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

Potocki in Wellington, New Zealand, 1984

3,102 words

Part 3 of 3. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.

Post-War Fascism

Directly after the war Potocki was defiantly not only pro-fascist but also expressed overtly pro-Nazi sympathies. His 1945 Christmas card To Men of Goodwill, 1945, had the “X” of “Xmas” printed as a swastika, and included a six verse poem including the words “to save his life, our William Joyce.” This was at the time when Joyce, the infamous “Lord Haw Haw,” was hanged for treason for his wartime broadcasts to England from Germany. It clearly shows the nature of Potocki’s contempt for the era of democracy. Equally as rebellious is his 1946 4-page leaflet, The Nuremberg Trials, including the words “Hitler und Goering Seig heil.”

Not surprisingly, then, it was Potocki who printed Savitri Devi’s 11,000 swastika emblazoned leaflets and posters that she distributed throughout war-ravaged Germany, throwing them from the back of a train and surreptitiously posting them on walls, an action that not surprisingly resulted in her detention by the Occupation Authorities. Savitri had met Potocki in England in 1946[1] and also spent time with Potocki when she returned to London in the early 1960s.[2]

In 1959 Potocki obtained a hundred year old platen press and started The Mélissa Press. He now resumed his special editions, and had maintained friendships with a number of prominent literary figures; in particular Richard Aldington, who admired his efforts, Aldington writing to Potocki that his creative work is “the only answer to the lavatory-seat wipers of literature who naturally don’t recognize a poet and a gentleman when by chance they meet him.”[3]

Despite his disgust at England he nonetheless commuted between Provence and Dorset, set up a press there, and issued a pamphlet advising residents of A New Dorset Worthy, who was “opposed to virtually every movement or line of thought triumphant at present,” but that was to be expected of a “genius.”[4] Among his publications was Two Blacks Don’t Make a White: Remarks about Apartheid, published in 1964. He also printed The National Socialist, the journal of Colin Jordan’s British National Socialist Movement.[5]

Remarks About Apartheid begins with lines from fellow Right-wing (but Catholic) poet Roy Campbell, expressing a cynicism in regard to humanitarianism as a façade for ignoble purposes: “The old grey wolf of brother love/Slinks in our track with slimy fangs.” Secondly, from William Blake: “One law for the lion and for the ox is oppression.”

Potocki’s outlook on South African Apartheid was based decidedly on the inferiority of the Blacks—in general—to Whites insofar as they had not, and could not, make a civilization. However, Potocki did not extend this White supremacy to other races, for he considered the Japanese, Chinese, and Hindus equals. In the case of white New Zealanders, he considered the Maori to be a superior race, deserving cultural and language accommodation and land compensation—the illiberal Potocki being far ahead of the liberals in his pro-Maori outlook.[6]

Attacks on Apartheid, Potocki claimed, were the result of the post war era of “universal humbug,” the product of a coalition of Christians, communists, and democrats. He pointed to the selective hypocrisy of the liberal conscience, which was silent about communist dictatorships, and to the record of the British Empire in their treatment of colored colonials. He heavily drew on South African Government publications citing the services that had been rendered to the Blacks under Apartheid, pointing out that the Afrikaners did not dispossess indigenous Blacks, but had met the Xhosa while both were migrating from opposite directions. He believed that Whites should react against “racial hatred” from fellow Whites “whether in South Africa, Rhodesia, Smethwick or in the Deep South.”[7] According to Stephanie de Montalk, the authorities in England placed an injunction against the sale of the pamphlet.[8]

In 1966 Potocki took up the cause of Rhodesia. His solution to the crisis was for “Sir Ian Smith” (sic) and the Rhodesian people to proclaim Rhodesia a Kingdom and to “offer the Crown to His Grace the Duke of Montrose.”

In this way the Rhodesians will set the whole world a good example, take the wind out of the  sails of the minority of piratical hypocrites in England, & provide a turning-point for the Good in the history of the world, at a time when it never needed it more. This would also be a piece of poetic justice, whereby the Grahams would be rewarded for their courage and loyalty during the disgraceful wars which England waged under the criminal Cromwell against Scotland and against the true interests of humanity.[9]

Potocki then outlined the genealogy of the Duke to legitimize claims to royal blood, suggesting that Rhodesia adopt the Montrose Arms as its own, which would make the country “the first of the (ex) British colonies to acquire a blazon which is a decent piece of heraldry and not an offence against good taste as e.g. the so-called coat of arms of New Zealand. . . .”

In regard to Queen Elizabeth II, Potocki declared himself to be “a pious Legitimist” and that the only lawful King of England and territories is Albrecht, “de jure King of Bavaria,” and suggested that the Duke of Montrose might even be ahead of Elizabeth in royal succession, through Baden. Nonetheless, Potocki considered Elizabeth “an intelligent and honest girl” who should be “liberated from her servitude to her humbugging inferiors & allowed to use Her Own words as She sees fit.”[10] Hence, Potocki remained as ever foremost a Royalist.

In 1977 Potocki returned to Southern African themes, namely:

Let The Rhodesians Not

Be surprised that England should try and sell them down the river to a gang of bolsheviks and other terrorists.

For after having plotted the most gigantic blood-bath and world-wide flood of misery that the world has ever seen, and carried it through by fiendish means (Dresden etc.) backed up by Hellish lies (six millions etc.) on the pretext of safeguarding the independence and territorial integrity of Poland, England shamelessly sold that great country (once the largest kingdom in Europe) to the wickedest terrorist of known history, calling himself Stalin. England has Holy Joes enough, proclaiming that “your sins will find you”–but even more surely the crimes of your country, connived at by you, will find you out. Nemesis is completely impartial.[11]

In 1987 the Count addressed New Zealand race relations, pre-empting much of what the liberals and Maori activists have subsequently sought and obtained. Potocki’s plan was to restore authority to the traditional chieftains, and with the setting up of land tribunals to address grievances, to place compensated resources under the trusteeship of the Maori Sovereign. Potocki was concerned about outside interference and subversion utilizing the Maori radicals, and the likelihood of United Nations meddling in such matters or supranational law courts, which would mean that New Zealand would be “muzzled and hamstring by all the odious humbug she herself has gone in for about South Africa.” Once again, he was prescient.

He regarded the Maori as having genuine grievances, which he did not accord to the Blacks in South Africa, as they had not settled that region prior to the Afrikaners, and furthermore he had an altogether higher regard for the racial qualities of the Maori than for either the Africans or for the pakeha.[12] He believed that a racial clash was coming, and that in the long run the pakeha might get the worst of things. He advocated Maori language programs and held that “they should become an integral part of the social and political organization of Aotearoa.” He also sought to remind New Zealanders that he was the most high-born individual who had ever been conceived in New Zealand.[13]

In the arts, he predictably saw little to praise and considered that a cultural renaissance could still be launched from New Zealand, with his assistance.[14] This optimism is surprising, since he had left New Zealand at what now transpires to have been the country’s Golden Age of culture, dominated by his friends such as Rex Fairburn and Mason. Certainly it reflects a degree of optimism and idealism that also accounts for it “not being impossible,” given the circumstances of the post-war world, that he could have been named king of Poland.

Unsurprisingly, as part of the New Zealand literati, his cousin and biographer Stephanie de Montalk agonizes over Geoffrey’s “bigotry.” Yet she recalls his avid support for the Maori, the genuinely warm manner with which he mingled with students of all races at Victoria University, and his enthusiastic interest in their cultures. Students for their part were impressed by his learning and his personality, Indian students by his knowledge of Sanskrit.[15]

New European Order

In 1969 Potocki received an “amiable invitation from the Secretary General of the New European Order to attend the biennial Assembly of the Order at Easter in Barcelona, as Polish delegate.”[16] Potocki was skeptical, having had bad experiences with “English Fascist, semi-Fascist & pseudo-Fascist organizations,” which he considered at least among the leadership, to have been police agents and agents provocateurs. He was particularly scathing of Colin Jordan’s’ British National Socialist Movement, but regarded as genuine William Joyce’s National Socialist League.

The New European Order had emerged as a radical faction from out of the European Social Movement, or Malmö International, founded in 1951 at the suggestion of Swedish Fascist Per Engdahl, and including support from the British Mosleyites, the Italian Social Movement, Germany’s Socialist Reich Party, etc. The leaders of the New European Order were the Frenchman René Binet, and the Swiss Guy Amaudruz,[17] who continues to publish a bulletin of that name.

Potocki replied to the invitation by writing that his attendance was conditional on Colin Jordan not being there, and that he could propose a motion “recognizing the nullity of the Partitions of Poland (18th century) and Hungary (20th century).” The acceptance of his conditions gave Potocki “a very good opinion of the honorableness of the New European Order.”[18] Potocki recounts: “I was elected enthusiastically Delegate for Poland, and my motion passed unanimously.”[19] The motion reads:

Poland and Hungary

The Assembly did not believe a new order can be based on the domination of another European nation, and recognizes the invalidity of the partitions of Poland (late thirteenth century) and Hungary.

The meeting considers that an understanding between the peoples directly concerned is desirable and is awaiting proposals based on the agreement of representatives of nations touched by this problem.

Potocki mentions that a few days after the congress the Croatian Delegate, Gen. Luburich, was murdered on what Potocki believed to have been the orders of Tito. He states that Luburich was “sincerely friendly to Poland and Hungary and spoke fluent Hungarian. PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME.”[20]

Potocki also moved another resolution calling for recognition of “any human freedom” so long as it does not harm the citizen or the state, stating that some social and moral changes are irreversible and there can be no return to the 19th century. “Mindful also of a renaissance of European culture, the New European Order recognizes that ‘a state of rigid disciplinary spirit could harm the development of the arts.’” The resolution deplores the political consequences of Puritanism, starting with the Cromwellian revolution. Potocki, as an advocate of aristocracy and traditional hierarchy, also considered the rebirth of high culture to be predicated on the freedom from the burden of work by the culture-bearing stratum, and the necessity of “a leisured class as useful to the culture.”[21]

Return to NZ

Potocki returned to NZ in late 1983, after an absence of fifty-six years, accompanied by some media interviews and commentary, and the publication of his Recollections of My Fellow Poets.[22] His respect among certain sections of New Zealand intelligentsia remained, however, and he was given access to an old platen press at Victoria University. Traveling to the South Island, he stopped off at Christchurch Cathedral and expressed dismay at the modernization of Anglican procedure there.

He also visited the University of Otago. The Otago Daily Times described Potocki as “vigorous, learned and cosmopolitan,” “an avowed royalist and an enemy of democracy.” Potocki was reported as stating: “The whole thesis upon which democracy is based is totally unjust . . . like one man, one vote. The biggest idiot can have a vote whereas a valuable person also has one vote.” The undimming of his aristocratic views in the aftermath of the victory of democracy might be accounted for by the Times comment that, “he said he did not care about public opinion because the public were stupid.”[23] With such views, it is clear enough why he had not been in New Zealand, the epitome of democratic and egalitarian values, for 56 years, “where no creative life exists except in animal form, and where all the loveliness of European civilization exists only in a weird state of caricature.”[24]

An interesting and worthy account of his life was produced and aired on the Tuesday Documentary of Television One in 1984, entitled The Count—Profile of a Polemicist.

Spending the summer in Provence in 1985, he returned to New Zealand later that year, and moved into a friend’s house in Hamilton, a city of loathsome pseudo-academics and charlatans with an equally loathsome University administration.

Dr. F. W. Nielsen Wright, an energetic poet, critic, and chronicler of New Zealand culture, describes Potocki as “the all time bad boy of Aotearoa letters.”[25] Wright, a notable figure in New Zealand literature, and former professor of English at Victoria University, also involved in the obscure and short-lived Communist Party of Aotearoa, states that “nobody else comes close to Potocki,” and that he was “treated as a pariah by New Zealand academics[26] without exception to the day of his death.”

Potocki should long ago have been awarded a Doctorate of Letters for his translation into verse . . . of the Polish classic, Forefather’s Eve, a romantic verse play by Adam Mickiewicz. This translation has a higher standing internationally than any other  piece of New Zealand verse.[27]

In 1990 Potocki was invited to Poland at the invitation of Dr. Andrzej Klossowski of Warsaw University and the Polish National Library and gave well-attended readings of his poetry.[28] In 1993 Fleming’s collection of interviews and writings by Potocki was launched. That same year, Potocki returned to Provence despite declining health.

Potocki died on April 14, 1997 at Draguignan. His grave marked by a simple granite slab etched “G. Potocki de Montalk 1903–1997.”[29]

Wright states that on Potocki’s death in France of “extreme old age” his personal papers were shipped back to New Zealand. This caused protest from the French Government which regarded them as a French cultural treasure. To Wright it was Potocki who was

. . . the leading figure in a group of Aotearoa writers who in the 1920s asserted the value of poetry and challenged their fellow countrymen and women to give them recognition and honor as poets. . . . All felt that the country in fact rejected them and all went into external or internal exile. But their claim remains true. They are the most outstanding group of poets so far in our literature in English.

He has never been forgiven in New Zealand for espousing fascism, even though other literary figures who went the same way have long since been rehabilitated and count as honored writers: people like Knut Hamsun in Norway, Maurras in France, Ezra Pound in the United States, and P. G. Wodehouse in Britain.[30]

“A Good European”

In pondering the Count’s character, Chris Martin wrote:

How best to describe the Count? Whilst possessed of opinions with which I personally often disagreed, he was a small and handsome figure, extremely attractive to the ladies, exceptionally well-spoken (to the extent of correcting my own English), obviously extremely talented but, equally obviously, an embittered victim of the English judicial system, and what in 1932 passed for reality. His nephew Peter Potocki described him as “Uncle Nero.” I can state personally that the Count was an extremely interesting person to know; his position in literary history is pretty well irrefragable. However, I will say that he was most interesting company and one of the most informed people one has met about virtually any aspect of European history. For a person born in New Zealand in 1903, the Count was what, with Nietzsche, we might term “a good European.”[31]

Notes

[1] Dr. R. G. Fowler, director of the Savitri Devi Archive, personal communication with the writer, July 21, 2010. Dr. Fowler states that he had interviewed two friends of Savitri who knew her when she was in England during the 1960s, and they identified the “East European Count” who printed the leaflets as Potocki.

[2] Ibid.

[3] S. de Montalk, 253.

[4] Ibid., 265.

[5] Ibid., 264.

[6] The Australian literary figure and Rightist Percy Stephensen was similarly of a decidedly pro-Aboriginal disposition well before it became fashionable, helped to promote the pioneer Aborigine publication Abo Call, and served as secretary of the Aboriginal Citizenship Association.  See K. R. Bolton, Thinkers of the Right, 134–35.

[7] G. P. de Montalk, Two Blacks Don’t’ Make a White: Remarks About Apartheid (Dorset: The Melissa Press, 1964). The pamphlet is reproduced in Fleming, 81–91.

[8] S. de Montalk, 264.

[9] G. P. de Montalk, The King of Poland’s Plan for Rhodesia (Draguignan: The Melissa, Press, 1966).

[10] Ibid.

[11] G. P. de Montalk, Let the Rhodesians Not (Provence: The Mélissa Press, 1977).

[12] Maori term for white New Zealander.

[13] G. P. de Montalk, Kahore, Kahore!

[14] S. de Montalk, 300.

[15] Ibid., 266-267.

[16] G. P. de Montalk, Text of a Resolution submitted to the General Assembly of the New European Order (Draguignan, France: The Mélissa Press, 1970).

[17] Stephen Dorrill, Black Shirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (London: Penguin, 2007), 596.

[18] G. P. de Montalk, Text of a Resolution submitted to the General Assembly of the New European Order.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid. This is presumably Gen. Vjekoslav Luburich, commander of the Ustase concentration camps in Croatia during World War II. After the war he was active in Croatian emigrant communities and founded the underground Croatian National Resistance. As Potocki insisted, Luburich was killed by an agent of UDBA, the Yugoslav secret service, Ilija Stanich, on April 20, 1969, in Carcaixent, Spain.

[21] Ibid.

[22] S. de Montalk, 122.

[23] Ibid., 127.

[24] Ibid., 153.

[25] F. W. Nielsen Wright, Count Potocki de Montalk: the all time bad boy of Aotearoa letters, news of some recent developments in Potocki studies, (Wellington, New Zealand: Cultural and Political Booklets, Monograph of Aotearoa literature No. 12, 1997), 3. As Wright explains, both he and Potocki preferred the Maori name for New Zealand.

[26] Given the troglodyte nature of New Zealand academe in the social sciences this pariah status is surely an honor.

[27] Nielsen Wright, Count Potocki de Montalk.

[28] Ibid., 302.

[29] Ibid., 316.

[30] Ibid., 4-5.

[31] Chris Martin,  op.cit.

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