Part 1 of 5
The end of October is one of my favorite times of the year, and not just because Halloween falls on the 31st. On the 30th, we celebrate the birthday of Ezra Pound, poet and prophet of a just social and economic system, and on November 1st, we commemorate his death. During this year’s Ezra Pound week, I will be serializing in five parts his 1933 book Jefferson and/or Mussolini.
This book can be found elsewhere on the web, but I have corrected a number of scanning errors. Since the opening apparatus of Foreword, Letter, Preface, and Note strike me more as impediments than aids to getting into the text, I have decided to publish them last. They were written last and make better sense read that way.
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.
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.
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 fourth 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.
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).
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!
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.
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.”
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 twenty-seven elements can with profit to the reader be considered as five.