BY ROBERT SPOO
IN 1928, FOUR YEARS AFTER HE HAD LEFT PARIS TO MAKE HIS home in Rapallo, Italy, Ezra Pound announced in his short-lived magazine, The Exile: "Quite simply: I want a new civilization." 1 Like many of his passionate utterances, this sweeping call for change was addressed primarily to his native America, a land suffering the disgrace, as he saw it, of Prohibition, book censorship, protectionist copyright laws, and a succession of mediocre occupants of the White House. As he became less tolerant of liberal democracies and bureaucratic systems, he grew more enamored of the charismatic fascism of Benito Mussolini, who, he believed, had restored dynamic individualism and action to government. By 1933, Ezra had persuaded himself that the Duce was a continuation of the best political energies of early America: "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." 2 The poet who had labored to "make it new" by reclaiming forgotten literary traditions was now forging a myth that would allow him to connect his present beliefs with his vision of a vanished America. The exile had found his new civilization in a resurgent Italy.
Much of Mussolini's appeal lay in what Ezra took to be his progressive monetary policies. If the Duce's political instincts had made him a modern incarnation of Jeffersonian virtue, his economic intuitions had led him to the sane policies of social credit and the medieval just price, which Ezra had been advocating for years. Although historians have questioned the value and sincerity of Mussolini's innovations, Ezra along with many others during the period was impressed by the fascist plan for corporative assemblies, the battle for wheat and for land reclamation, and the revaluation of currency. In particular, Ezra believed that Italian fascism was committed to breaking the