REVIEWSrnAppalled by Historyrnby Michael D. AeschlimanrnEzra Pound and Italian Fascismrnby Tim RedmanrnNew York: Cambridge University Press;rn350 pp., $34.50rnFor us to love our country, Burkernsomewhere wrote, our country mustrnbe beautiful. The sheer aesthetic uglinessrnof modern capitalistic civilizationrnhas been as much a reason for the revulsionrnagainst it on the part of poets,rnartists, and social critics as have its variousrninjustices and inequities, real or alleged.rnWe are inclined nowadays to seernthe history of social and artistic protestrnagainst modern commerce, industry,rnand urbanization as a left-wing phenomenon,rnleading to its gruesomernapotheosis in Mar.xist communism, butrnthis is an inadequate reading of twornhundred years of literature, art, and criticism.rn”Ill fares the land, to hast’ning ills arnprey, / Where wealth accumulates andrnmen decay,” wrote Oliver Goldsmith asrncapitalist industrialization and urbanizationrnwere moving into high gear inrnEngland in the late 18th century. Hernwas followed by a line of English, American,rnand European writers who havernbeen retrospectively co-opted by thernleft, even though their own sympathiesrnand loyalties were either Christian orrnidealistic: Wordsworth, Blake, Carlyle,rnDickens, Emerson, Thoreau, Arnold,rnand Ruskin, among others. In our century,rnoften drawing on them, came importantrnnon-Marxist critics such as I lilaircrnBelloc, G. K. Ghesterton, T. S.rnEliot, and the American SouthernrnAgrarians, whose 1930 volume of essays,rnI’ll Take My Stand, is one of the noblestrndocuments in modern American literaturernand provides a link to more recentrnwriters of similar views, such as AldornLeopold, Russell Kirk, E. F. Schumacher,rnWendell Berry, and Wes Jackson.rnAmong these Ezra Pound must be included,rnand it is a surprisingly complexrnPound who emerges from Tim Redman’srndispassionate, detailed EzrarnPound and Italian Fascism. Redman isrnrefreshingly free of the more egregiousrnMarxisant biases that are still so characteristicrnof American academic writing.rnRightly deploring Pound’s anti-Semitismrnand his willful blindness to the evils ofrnMussolini’s regime, Redman is neverthelessrnjudicious in his discussion of therndevelopment and character of Pound’srnthinking on culture, polities, society,rnand—especially—economics. (Redmanrnemphasizes that Italian Fascism was historicallyrndistinct from the German NationalrnSocialism with which Mussolinirndisastrously allied his movement in itsrnterminal phase.)rnLike so many 20th-ccnturv intellectualsrnand artists, Pound did become arnpower-worshiper, and he failed to seernhow much of a “sawdust Caesar” Mussolinirnreally was. Resident in Italy fromrn1925 until his surrender to his Americanrncompatriots in May 1945, and againrnat the end of his life, Pound started outrnby admiring both Lenin and Mussolinirnas powerful worid-historical individualsrnwho were actually doing somethingrnabout the appalling conditions of thernpost-Wodd War I wodd; for the samernreason, he admired Nietzschean aestheticrnadventurers such as the FuturistrnF. T. Marinetti and Gabriele D’Annunzio.rnHe was to some degree seduced byrnmelodramatic vitalist bombast and itsrncult of the will to power.rnYet as Redman’s study shows, thernevolution of Pound’s thought was arncomplex and not altogether ignoble affair.rnPound set himself to make economicrnas well as moral sense of hisrnworld—”to see life steadily andrnwhole”—and to be a Confucian wisernman and a sage, not just an aesthete andrnan entertainer. Major C. H. Douglas’rnSocial Credit movement had a great effectrnon Pound. Yet his thinkiirg mustrnalso be seen in light of the Distributistrnmovement of Belloc and Chesterton,rnthe Jefferson-Randolph-Bryan traditionrnof American small businessmen andrnfarmers, and of Papal social doctrine,rnespecially its conception of “subsidiarity.”rnDrawing on sources as diversernas Confucius, Jefferson, Adams,rnMarx, Bryan, Major Douglas, and therneconomist Silvio Gesell, he attemptedrna synthesis that would halt and reversernwhat he saw as the degradation of civicrnand public welfare at the hands ofrnbanks, bankers, and rapacious SocialrnDarwinist capitalism generally.rnOddly for an expatriate. Pound marriedrnhis economics and social views tornnativist, racist, and conspiracy theoriesrnthat propelled him more and more intornanti-Semitism, seeing in the Jewish capitalistrnor banker the arch-example ofrnmodern immoralism and ruthlessness.rnLike so many Americans born duringrnthe Gilded Age (Bryan is a good example).rnPound was appalled by the turnrnAmerican history had taken. “Poundrnshared with Brooks Adams,” Redmanrnwrites, “an essentially tragic view ofrnAmerican history according to which therncountry had lost its original purpose andrnheritage.”rnDuring the Second World War,rnPound broadcast to America over RadiornRome, praising Mussolini and criticizingrnRoosevelt’s war policy, though inrn1932 he had been somewhat hopefulrnabout FDR. A fact that H. L. Menckenrnhad earlier pointed out in correspondencernwith Pound, which Redmanrnstresses, is that Pound, who left Americarnin 1908, was simply more and more outrnof touch with his native land. Pound’srnbroadcasts make sad reading, not onlyrnfor their grotesque anti-Semitism andrnAryan nativist racism but for a speciallyrnpoignant sense that the velocity, enormity,rnand variety of the changes takingrnplace in the interwar period had simplyrnoverwhelmed Pound, and that his idealizedrnvisions of the older America, thernnew Italy, and the meaning of WorldrnWar II were necessities for the soulrnrather than determinations of the intelligence.rnWriters from Marx to Daniel Bellrnhave remarked on the revolutionary,rndestabilizing effects of capitalism, itsrnprofoundly anticonservative culturalrnconsequences. Marxism was a brutalrnremedy worse than the sickness, but thernanarchic and subversive character ofrn”market outcomes” in the culturalrnsphere is still with us. Though supposedl’rnthe modernist par excellence. Poundrnemerges from Redman’s book as a conservativernin a radical age. In his Guide tornKulchur (1938), Pound asserted that “rapacityrnis the main force in our time inrnthe Occident,” as it has since becomernwoddwide. His own response to the factrnhas a certain tragic grandeur and pathos.rnMichael D. Aeschliman teaches Englishrnat the University of Virginia.rnNOVEMBER 1992/33rnrnrn