something or other.  Put an idea into a Latin and it makes him think, or at least talk, if not act.


WHERE DOES THIS LEAD ?

As far as the present author is concerned it leads to the fact I prefer a de facto freedom to theoretical freedom.  I don’t care a damn about a free Press if it means that every time I have anything to say that appears to me to be of the least interest or “of exceptional interest” some nincompoop keeps me from printing it.  I don’t care whether the nincompoop is Professor Carus or Col. Harvey or some snob in London, or a lying and obsequious British politician who dislikes “colloquial language” because the reader might understand it.

The motive or motives of an act comprise one of its dimensions.  The journalist has often no greater motive than a desire to make the front page or any page, and, at one remove, the lesser literary journalist may merely want to stir up a shindy, as has been the case recently re Mr. Hemingway.


A NOUS LA LIBERTÉ

Liberty is defined in the declaration of the Droits de l’homme, as they are proclaimed on the Aurillac monument, as the right to do anything that ne nuit pas aux autres.  That does not harm others.

This is the concept of liberty that started the enthusiasms in 1776 and in 1790.

I see a member of the Seldes family giving half an underdone damn whether their yawps do harm or have any other effect save that of getting themselves advertised.

If you were talking about the liberty of a responsible Press that is a different kettle of onions, and is something very near to the state of the Press in Italy at the moment.

The irresponsible may be in a certain sense “free” though not always free of the consequences of their own irresponsibility, whatever the theoretical government, or even if there be no government whatsoever, but their freedom is NOT the ideal liberty of eighteenth-century preachers.

A defect, among others, of puritanism, or of protestantism or of Calvin the damned, and Luther and all the rest of these blighters whom we Americans have, whether we like it or not, on our shoulders, is that it and they set up rigid prohibitions which take no count whatsoever of motive.

Thou shalt not this and that and the other.  This is a shallowness, it is the thought of inexperienced men, it is thought in two dimensions only.

What you want to know about the actions of a friend or mistress is WHY did he or she do it ?

If the act was done for affection you forgive it.  It is only when the doer is indifferent to us that we care most for the effect.

Doc Shelling used to say that the working man (American or other) wanted his rights and all of everybody else’s.

“ The party ” in Russia has simplified things too far, perhaps ? too far ?

We have in our time suffered a great clamour from those who ask to be “governed,” by which they mean mostly that they want to run yammering to their papa, the state, for jam, biscuits, and persistent help in every small trouble.  What do they care about rights ?  What is liberty, if you can have subsidy ?

Now in Italy industry is not controlled (February 8, anno XI).  The state is willing to supervise.  Out of twenty-one applications for company charters made under the new laws, up till Monday last week, fourteen had been accepted, and the other seven had been found to proceed from “gente non serii.”  That is to say from farceurs, or people who don’t know enough to come in out of the wet.

Not only do frontiers need watching but man in a mechanical age, you me’n’th’other fellow, need help against Kreugers and Hatrys.

The demarcation between public and private affairs shifts with the change in the bases of production.  A thousand peasants each growing food on his own fields can exist without trust laws.

My leading question at this point is whether any other nation has in this year, 1933, more directly or frankly faced the question :  WHAT Does harm to other men ?

Or whether any other government (even including the new and spotless Spanish Republic) is readier to act more quickly in accordance with a new and untrammelled perception of changed relations ?

Has any statesman since Jefferson shaken himself free of clichés, or helped free others in greater degree ?

Confucius suggests that we learn to distinguish the root from the branch.  In the Noh programme the Shura or battle play precedes the Kazura or drama of mysterious calm.

You can quite meritoriously sigh for justice, but Mussolini has been presumably right in putting the first emphasis on having a government strong enough to get the said justice.  That is to say taking first the “government” in our text and proceeding at reasonable pace toward the “which governs least.”  Thus with the consortium of some industry that was discussed the other day ... the various powers in said industry were told to confer, and were asked to work out an agreement of quota production with no finger of government interjected.  If they can’t agree the government will take on the job of arranging an agreement.

The idea of supervision may have started from Adam Smith’s dictum:  Men of the same trade never meet without a conspiracy against the general public.

This has taken more than a hundred years to sink in.

Why, you will ask, should I, a correct Jeffersonian and Confucian, accept all these so different details ?




X
The “new” Economics



IN 1917 or 1918 Major Douglas began to think out loud, about credit.  The British Press showed itself for what it was, a hired toady, a monkey garden where thought was taboo.  You could not get any discussion.  If the Major said or wrote something that sounded all right, the layman couldn’t in that year corroborate it.  No one of “greater experience” either contradicted him lucidly or confirmed him from adequate knowledge.

I set out on a longish trail, asking questions from all and sundry.

Old Spire who had sat on a Credit Agricole board said:  Yes, very nice, communal credit, but when you get your board, every man on that board has a brother-in-law.

I said to Max Pam:  “As a banker can you tell me, if I want to build a chicken coop, is there any reason why I shouldn’t do so, instead of coming to you for permission and giving you six per cent. on the money I borrow to pay someone to build it.”

Mr. Pam replied:  “The only thing is that if someone happened to see you building it they might think you were too poor to be able to afford to borrow the money, and that would be bad for your credit, and a lot of people might send in their bills.”

A Boston millionaire said something for which I can find parallel in the “writings” of Henry Ford.

And a chap that had started a what do you call it, credit club, I think they call it, in Californy, said :  “Now you’d think the simplest thing to do, which was all I asked ’em, would be to meet once a month and say who paid their bills.

“Would they ?  Naw.  And every time they sold a lot to a dishonest merchant they were doing harm to one that was honest.”

And going back a little, the Sinn Feiners as they were then called before that meant so exclusively Eamon de Valera, put a man on to studying the New Economics.  And Senor Madariaga was called back to Spain to look after the treasury or something or other of that sort.

And, more recently, all this yatter about technocracy got out from under the lid.  Without, apparently, much moral direction ... my own belief being that all or most of the technocracy results had to be got surreptitiously, in so far as the members of the Columbia University faculty had, in great measure, to conceal the significance of their findings, and stick to the purely material phase.  But in 1918 we knew in London that the problem of production was solved, and that the next job was to solve distribution and that this meant a new administration of credit.  I don’t think there was any ambiguity about that.

The question being how and who was to break down the ring of craft, of fraud, and of iron.


PERSONAL

London stank of decay back before 1914 and I have recorded the feel of it in a poem here and there.  The live man in a modern city feels this sort of thing or perceives it as the savage perceives in the forest.  I don’t know how many men keep alive in modern civilization but when one has the frankness to compare notes one finds that the intuition is confirmed just as neatly or almost as neatly as if the other man saw a shop sign.  I mean the perception is not simply the perception of one’s own subjectivity, but there is an object which others perceive.

Thus London going mouldy back in say 1912 or 1911.  After the War death was all over it.  I said something of the sort to Padre Jose Elizondo.  There had been a number of Spaniards in London during the War, there being no Paris for them to go to.

“Yes,” said the Padre, “we feel it, and we are all of us going back,” i.e., to Spain.

London was in terror of thought.  Nothing was being buried.  Paris was tired, very tired, but they wanted table rase, they wanted the dead things cleared out even if there were nothing to replace them.

Italy was, on the other hand, full of bounce.  I said all of this to a Lombard writer.  I said:  London is dead, Paris is tired, but here the place is alive.  What they don’t know is plenty, but there is some sort of animal life here.  If you put an idea into these people they would DO something.

The Lombard writer said yes ... and looked across the hotel lobby;  finally he said:  “And you know it is terrible to be surrounded by all this energy and ... and ... not to have an idea to put into it.”

I think that must have been 1920.  I can’t remember which year contained what, possibly in ’21 the cavalieri della morte passed through the Piazza San Marco, and when I got to Milan that year I asked my friend what about it.  What is this fascio ?  He said there was nothing to it or words to that effect.  At any rate not a matter of interest.

You know how it is when you stop off for a night in a hurry and haven’t much left but a ticket to where you’ve got to get back to.  Or perhaps that was the year when one was lucky to get there at all.  I did go out via Chiasso by tramway but I suspect that was 1920 and that in ’21 or ’22 or whatever spring it was, I hadn’t any excuse save an interest in other matters and the supposition that IF it were interesting my friend would have known it.

It may be, of course, that one’s intuition takes in the whole, and sees straight, whereas one’s verbal receiving-station or one’s logic deals with stray detail, and that one’s intuition can’t get hold of the particular, or anything particular, but only of the whole.

Let it stand that I was right in my main perception but that any stray remark or any wisp of straw blowing nowhere could fool me as to the particular point of focus.

Say I hadn’t a nose for news.Why should I have had ?  One may learn several trades in a lifetime but one can’t learn ’em all, all at once.

And if I had gone then to the Popolo d’Italia I don’t the least know that I would now have any better sense of the specific weight of the fascio.  I might have got lost in a vast welter of detail.

What I saw was the line of black shirts, and the tense faces of cavalieri della morte.  I was at Florian’s.  Suddenly a little old buffer rushed up to a front table and began to sputter forty-eight to the dozen:  “chubbuchcuchushcushcushcuhkhh.”  Violent protests etc., “wouldn’t, wouldn’t, wouldn’t.”  It was a different kind of excitement, a more acrimonious excitement than the noise of the midday pigeon-feeding.

Then came the file of young chaps with drawn faces and everyone stood to attention and took off their hats about something, all except one stubborn foreigner, damned if he would stand up or show respect until he knew what they meant.  Nobody hit me with a club and I didn’t see any oil bottles.

Life was interesting in Paris from 1921 to 1924, nobody bothered much about Italy.  Some details I never heard of at all until I saw the Esposizione del Decennio.

Communists took over some factories, but couldn’t dispense with credit.  No one has told us whether ANY Italian communist even thought of the subject.

Lenin couldn’t, after all, be both in Turin and in Moscow.

Gabriele declined to obey the stuffed plastrons of Paris, Marinetti made a few remarks in the Chamber.  It can’t be said that the outer world cared.  When one got back to Italy things were in order, that is, up to a point.

I heard an alarm bell in Ravenna.  A lady who had long known the Duce complained about Italy’s being Prussianized one day when a train started on time.

The Tyrolean bellboy or boots or factotum at Sirmione ran up the tricolour topside downward on a feast day, either from irredentism or because he didn’t know t’other from which.  Nobody noticed it save the writer.  You don’t go to Italy for criticism, there is a lack of minute observation --I mean when Giovanni isn’t being punctilious or having his sensibilities ruffled. ...

“Noi altri Italiani,” said one medico, “we don’t pay attention like that to EVERY word.”  This was during a discussion on style (in writing).

And another year I went down to Sicily.

Lady X was worried about the work in the sulphur mines.  The Duce had been there, but he had been steered into and through the one decent mine in the place.  ...




XI



FOR several years the general lack of mental coherence in the anti-fascists, all every and any anti-fascist I encountered, increased my respect for the fascio.  Apart from the Rimini man, I don’t think I knew any fascists.

One year the son of the proprietor in Cesena gave me the usual Cola da Rienzi oration, at the end of which he drew a picture of Mazzini from his pocket and ecstatically kissed it.

The Comandante della Piazza considered this act due to ignorance.  Gigi aged two used to stand up on his chair after lunch and say “Popolo ignorante !” as a sort of benediction, one day he added the personal note “And the worst of all is my nurse.”

Then there were a few days in Modena before an anniversary of the martyrs.  Posters stating the number of martyrs.  Proclamations from Farinacci indicating that the proper way to remember the martyrs was to beat up all the working men in the district.  I think this went on for two days or possibly longer up till the evening before “the day.”  Then there appeared a little strip of paper on the walls, a little strip about eighteen inches by four, to the effect :

The secretary of the Party is compelled to remain in Rome by press of official business.

I think it was even briefer.  It was signed “Mussolini.”

When thinking of revolution, you must think of several revolutions.  I know about two from Stef and about the shindy in Ireland. ... I can’t afford Spanish car fare.




XII
Government by Theory or by Intelligence



JEFFERSON did not have the Vatican in his garden, he did not have the Roman aristocracy in his garden.  I make no pretence to direct knowledge of the Roman aristocracy, my contact having been for some years limited to one prince who is unimpressed thereby, and to a few other meetings on tennis courts.  The prince’s opinion :  “Roman society !  ANYbody can get into Roman society, all you got to do is to HANG OUT a HAM !”

One hears stories about Roman society, a Proustless congeries, museum pieces of immemorial tradition, American sustenance of the Edwardian and Victorian periods.

Years ago in the pastoral epoch they used to play polo, quite good but very cheap polo using one pony a whole afternoon, then there came an American millionaire ambassador and he used three or four thoroughbreds all at once and rode all round the patricians, and that, roughly speaking, ended polo for the Romans who couldn’t afford the new method.

And there is Prince X who is said to cast off the thin peel of fine tailoring once he gets back to his estates, and to be a fellow-barbarian among his own peasants, etc.

On the whole my impression, worth no more than any one else’s impression, is that this subdivided and resubdivided small world hovers between the chapel roof and the cocktail-shaker, some of the senior members having very beautiful, if sometimes vacuous, manners and some of the young, none at all.

In no case can it be considered a milieu for ideas, that is to say for active and living ideas as opposed to trrrrraditions.  Some parts of it must be about as level-headed as the sur-realists in private life.

Into the vicinage of these black papalists and these by-New York refurnished entitleds came the son of a blacksmith, a chap who had edited a terrible left-wing paper, a fellow who had worked eleven hours a day in Lausanne for thirty-two centesimi the hour (pre-War, when 32 centesimi were worth six and a fraction cents).

It was very disturbing.  I don’t think the Roman milieu is as idiotic as Bloomsbury or as wafty as the Nouvelle Revue Française, but this is purely personal distortion.  I know more about the drivelling idiocy of those more northern milieux.  In all such monkey gardens conversation is two-thirds denigration, petty yatter about irrelevant flaws, and demarcation between the ouistitis who write most of the Criterion, or who form chapels wherever there can be gathered together a few hundred or a few dozen idle people who are emphatically NOT artists, but who give themselves importance by hanging on to the edge of artistic reputations or social notorieties, is always this niggling over the minor defect and this failing utterly to weigh up any work or any man as an entirety, balancing major with minor.

As to the kind of thing: The Duke of Xq was in the cabinet and brought in a law which the boss said was tyrannous and oppressive, oppressive to the working man, so the boss rewrote it a week or so later;  not, I believe, as a law for an ideal republic situated in a platonic paradise but as an arrangement possible in Italy in the year VIII or IX of the Era Fascista, that is to say a much milder law than the Duke’s, whereon the Duke was peeved like any other contributor to an amateur vers libre monthly or any other young schoolgirl, and announced that he was a defender of popular liberties and resigned from the cabinet, and anybody who knew anybody who knew or spoke well of the government was regarded as a member of the Cheka.




XIII
Culture



THERE is a lot of “culture” in Italy, by which I mean people with social position write one or two books.  And there was another Duke whom my friend the more or less known author G defined as a cretino.  He had nice manners.  I found out, after a time, that he was a very Catholic Catholic, I mean very pious according to some mysterious criterion ;  one day I inadvertently said a good word about the government, not to him but to his wife.  I have never seen him since then.

Titles in Italy might perhaps puzzle the just-arrived foreigner.  Roughly speaking, princes and dukes are “in society” and live lives of, let us say, luxury and ease or at any rate of varying splendour as judged by professors and working men.

The rank of Cavaliere seems to be allotted mainly to dentists and to photographers.  A very competent and charming hairdresser well-known in this vicinage was a Marchese but didn’t use his title in business.  Count Romulus of Begni is a hotel-keeper in a mountain town of about 900 inhabitants, sort of, as you might say, maintained, helped on by his friends who feel his position ought to be kept up for the village credit.

But Italian snobbism is multiform by comparison with that in long-centralized countries, it doesn’t all scale down in neat categories from a half-witted royalty at the top, or from a couple of mouldy groups of Bourbonists and Orleanits, etc., as in the cheesy district of Paris.

In occasional spare moments I have tried in vain to follow a few of its shades and nuances and to understand why and where that which fancies itself as noble don’t mingle with higher plutocracy or with other people with excellent breeding, and the eternal mystery of the accessibility of all privileged classes to idiots and to sycophants.


FIRST SHOCK :

Fascism is probably the first anti-snob movement that has occurred in this peninsula since the days of Cato the younger.

On the other hand there is definitely so much culture in the serious sense of that word in Italy.  There is the scholarly class, the people with set habits and an acquaintance with a small amount of catalogued and evalued literature, and a questionable taste in old painting, etc.  In every town you will find people still browsing on the hang-over of the renaissance, but self-contained, having dismissed the vanities of social glamour, exchanging a few words or not exchanging a few words in small cafés, living dignifiedly on invisible incomes etc. ...

But as further complications :  These sensitive kindly professors who have never affirmed anything in their lives, who are possibly too cultured to make an affirmation, or too polite to risk stating an opinion that might jostle their colloquitor, are on the other hand remarkably set, stubborn, unmovable.

They have never asked anyone else to change an opinion and have never expected to change one of their own.

Scholarship has led them into a realm of uncertainty, or to a remote grove where contradictions are needless.  This doesn’t apply simply to museum pieces of seventy but to the men of my own generation.  The older ones are more mild and the younger more rigid but the fixity is impartially divided between them.

If Mussolini had committed the error of getting into an Italian university there would have been no fascist decennial.




XIV
Why Italy ?



ITALY, for the very simple reason that after the great infamy there was no other clot of energy in Europe capable of opposing ANY FORCE WHATEVER to the infinite evil of the profiteers and the sellers of mens’ blood for money.

England grovelled in an utter terror, flat on her belly before the banks and bankers’ touts.  The Press lied, economic discussion was taboo, though a huge camouflage of mystification was kept up by licensed economists.

That banks had power in Italy no one will be so naive as to deny, but in no other cranny of Europe was there ANY other power whatever save the power of the gombeen man.

Corbaccio has at last brought out a volume on gun-sellers, putting a name and a date and a detail on what “we” have known for some time.

I don’t at the moment know exactly which who is related to what who or which French nitroglycerine profiteer is a relative of the wife of von Papen.

Or whether England has been sending money to Krupp for munitions received in time for the late shindy or what the British diplomat said at Doorn, but I do know that there are a great number of public men who would not take any trouble to put an end to such doings, or who would excuse themselves on the grounds that they hadn’t the power or “weren’t authorized” or hadn’t received instructions.

JEFFERSON was guyed as a doctrinaire.  It is difficult to see what doctrine covers his “Embargo” unless it be the doctrine that when an unforeseen emergency arises one should try to understand it and meet it.

The truth is that Jefferson used verbal formulations as tools.  he was not afflicted by fixations.  Neither he nor Mussolini has been interested in governmental machinery.  That is not paradox, they have both invented it and used it, but they have both been much more deeply interested in something else.

Jefferson found himself in a condition of things that had no precedent in any remembered world.  He saw like a shot that a new system and new mechanism MUST come into being to meet it.

He was agrarian IN the colonies and in the U.S.A. of HIS TIME, that is to say a time when, and in a place where, there was abundance and super-abundance of land.

In Europe there wasn’t enough land, not so much in the REAL sense of the land being there but in the sense that it wasn’t available for public needs.  IT WAS OWNED.

There existed a problem of distribution in America though nobody called it that.

“Everyone” thought it would be a good thing for the land to become productive.

What’s the difference for the sake of a political emergency between an over-abundance and an over-production which rapidly produces an over-abundance ?

And what does one DO when faced with either ?  Our forefathers pa’acel’d out the land but took no precautions about keeping it pa’acel’d.

And after due lapse of time people found out that land needed labour, Mr. Marx of Germany was the most persistently loud and outspoken about labour.

Marx found it was needed for “everything,” and that from it proceeded all value.

There is a French song which considerably antedates Marx, it says that there is no king, prince, or duke but lives by the effort of the labourer (laboureur in that song indicating mainly the peasant ploughman, as can be proved by the context).

But Jefferson saw machinery in the offing, he didn’t like it, he didn’t like the idea of factory.

If you are hunting up bonds of sympathy between T.J. and the Duce, put it first that they both hate machinery or at any rate the idea of cooping up men and making ’em all into UNITS, unit production, denting in the individual man, reducing him to a mere amalgam.

Possibly in Mussolini’s case it dates from his having been caught for a time under the heel of the mastodon ;  pushing his car in Lausanne, and seeing the country lads jammed into factories.

Both he and T.J. had sympathy with the beasts.  They still plough with oxen in Italy and they say that the sentimental foreigner with his eye for the picturesque and the classic scholar who likes to be reminded of Virgil, etc., are not at the root of it.  The bue IS indisputably simpatico.  I don’t believe even Marinetti can help liking the sight of a pair of grey oxen scrunching along under olive-trees, or lugging a plough up an almost vertical hillside.  There are plenty of fields in Italy where a tractor would be little use and larger farm machinery no economy.

However, the Duce is capable, as T.J. was capable, of putting a prejudice or a sentiment in his pocket.  He has looked over a few model factories, he is all for machinery when it means machines in the open air in suitable places, as for bonifica, draining of swamps.

Neither he nor T.J. was interested in, nor bamboozled by, money.  That gives us three common denominators or possibly four :  agriculture, sense of the “root and the branch,” readiness to scrap the lesser thing for the thing of major importance, indifference to mechanism as weighed against the main purpose, fitting of the means to that purpose without regard to abstract ideas, even if the idea was proclaimed the week before last.

Jefferson was denounced as vacillating.  A man who plugs after a main purpose for sixty years is no more vacillating than a general who wins a campaign by keeping his light troops mobile.  Opportunist ?  Rightly opportunist !

The bad, or in the deeper sense, the silly opportunism is that of Churchill.

Shane Leslie was greatly bedazzled by his stout cousin Winston.  He wrote a book to tell it to dh’ woild.  Winston once said to Leslie apropos of thinking and having ideas (in the sense of making ideas for oneself):  “Don’t waste your time making munitions, be a GUN and shoot off other people’s munitions.”

Leslie, as a journalist, of sorts, was overwhelmed by this brilliance.  Both cousins are half-breed Americans, determined to succeed, just like the cheapest of Mr. Lorimer’s heroes.

Yeats, who was personally impressed by Churchill as a table companion, and who found him so much more interesting than Lloyd George or the other British politicians, was puzzled, at least for a number of years, because Winston didn’t somehow get to the top ;  and has more or less faded out of the picture, even though Winston’s charming mother used to tell people that Winston had got out the fleet (August 1914).

In short a GUN, a BIG GUN pointed at nothing.

On the other hand Jefferson meant it, and the Romagnol has a meaning.  With all the superficial differences that could very well be in this world neither T.J. nor B.M. is a Gorgonist, i.e. one who obscures the whole by the details.

Jefferson as a lawyer and as a law scholar used legalities and legal phrases as IMPLEMENTS, Mussolini as an ex-editor uses oratory, and by comparison with Italian habits of speech (“these damned Eyetalyan intellexshuls that think they are still contemporaries of Metastasio”), that oratory is worth study.

It is as different from Lenin’s as the crags of Zoagli are from the Siberian steppe.  It is alternatively gentle and expanded as the etc. ... plains of Apulia, and abrupt as the Ligurian coast.  And if one takes it from the spoken news-reel, one sees that it differs from town to town.  For the guy knows his eggs and his Italy.  The speech at Forli was at Forli and not at Torino.


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