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Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk:
New Zealand Poet, “Polish King,” & “Good European”
Part II

Potocki and Franco, London, circa. 1939

2,608 words

Part 2 of 3. Part 1 here.

Right Review

Potocki returned to England in 1935. The outbreak of the Civil War in Spain in 1936 polarized the intelligentsia and literati. Some, such as Potocki and in particular Roy Campbell,[1] identified with the rebel cause. In 1936, with funds from Aldous Huxley and Brian Guinness, Potocki bought a printing press, and began publishing his long-running literary and political journal, Right Review. The first issue appeared in October. The editorial cogently describes his position:

It is our aim to show that the Divine Right of Kings is the sanest and best form of government. . . .

We are as much opposed to Capitalism, if by that term is meant Plutocracy, as any communist could be—but we are not opposed to capitalists so long as they function without damaging the interests of the whole State. . . .

Neither do we consider Fascism as anything but a very bad form of government, being as it is based on demagogy, but we point out that it is a natural reaction, based on a thoroughly justifiable instinct of self-protection, whereby nations rid themselves of the socialist and communist plague. . . .[2]

Potocki’s support for Fascism was, then, critical and conditional, as Fascism implies a mass movement of which elitists such as de Montalk were suspicious, in whatever form they took, whether Left or Right, others of similar opinion being Evola and Wyndham Lewis.[3]

His views on Jews did not constitute the common sort of “anti-Semitism” where Jews are generally placed in a no-win position no matter what they do. Potocki recognized certain actions of many Jews as detrimental to humanity as a whole due to their own ethnocentricity and support for communism. “Aryan racialism,” which presumably means Hitlerism, was therefore seen also as a “reaction” to Jewish exploits since the time of the Old Testament. Nonetheless, in disagreeing with both Fascists and Communists on the question of race, he stated “men are to be judged by their worth as members of the human race as a whole—by their beauty, breeding, wisdom, and good will.” This applies “even to Jews” but there was a duty to be “very suspicious of a race” which itself “invented inhuman racialism” to the detriment of non-Jews.[4]

With the Right Review being published on a rudimentary press in small numbers, Potocki nonetheless started to become known among the British “Right,” and he met both Sir Oswald Mosley and Mosley’s propaganda chief, William Joyce,[5] the later “Lord Haw Haw” for whom de Montalk’s affection never wavered. At this point de Montalk seems to have retained his aristocratic suspicion of Fascist demagogy, like Evola, but he did undertake printing for the British Union of Fascists.[6]

As we shall see, whatever Potocki’s suspicions regarding Fascism and Hitlerism before the war, it was after the war that Potocki—in contrast to many others, such as Wyndham Lewis, who had supported Fascism before the war-became a rather avid supporter of National Socialism and Fascism. Perhaps he felt obliged to make a commitment as both an innate rebel against the democratic status quo, and in realization that the post-war world was one of global democratization and Sovietization? At any rate, his sympathies after the war radicalized rather than moderated.

The Right Review, like all of de Potocki’s works, was printed as limited editions but did garner the adverse attention of John Bull and the positive reaction of the reviewer for The New English Weekly and T. S. Eliot’s Criterion.

The abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 was the occasion for what Potocki calls his “first political manifesto,”[7] The Unconstitutional Crisis. Accompanied by the writer Nigel Heseltine, who assisted with editing Right Review, and the artist George Hann, who provided the woodblock illustrations for Potocki’s publications, they distributed in Whitehall large quantities of the pamphlet supporting the King, “at the very moment the arch-traitor Baldwin was announcing the abdication.”[8] He and Heseltine were later arrested for obstruction and briefly held at Buckingham Palace. At Court, Whitehall tried to intervene and have Potocki charged on the text of the pamphlet, but the judge refused, and minor fines were imposed for obstruction.[9]

In 1939 Potocki set up The Right Review Bookshop in his flat, barred to “communists and racial enemies.”[10] During the late 1930s he also elaborated on his pagan religious views, stating in Whited Sepulchers that he opposed Puritanism, Calvinism, Democracy, Christianity, and appealed to fellow pagan avengers of “the great Apostle of Paganism, Divine Julian.”[11] Potocki’s primary deity was Apollo and remained so throughout his life. He was by now also in the habit of greeting friends with the “Roman”—Fascist—salute, a gesture that in 1939 was surely part of his rebellious nature.

Potocki's royal coat of arms

King of Poland

That year Potocki in a Rite of the Sun, crowned himself “Wladislaw 5th, King of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Silesia and the Ukraine, Hospodar of Moldavia, etc., etc., etc., High Priest of the Sun.”[12]

In 1940 he and his wife Odile were jailed for two months and one month, respectively, for resisting arrest, having barricaded their flat against the police, on a “black-out offence.”[13] Their occupations were entered in the register as King and Queen of Poland.

Potocki’s effort to register as a  conscientious objector was unsuccessful, but he did succeed in evading military service. He founded the Polish Royalist Association and exchanged his robes for a military style uniform adorned with the Polish eagle and Potocki coat of arms.

In the midst of war, a photograph of British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley adorned Potocki’s cottage in Surrey, which belonged to a member of Arnold Leese’s Imperial Fascist League.

Katyn

Apart from his escapades connected to the controversy surrounding Here Lies John Penis, Potocki was most proud of being the first person in England to expose the Katyn massacre of Polish officers by the USSR. The Soviets insisted (until quite recently) that Katyn was a German war crime, and the British authorities tried to suppress knowledge to the contrary during the war lest it reflect badly on the British-Soviet alliance.

As claimant to the throne of Poland, Potocki was of course interested in Poland’s future after the war. He regarded the USSR as the greatest threat to Poland’s nationhood, and foresaw the likelihood of a Soviet Poland emerging from the war.[14] He put his printing skills to work for Polish exiles, which included reports that were censored in the British press. He believed that occupation by Germany was preferable to that of the USSR, despite his liking for Russians as individuals.[15] Potocki’s contempt for Britain was increased by its failure to come to Poland’s aid when the USSR invaded, and his support for Fascism and Hitlerism in this context became more pronounced, particularly when the USSR and Britain became allies in 1941.[16]

In 1943, hearing rumors of Soviet atrocities among the Polish community, Potocki sought the help of the Duke of Bedford, an opponent of the war and an avid proponent of banking reform, which the Duke—like Potocki[17]—saw as a major aspect of the Hitler regime, and incidentally as a cause of war. The Duke in correspondence with Potocki also alluded to the rumors he had heard about the massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet Union.[18]

In May 1943 Potocki was asked by Poles in London to expose the atrocity to the British public, and so he wrote the Katyn Manifesto. This was distributed by the thousands with the help of the Polish-government-in-exile. It was a “Proclamation to the English, the Poles, the Germans and the jews [sic],”[19] from the King of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia, etc. Potocki spelled out the basic facts behind Katyn and called for a negotiated peace with the hope that Germany would recognize a united Poland and Hungary, that the “jews” would be helped “if they will even at this late hour repent and behave themselves,” the Tsar to be restored to Russia, and the King to France.[20]

Potocki was placed under surveillance, questions were asked in Parliament, and Potocki was attacked by the press, including the Communist Party’s Daily Worker, which described the manifesto as “poisonous filth,”[21] calling de Montalk a “crazy Fascist Count.” It was at this time that Potocki was jailed for “insufficient black-out,” his wife Odile having left him for fear of his anti-government views during time of war.[22] After release he was ordered by the Ministry of Labour to serve six months in an agricultural camp in Northumberland, which he attended as a preference to conscription, adorned with his royal attire. After a month he bade a “Heil Hitler” to the camp manager and left.

Post-War England & Provence

During another four years in England, Potocki maintained himself by printing and translations for the Polish-government-in-exile.[23] After seeking help from the Duke of Bedford for the renewal of his passport, Potocki left for France. Seeking employment at an Indian University, Potocki wrote that he had had problems with the English because of his “violently pro-Axis” outlook during the war, an attitude that would not have been necessarily offensive to an Indian given that India continues to maintain esteem for the pro-Axis Subhas Chandra Bose which is probably about equal to that held for Gandhi. He also wrote to the American Ambassador offering his services to the USA against the USSR, his naiveté concerning the USA presumably being the result of judgment clouded by his hatred of the Soviet Union.[24]

In 1949 Potocki settled in Provence, which would be his domicile for most of the rest of his life, apart from sojourns in New Zealand in later years, now thoroughly “hating” the “english” (sic),[25] a word that he never seems to have capitalized. Before he was able to leave, however, the British legal system had one last go at him, charging him with assault on a female admirer after he pushed her out of his flat when she attempted to prevent his departure.

Before being fined £2 he had been assessed for several weeks at a psychiatric ward, but was found to be “perfectly healthy in every respect, both in body and mind.” The authorities had expected to find a New Zealand-born claimant to the throne of Poland to be mentally unsound, but the psychiatrist was instead treated to a lucid exposition of the possibility, albeit unlikely, of Potocki becoming King on the basis that in the event of confrontation between the USA and USSR the Americans would be looking for someone who could be trusted by both Germans and Poles.[26]

Potocki settled into an old cottage in the Draguignan countryside, bought for him for £100 by the Countess de Bioncourt. Chris Martin, who knew Potocki, writes of this period:

The Count spent his latter years living in a beautiful farmhouse surrounded by olive trees in Provence. He was accompanied by a variety of lady friends and continued to work on his press. Driving around in a Citroën 2CV, flying the Polish Royal Standard he was a well-liked local figure. He also produced a translation of Adam Mickiewicz’ Dziady, or Forefathers, which is the Polish national epic and the translation of which is now a standard text in a large number of American universities. The irony, if one should look for one, is that this same standard text, beautifully produced, comes with an introduction by a Jewish professor.[27] The work was—characteristically—the subject of a prolonged legal tussle between the Count and the Polish Cultural Foundation, at whose instigation the work had been translated. (It is, in passing, worth mentioning that parts of the work were recited by the translator at a concert at Leighton House, West London, together with a recital by the Count’s compatriot, the pianist Richard Bielicki.)[28]

Stephanie de Montalk states that by 1958 there was a renewed interest in Potocki as part of a general interest in the literati of the 30s and 40s, and there was again media reportage, and his publications—mostly limited, small run, hand bound editions—became collectors’ items, as they still are, fetching high prices.[29]

Notes

[1] Joseph Pearce, Bloomsbury and Beyond: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell (London: Harper Collins, 2001), 153–221.

[2] G. P. de Montalk, The Right Review, London, No. 1, October 1936.

[3] K. R. Bolton, Thinkers of the Right.

[4] G. P. de Montalk, The Right Review, 1936.

[5] S. de Montalk, 213.

[6] Ibid.

[7] G. P. de Montalk, Prisoner at Buckingham Palace (Hamilton: Mélissa Press, 1987). Reprinted in Fleming, 53–58.

[8] Ibid., 55.

[9] Ibid., 57.

[10] Ibid.

[11] G. P. de Montalk, Whited Sepulchres (London: Right Review, 1933).

[12] S. de Montalk, 222.

[13] Ibid., 222–23.

[14] S. de Montalk, 227.

[15] Ibid., 228.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Geoffrey de Montalk, Kahore, Kahore! Although dedicated to New Zealand race relations de Potocki mentions in Kahore, Kahore! that Hitler had “liberated” Germany from its “oppressors,” the financiers. For the Duke of Bedford, like de Potocki’s friend Fairburn, the financial system was of primary concern, Bedford writing:

It is well to remember that the financiers of Britain and America are bitterly opposed to the Axis governments for reasons quite other than tyranny or aggression. Financiers, as has already been pointed out, desire to control the creation and issue of money in the interests of money-lending and then keep the supply short in order that people may be compelled to borrow. . The Axis Governments on the other hand insist on money being the servant of the State and if labour and materials are available, they order the creation of sufficient money to render possible any work which they hold to be in the national interest.” (Propaganda for Proper Geese, p. 9, n.d., or publication details).

The pamphlet could have been written ca. 1939 when Bedford formed the British People’s Party.

State credit issued at 1% interest through the Reserve Bank was also undertaken by the 1935 New Zealand Labour Government to fund the iconic State Housing project without recourse to debt. This one act eliminated 75% of unemployment; the difference with Germany here being that Labour did not have the stamina to continue to implement its election promises on banking reform. (K. R. Bolton, “The Global Debt Crisis,” Ab Aeterno, No 3, June 2010).

[18] S. de Montalk, 229.

[19] “Jews” lacked capitalization, which was to become an idiosyncrasy of Potocki’s grammar also towards the “english.”

[20] G. P. de Montalk, Katyn Manifesto (Half Moon Cottage, Bookham, Surrey, May 4, 1943). There was a Second Katyn Manifesto in 1983, about which more below.

[21] S. de Montalk, 232.

[22] Ibid., 234.

[23] Ibid., 235.

[24] It should not be assumed that being anti-Bolshevik or pro-fascist during the war made one ipso facto pro-USA and anti-USSR after the war. Many, unlike Potocki, Mosley, and even Evola for that matter, saw the USSR as preferable to the USA or at least as a hindrance to American cultural pathology, including such post-war “fascist” luminaries as Maj. Gen. Otto Remer, Otto Strasser, and Francis Parker Yockey. See for example: K. R. Bolton, “Yockey: ‘Stalin’s Fascist Advocate,’” International Journal of Russian Studies, Vol. 3, no. 2, June, 2010.

The pro-American attitude seems to have eventually changed however, as he expressed to Stephanie de Montalk his opposition to the USA anywhere in the world and the hypocrisy of condemning Germany for war crimes when the USA continued to commit such crimes in Vietnam.

[25] S. de Montalk, 237.

[26] Ibid., 238–40.

[27] In reality there is no “irony,” for Rightists such as Ezra Pound who, like Potocki, had strongly inimical views towards certain factions of Jewry, were not so obsessive and ignorant as to preclude the possibility of having Jewish friends and associates.

[28] Chris Martin, “‘I’ve Spent My Life Being Me’: The Life and Singular Exploits of Count Potocki de Montalk,” The Lost Club Journal, http://freepages.pavilion.net/users/tartarus/potocki.html

[29] S. de Montalk, 249.

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