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.
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.
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 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.
The Criterion. London, January, 1935.
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.
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.
1. Cenni Sullo Stato Corporativo Fascista (Firenze Stablimento Graf. Commerciale, Via Cimarosa 10. Lire 5).
2. H. L. Mencken—Ed.
3. TODAY. Edited by Raymond Moley.