By Michael Collins Piper
From 1945 through 1958 America’s iconoclastic poet —the flamboyant Ezra Pound, one of the most influential individuals of his generation—was held in a Washington, D.C. mental institution, accused of treason. Pound had merely done what he had always done—spoken his mind. Unfortunately for Pound, however, he had made the error of criticizing the American government in a series of broadcasts from Italy during World War II. For that he was made to pay the price. The July 1995 issue of The Barnes Review told the story of Pound’s travails. Here, however, TBR presents an in-depth over view of precisely what Pound had to say in those now-infamous broadcasts. Was Pound a traitor—or a prophet? Read his words and judge for yourself.
American students have been taught by scandalized educators that famed American poet and philosopher Ezra Pound delivered “treasonous” English-language radio broadcasts from Italy (directed to both Americans and to the British) during World War II. However, as noted by Robert H. Walker, an editor for the Greenwood Press: “Thousands of people have heard about them, scores have been affected by them, yet but a handful has ever heard or read them.”1
This ignorance of Pound’s most controversial political rhetoric is ironic, inasmuch as: “No other American—and only a few individuals throughout the world—has left such a strong mark on so many aspects of the 20th century: from poetry to economics, from theater to philosophy, from politics to pedagogy, from Provençal to Chinese. If Pound was not always totally accepted, at least he was unavoidably there.”2
One critic called Pound’s broadcasts a “confused mixture of fascist apologetics, economic theory, anti-Semitism, literary judgment and memory”3 Another described them as “an unholy mixture of ambiguity, obscurity, inappropriate subject matters [and] vituperation,” adding (grudgingly) there were “a few pearls of unexpected wisdom.”4
Despite all the furor over Pound’s broadcasts—which were heard between January of 1941 through July of 1943—it was not until 1978 that a full-length 465-page compendium of transcriptions of the broadcasts was assembled by Prof. Leonard Doob of Yale University in association with aforementioned Greenwood Press. Published under the title “Ezra Pound Speaking”—Radio Speeches of World War II, the volume provides the reader a comprehensive look at Pound’s philosophy as it was presented by the poet himself in what Robert Walker, who wrote the foreword to the compendium, describes as “that flair for dramatic hyperbole.”5
What follows is an attempt to synthesize Pound’s extensive verbal parries. Most of what is appears here has never been printed anywhere except in the compendium of Pound’s wartime broadcasts. Thus, for the first time ever—for a popular audience—here is what Pound really had to say, not what his critics claim he said.
When he was broadcasting from Italy during wartime, Pound evidently pondered the possibility of one day compiling transcriptions of his broadcasts (or at least expected—quite correctly—that one day the transcripts would be compiled by someone else). He hoped the broadcasts would show a consistent thread once they were committed to print.
Pound recognized relaying such a massive amount of information about so many seemingly unrelated subjects might be confusing listeners less widely read than he. However, the poet also had very firm ideas about the need of his listeners to be able to synthesize the broad range of material that appeared in his colorful lectures.
Pound was sure his remarks on radio were not seditious, but were strictly informational and dedicated to traditional principles of Americanism—including the Constitution, in particular. In response to media claims that he was a fascist propagandist, Pound had this to say:
If anyone takes the trouble to record and examine the series of talks I have made over this radio it will be found I have used three sorts of material: historical facts; convictions of experienced men, based on fact; and the fruits of my own experience. The facts . . . mostly antedate the fascist era and cannot be considered as improvisations trumped up to meet present requirements. Neither can the beliefs of Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Van Buren, and Lincoln be laughed off as mere fascist propaganda. And even my own observations date largely before the opening of the present hostilities.
I defend the particularly American, North American, United States heritage. If anybody can find anything hostile to the Constitution of the U.S.A. in these speeches, it would greatly interest me to know what. It may be bizarre, eccentric, quaint, old-fashioned of me to refer to that document, but I wish more Americans would at least read it. It is not light and easy reading but it contains several points of interest, whereby some of our present officials could, if they but would, profit greatly.6
Pound’s immediate concern was the war in Europe—“this war on youth—on a generation” 7—which he described as the natural result of the “age of the chief war pimps.”8 He hated the very idea that Americans were being primed for war, and on the very day of Pearl Harbor he denounced the idea that American boys should soon be marching off to war: “I do not want my compatriots from the ages of 20 to 40 to go get slaughtered to keep up the Sassoon and other British Jew rackets in Singapore and in Shanghai. That is not my idea of Ameri can patriotism,” he added.9
In Pound’s view, the American government alliance with British finance capitalism and Soviet Bolshevism was contrary to America’s tradition and heritage: “Why did you take up with those gangs?” he rhetorically asked his listeners. “Two gangs. [The] Jews’ gang in London, and [the] Jew murderous gang over in Mos cow? Do you like Mr. Litvinov? [Soviet ambassador to Britain Meyer Wallach, alias Litvinov, born 1876.—Ed.]
“Do the people from Delaware and Vir ginia and Connecticut and Massachusetts . . . who live in painted, neat, white houses . . . do these folks really approve [of] Mr. Litvinov and his gang, and all he stands for?”10
There was no reason for U.S. intervention abroad, he said: “The place to defend the American heritage is on the American continent. And no man who had any part in helping [Franklin] Delano Roosevelt get the United States into [the war] has enough sense to win anything . . .11The men who wintered at Valley Forge did not suffer those months of intense cold and hunger . . . in the hope that . . . the union of the colonies would one day be able to stir up wars between other countries in order to sell them munitions.”12
What was the American tradition? According to Pound: “The determination of our forbears to set up and maintain in the North American continent a government better than any other. The determination to govern ourselves internally, better than any other nation on earth. The idea of Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, to keep out of foreign shindies [fights].”13
Of FDR’s interventionism, he declared: “To send boys from Omaha to Singapore to die for British monopoly and brutality is not the act of an American patriot.”14 However, Pound said: “Don’t shoot the president. I dare say he deserves worse, but . . . [a]ssassination only makes more mess.”15
Pound saw the American national tradition being buried by the aggressive new internationalism. According to Pound’s harsh judgment: “The American gangster did not spend his time shooting women and children. He may have been misguided, but in general he spent his time fighting superior forces at considerable risk to himself . . . not in dropping booby traps for unwary infants. I therefore object to the modus in which the American troops obey their high commander. This modus is not in the spirit of Washington or of Stephen Decatur.”16
Pound hated war and detected a particular undercurrent in the previous wars of history. Wars, he said, were destructive to nation-states, but profitable for the special interests. Pound said international bankers—Jewish bankers, in particular—were those who were the primary beneficiaries of the profits of from war. He pulled no punches when he declared:
Sometime the Anglo-Saxon may awaken to the fact that . . . nations are shoved into wars in order to destroy themselves, to break up their structure, to destroy their social order, to destroy their populations. And no more flaming and flagrant case appears in history than our own American Civil War, said to be an occidental record for size of armies employed and only surpassed by the more recent triumphs of [the Warburg banking family:] the wars of 1914 and the present one.17
Although World War II itself was much on Pound’s mind, the poet’s primary concern, referenced repeatedly throughout his broadcasts, was the issue of usury and the control of money and economy by private special interests. “There is no freedom without economic freedom,” he said. “Freedom that does not include freedom from debt is plain bunkum. It is fetid and foul logomachy [wordplay] to call such servitude freedom . . . Yes, freedom from all sorts of debt, including debt at usurious interest.”18
Usury, he said, was a cause of war throughout history. In Pound’s view understanding the issue of usury was central to understanding history: “Until you know who has lent what to whom, you know nothing whatever of politics, you know nothing whatever of history, you know nothing of international wrangles.19
“The usury system does no nation . . . any good whatsoever. It is an internal peril to him who hath, and it can make no use of nations in the play of international diplomacy save to breed strife between them and use the worst as flails against the best. It is the usurer’s game to hurl the savage against the civilized opponent. The game is not pretty, it is not a very safe game. It does no one any credit.”20 Pound thus traced the history of the current war:
This war did not begin in 1939. It is not a unique result of the infamous Versailles Treaty. It is impossible to understand it without knowing at least a few precedent historic events, which mark the cycle of combat. No man can understand it without knowing at least a few facts and their chronological sequence.
This war is part of the age-old struggle between the usurer and the rest of mankind: between the usurer and peasant, the usurer and producer, and finally between the usurer and the merchant, between usurocracy and the mercantilist system . . .
The present war dates at least from the founding of the Bank of England at the end of the 17th century, 1694-8. Half a century later, the London usurocracy shut down on the issue of paper money by the Pennsylvania colony, AD 1750. This is not usually given prominence in the U.S. school histories. The 13 colonies rebelled, quite successfully, 26 years later, AD 1776.21
According to Pound, it was the money issue (above all) that united the Allies during the second 20th-century war against Germany: “Gold. Nothing else uniting the three governments, England, Russia, United States of America. That is the interest—gold, usury, debt, monopoly, class interest, and possibly gross indifference and contempt for humanity.”22 Although “gold” was central to the world’s struggle, Pound still felt gold “is a coward. Gold is not the backbone of nations. It is their ruin. A coward, at the first breath of danger gold flows away, gold flows out of the country.”23
Pound perceived Germany under Hitler as a nation that stood against the international money lenders and communist Russia under Stalin as a system that stood against humanity itself. He told his listeners:
Now if you know anything whatsoever of modern Europe and Asia, you know Hitler stands for putting men over machines. If you don’t know that, you know nothing. And beyond that you either know or do not know that Stalin’s regime considers humanity as nothing save raw material. Deliver so many carloads of human material at the consumption point. That is the logical result of materialism. If you assert that men are dirty, that humanity is merely material, that is where you come out. And the old Geor gian train robber [Josef Stalin—ed.] is perfectly logical. If all things are merely material, man is material—and the system of anti-man treats man as matter.24
The real enemy, said Pound, was international capitalism. All people everywhere were victims: “They’re working day and night, picking your pockets,” he said. “Every day and all day and all night picking your pockets and picking the Russian working man’s pockets.”25Capital, however, he said, was “not international, it is not hypernational. It is subnational. A quicksand under the nations, destroying all nations, destroying all law and government, destroying the nations, one at a time, Russian empire and Austria, 20 years past, France yesterday, England today.”26
According to Pound, Americans had no idea why they were being expected to fight in Britain’s war with Germany: “Even Mr. Churchill hasn’t had the grass to tell the American people why he wants them to die, to save what. He is fighting for the gold standard and monopoly. Namely the power to starve the whole of mankind, and make it pay through the nose before it can eat the fruit of its own labor.” 27
As far as the English were concerned, in Pound’s broadcasts aimed at the British Isles he warned his listeners that although Russian-style communist totalitarianism was a threat to British freedom, it was not the biggest threat Britain faced:
You are threatened. You are threatened by the Russian methods of administration. Those methods [are not] your sole danger. It is, in fact, so far from being your sole danger that I have, in over two years of talk over this radio, possibly never referred to it before. Usury has gnawed into England since the days of Elizabeth. First it was mortgages, mortgages on earls’ estates; usury against the feudal nobility. Then there were attacks on the common land, filchings of village common pasture. Then there developed a usury system, an international usury system, from Cromwell’s time, ever increasing.”28
In the end, Pound suggested, it would be the big money interests who would really win the war—not any particular nation-state—and the foundation for future wars would be set in place: “The nomadic parasites will shift out of London and into Manhattan. And this will be presented under a camouflage of national slogans. It will be represented as an American victory. It will not be an American victory. The moment is serious. The moment is also confusing. It is confusing because there are two sets of concurrent phenomena, namely, those connected with fighting this war, and those which sow seeds for the next one.”29
Pound believed one of the major problems of the day—which itself had contributed to war fever—was the manipulation of the press, particularly in the United States: “I naturally mistrust newspaper news from America,” he declared. “I grope in the mass of lies, knowing most of the sources are wholly untrustworthy.”30
According to Pound: “The United States has been misinformed. The United States has been led down the garden path, and may be down under the daisies. All through shutting out news. There is no end to the amount of shutting out news that the sons of blood who started this war, and wanted this war, and monkeyed around to get a war started and monkeyed around to keep the war going, and spreading. There is no end to the shutting out and perversions of news that these blighters ain’t up to, and that they haven’t, and aren’t still trying to compass.”31Pound believed press manipulation was a historic phenomenon:
I ask my compatriots of my own age to note that the very high percentage of articles printed in American magazines contains a joker, that is a silent point, a basically false assumption. I don’t mean they all contain the same false assumption. I point out that there is no public medium in the United States for serious discussion. Every [one] of these publications has subjects which its policy forbids it to mention or to mention without falsification. And I ask the men in my generation to consider the effects, the cumulative effect of this state of things which does not date from September 1941, but has been going on ever since we can remember.32
Pound believed it was vital for the American people to circumvent the controlled press and to investigate current events—and history—for themselves.
Long before anyone ever conceived of C-SPAN’s daily broadcasts of congressional activity Pound suggested one way for the American people to have a better view of what was happening in official Washington: “You could put Congress on the air. Then you would know more of what your representatives are putting on you.”33
The poet noted that the press was so controlled it was virtually impossible to express opinions contrary to those of the controllers of the media of the day: “You can’t talk it over with me; because none of you can get to a radio. You can’t print stuff like this in your papers, because the newspapers are not there to inform the people.”34 Pound harkened back to the old Committees of Correspondence that existed in the American colonies prior to the American Revolution when he suggested: “You have got talk to each other, you have got to write letters one to another”35 in order to be able to discuss the real issues of the day.
Pound also noted another press phenomenon: the fact that the American press had failed to tell its readers that in Europe the Masonic order was a widely discussed issue. Pound told his listeners it ought to be news in America, but it wasn’t: “Nothing will come as a greater shock to America in general,” he said, “but in particular to honest men who compose the greater part, numerically, of American Masonry, than the view held concerning that order in Europe.”36 Regarding the Masonic order, Pound had his own questions: “What are the Masons? Where do they get their money? And who controls them?37
As far as the all-important question of money creation was concerned, Pound also saw the controlled press—and the academic establishment —covering up the truth. He was in trigued by the fact that there was precedent, in history, for the governments of nation-states to create money rather than relying upon private, special interests to do so:
For years economics professors have been lying, even going so far as to deprecate loans by the state, when the fleet that won the battle of Salamis was built with money lent by the Athenian state to the ship builders, instead of mortgaging the whole nation to . . . swine and enemies of the people as has been done in damn near every nation ever since the Stank [Bank] of England was founded. Well, states have lent money, and the Pennsylvania Colony lent it. And the French . . . are lending it. So the British fire on their late allies. And every damn possible thing is done to prevent the American in Utah or Montana from learning economics or history. And our Constitution does give Congress the right to determine prices, though it is worded, “right to determine the value of money,” which is the same thing.38
In Pound’s judgment, the American people had fallen down on the job and relied upon the greatest protection they had against the moneyed interests—the U.S. Constitution. “You have not kept the Constitution in force,” he said. “You have not developed it according to its own internal laws . . . The main protection of the whole people is in the clause about Congress issuing money . . . but you have not wanted to maintain the Constitution. You have not wanted, that is, you have not had a will, to maintain the Con sti tution or to maintain honest, just government.39
The U.S. Constitution, Pound said, was “for more than a century, in fact for 130 years, far and away the best on earth. I had always thought we could get all the social justice we need, by a few sane reforms of money, such as Adams and Lincoln would have thought honest and Constitutional. The grafters would rather throw you into a ten years war and kill off five or ten million young men than even let the discussion of monetary reform flower on the front pages of the American papers.40
All of these warnings by Pound about the money system have been suppressed or ignored or forgotten.
Despite his international travel, his choice to live abroad, his fluency in foreign tongues, his cosmopolitan associations, Pound was very much an American nationalist and a patriot in the truest sense. American culture and history were the foundation of his thinking, and he was the first to proclaim it. At the same time, Pound felt the American people were badly misinformed about the realities of European history:
“The Americans are unqualified for intervention,” he said. “They are disqualified by reason for their intense, abysmal, unfathomable ignorance of the state and past facts of Europe. Even my colleagues in the Academy of Social and Political Science have no competent perception of the difference, the basic difference between the American problem and that of Europe. And most of them have not made any adequate use of even such fragmentary fragments of knowledge as they possess.”41
As far as the Jewish question was concerned, Pound was never an advocate of mass extermination or of any program of discrimination against the Jews—contrary to what modern day “historians” might contend. Pound did perceive communism as an outgrowth of ancient Judaic teachings. He called communism “the left hand of Judah”42(the right hand, presumably, being international finance capitalism) and declared that, “The Bolshevik anti-morale [anti-morality system] comes out of the Talmud, which is the dirtiest teaching any race ever codified. The Talmud is the one and only begetter of the Bolshevik system.”43
Pound sometimes resorted to the use of ethnic slurs, but earthy expressions and salty language were integral to the poet’s style. Pound’s real target was the international banking establishment—many of whose leaders were, in fact, Jews. But he was not an enemy of the Jewish people: “Don’t start a pogrom,” he said. “That is, not an old-style killing of small Jews. That system is no good whatsoever. Of course if some man had a stroke of genius and could start a pogrom up at the top, there might be something to say for it. But on the whole legal measures are preferable. 44
Pound traced many historical problems to the direct involvement of Jewish financiers. For example, he pointed out: “Nobody with any historical knowledge says that the French revolution occurred without Jewish assistance. Nor that since that somewhat bloody upset and series of subsequent upsets the Jew weren’t cock-a-hoop in the French capital. A knowledge of the French commune would have helped us to understand the Russian November revolution If we had had it. But handy and useful knowledge has an easy way of getting mislaid. Now what causes that?45
Of the much-discussed Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, Pound had the following intriguing comment:
If or when one mentions the protocols alleged to be of the Elders of Zion, one is frequently met with the reply: Oh, but they are a forgery. Certainly they are a forgery, and that is the one proof we have of their authenticity. The Jews have worked with forged documents for the past 24 hundred years, namely ever since they have had any documents whatsoever.
And no one can qualify as a historian of this half century without having examined the Protocols. Alleged, if you like, to have been translated from the Russian, from a manuscript to be consulted in the British Museum, where some such document may or may not exist . . .
Their interest lies in the type of mind, or the state of mind of their author. That was their interest for the psychologist the day they first appeared. And for the historian two decades later, when the program contained in them has so crushingly gone into effect up to a point, or down to a squalor.46
Pound saw the ongoing war as an enemy of culture and he acknowledged his goal was stopping the war, if he could: “Oh yes, I want it to stop. I didn’t start it. I should like to conserve a few art works, a few mosaics, a few printed volumes, I should like to shore, or bring to beach what is left of the world’s cultural heritage, including libraries and architectural monuments. To serve as models for new construction.”47
Contrary to his modern reputation for “racism,” Pound resented racist attacks on the Japanese by the Allies. Shortly after Pearl Harbor he remarked that: “A BBC commentator somewhere about January 8 was telling his presumably music hall audience the Japs were jackals, and that they had just recently, I think he said within living men’s lifetime, emerged from barbarism. I don’t know what patriotic end you think, or he thinks, or the British authorities think is served by such fetid ignorance.”48 Pound told his audience the United States had, “with unspeakable vulgarity . . . insulted the most finely tempered people on earth, threatening them with starvation, threatening them with encirclement and telling them they were too low down to fight.”49 The result, he said, was Pearl Harbor and American intervention in the war.
Pound also recognized Japan’s Chi nese enemies were as much victims of the international money lenders and intriguers as were the Japanese. In colorful language evoking lively imagery that only Pound could conjure up, he declared:
“There are millions of Chinamen, many of them living on very short rations in the interior and about as much interested in Chiang Kai-shek as they are in the White Socks and the Phillies, if there still are any Phillies. You could get more enthusiasm out of those Chinks for a Hot Dog Championship on the Northside than you could for Chiang’s foreign party in China. A lot of China is not pro-Kai-shek. A lot of China is not for that gang of foreign investors.”50
Pound was very much attuned to the nationalist instincts of other peoples. He was himself an American nationalist who knew there were nationalistic strivings all across the globe—that nationalists everywhere wanted their peoples to be free of the big money interests:
Parts of the world prefer local control, of their own money power and credit. It may be deplorable (in the eyes of Wall Street and Washington) that such aspirations toward personal and national liberty still persist, but so is it. Some people, some nations, prefer their own administration, to that of Baruch and . . . the Sassoons, and the problem is: how many more millions of British, Russians, and Americans of both the northern and southern American continents, plus Zulus, Basutos, Hottentots, etc. and the lower, so-called lower races, phantom governments, Maccabees and their sequelae, are expected to die in the attempt to crush out European and Japanese independence?51
Pound also had a profound respect for the European contribution to civilization. He told his listeners: “Europe is an organic body, its life continues, its life has components and nearly every damn thing that has made your lives worth living up to this moment, has had its origins right here in Europe.52 In Pound’s view, the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany was an exclusively European phenomenon and one that should be of no concern to America:
Europe with systems of government less modern than ours, Germany and Italy with the leftovers of earlier centuries, especially Germany, saw revolutions. Worked out a new system suited to Europe. It is not our American affair. We could with honor advocate freedom of the seas. For Europe as well as for a few Jew controlled shipping firms. We could, with honor advocate natural commerce; that is, a commerce wherein each nation would exchange what it has, what it has in superfluity or abundance, with what other nations can or will spare. We could stand for that sort of commerce instead of trying to throttle it. Why do we not? Why should all men under 40 be expected to die or be maimed in support of flagrant injustice, monopoly and a dirty attempt to strangle and starve out 30 nations?53
Pound felt there was much to be said for the social and economic achievements of Italy and Germany and that they could prove a model for the rest of the Western World: “Every social reform that has gone into effect in Germany and Italy should be defended,” he said. “And the best men in England know that as well as I do. The time of calumny is past, and its passing should be seen very clearly.54
Conscious of the reforms effected in Italy and Germany, Pound saw similar possibilities for the American system. Pound believed the U.S. Constitution itself provided Americans the mechanism for change. However, he said, “You have not made use of the machinery provided in the Constitution itself, to keep the American government modern.”55 Pound suggested:
You could keep the Constitution, and under that Constitution every state in the Union could reorganize its system of representation. Any or every state could elect its Congressmen on trade basis . . . Any or every state could organize its congressional representation on a corporate basis. Carpenters, artisans, mechanics, could have one representative; writers, doctors, and lawyers could have one representative.
You could perfectly legally and constitutionally divide up the representatives of any or every state on the basis of trades and professions and the life of that state, every man in it, would gain representation in Congress; and Congress would take on an honesty and reality no American in our time has dreamed of.
Present Congressmen are mostly so ignorant that some people have thought it might be useful to have a bit of congressional education. Insist on Congressmen being able to pass an exam in at least some of the subject matters they are expected to vote on . . . I think the representation by trades and profession would be a better way out, with, if you like, different exams for the different trades and professions.
That could do no harm whatsoever. Man to represent steel workers, to be able to show he knows the working of steel; miner to know the workings of mines; professional to represent his profession, really to represent his profession, the best qualities, most acute knowledge of his profession. That would certainly lead to efficiency. Health regulations would be decided by someone who knew something about sanitation. Rules for mining coal, rates per day, decided by someone who knows coal don’t just crawl out of a mine, while somebody sits round playing pinochle . . .
“I am telling you how to oil up the machine,” he said, “and change a few gadgets so that it would work as the founders intended.56
Quick and certain to draw distinctions between U.S. and European traditions, however, Pound declared: “Class war is not an American product, not from the roots of the nation. Not in our historic process. And the racial solution, which is Europe’s solution, which is IN Europe’s process, rooted deep down, un-uprootable.”57 He told his listeners it was vital they study the evolution of the American system, and why the American Revolution took place to begin with—yes, it had to do with money:
Colonies, pretty much racially homogeneous, evolved. They found a solution for the problem of money, not of fields against money, not of colonists, farmers fighting money, but of fields and money working together, and they found it in Pennsylvania, and the world said, “How marvelous.” And an unjust, usurious, monopolist government shut down on the money—money handed out to the colonists to facilitate their field production, the repayment not going to a set of leeches and exploiters. And the unjust monopolist government, namely the British, was hoofed out [of] the colonies 30 years later.58
Full of contempt for those whom a real historian—his friend, Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes—called the “Court Historians” of the day, Pound recognized people could not make correct decisions about the course of their future if they were being lied to about their past: “You have a half-dozen historians but not all of them, by any means, are able to take out the facts and show how they hitch together.”59 He wondered, however, why people could not look at recent events that took place within their own time frame and see why things were happening as they were. To the people of war-torn England he addressed this poignant inquiry:
Have you no . . . eyes, no knowledge or . . . memory of events that have happened before you? Do you know only watery pools where were the cellars of London, only the material ruins, having no knowledge of . . . deeper causes, of why these things have come on you, or what you have done, or in most cases omitted, and which have caused these things to come on you, and have you no wish to know why this has happened?60
Pound suggested some good reading for his American listeners who might have a desire to bring back American tradition: “Two great friendships, at the base of American history. John Adams and Jefferson, Van Buren and Andy Jackson. You can pass the time reading that history. It will make the boys better citizens. Make any young man more American if he sticks to seeing American history first before swallowing exotic perversions.”61
Knowledge—basic historical knowledge—was vital, according to Pound. That theme—that knowledge was critical—was central to all of his wartime broadcasts. He urged his listeners to know who they were and why the world was in crisis. To his listeners, Pound urged this much: “Don’t die like a beast. If you are dead set to be sunk in the mid-Atlantic or Pacific or scorched in the desert, at least know why it is done to you. To die not knowing why is to die like an animal . . . To die like a human being you have at least got to know why it is done to you.”62
Pound’s graphic words could well be a warning to modern-day Americans in this age when American soldiers are being asked to fight and die in endless brush-fire wars around the globe—wars that enrich their real enemies—the very plutocrats Pound so fiercely condemned.
Pound’s defense attorney, who found the transcripts of the broadcasts “dreary,” later summarized them as follows:
There was no criticism of the allied war effort in the broadcasts; nothing was said to discourage or disturb American soldiers or their families. Pound’s main concern was with usury and other economic sins which he conceived were being committed by an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers who were the powers behind the throne of England and had succeeded in duping the government of the United States. The broadcasts were in essence lectures in history and political and economic theory, highly critical of the course of American government beginning with Alexander Hamilton . . . The American people were told they did not understand what was going on in Europe and if they did, the war would not have been necessary.”63
Was Pound a traitor—or a prophet?
NOTE: The dates cited in the following footnotes refer to the dates of radio broadcasts by Ezra Pound excerpted from the volume, “Ezra Pound Speaking” —Radio Speeches of World War II, the singular source for the information appearing in this article. The page numbers which follow refer to the location of the broadcast in the published compendium.
1 “Ezra Pound Speaking”—Radio Speeches of World War II. Edited by Leonard Doob. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978). p. ix.
3 Ibid., p. 427.
5 Ibid., p. ix.
6 1942 (undated script), p. 393.
7 November 6, 1941, pp. 16-17.
9 December 7, 1941, p. 21.
10 March 6, 1942, p. 54.
11 March 30, 1942, p. 80.
12 February 26, 1942, p. 44.
13 February 3, 1942, p. 30.
14 February 19, 1942, pp. 42-43.
15 February 18, 1943, p. 221.
16 July 20, 1943, p. 370.
17 April 30, 1942, p. 113.
18 February 19, 1943, p. 226.
19 Early 1941 (undated script), p. 382.
20 May 23, 1943, p. 319.
21 March 25, 1943, p. 259.
22 March 2, 1942, pp. 48-49.
23 March 8, 1942
25 March 8, 1942, p. 55.
27 October 26, 1941, p. 7.
28 May 23, 1943, p. 318.
29 May 23, 1943, p. 319.
30 April 30, 1942, p.113.
31 January 29, 1942, p. 24.
32 February 17, 1942, p. 39.
33 July 13, 1942, p. 203.
36 April 30, 1942, pp. 114-115.
38 1941 (undated script), p. 390.
39 June 1, 1943, p. 331.
40 November 6, 1941, p. 19.
41 June 14, 1942, p. 170.
42 May 31, 1942, p. 155
43 May 4, 1942, p. 117.
44 April 30, 1942, p. 115.
45 July 17, 1942, p. 207.
46 April 20, 1943, p. 283.
48 January 29, 1942, p. 26
49 February 3, 1942, p. 30.
50 October 2, 1941, p. 5.
51 July 17, 1943, p. 369.
52 October 26, 1941, p. 9.
53 November 6, 1941, p. 19.
54 May 23, 1943, p. 319.
55 June 1, 1943, p. 331.
56 July 13, 1942, pp. 204-205.
57 May 28, 1942, p. 153.
58 May 28, 1942, p. 153.
59 February 3, 1942, p. 30.
60 May 28, 1942, p. 151.
61 May 9, 1942, p. 121.
62 1943 (undated script), p. 409.
63 Doob, p. 427.