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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Letter from Rapallo


By EZRA POUND
Special to The Japan Times

Aug. 12, 1940

I have never fathomed what a level- headed Japanese reader feels when he finds an Occidental slamming the said Occidental's government, or his president and the heads of departments.

News photo

It should be said by way of preface that a president is, in theory, a servant of the people, and that as long as he accepts office on that theory, his employers are licensed to grumble when he makes an ass of himself or talks nonsense. This may explain why many of us consider Franklin Roosevelt a president and proved servant of Jewry rather than a respecter of American law and traditions.

What his pretended (and in fairness one must add his very probably intended) reforms have, in the main, amounted to is the spending of ten billion dollars of America's money for gold, paying 35 dollars an ounce for it instead of 20 dollars and 67 cents, thus putting four billion dollars of extra or unearned or unjust profits into the pockets of an anonymous lot of vendors of an almost useless and certainly unneeded metal. Hence, quite probably, the misery of the American farm population, and the mortgages on American farms.

Naturally the bleeders who sell gold are delighted with the administration. The American, who is American by race, birth, and long tradition, grits his teeth, turns tomato-red, curses, exhausts his vocabulary of vituperation and ends up (or at least my New England host last year ended up) by saying: "He is . . . is . . . etc. . . . a little Lord Fauntleroy."

With the American mail now cut down to air service I am not going to pretend a knowledge of American feeling in July, 1940. In May, 1939, I had the pleasure of saying to the Polish Ambassador in Washington: "God help you if you trust England." Other remarks that I managed to get into print at that time, though they were not welcome, would now find a greater acceptance than they then did.

The German publication of documents has reinforced some of them. However, it may still be news in the Orient that already in June, 1939 it was known in Connecticut that Churchill, Eden and Co. meant to get into the government and start war.

* * * * *

I take it The Japan Times expects news from me, and not prophecy, even if the news takes several weeks to reach Tokyo, and if I differentiate myself from certain types of journalist by occasionally setting a contemporary act or fact in perspective with history.

No one will make head or tail of the "apparent contradictions" of democratic governments until there is a manual of the press of England, France and the U.S.A. No profession is less written about than the profession of journalism.

(One) smiles when Mr. Roosevelt talks about a free press. A newspaper in the U.S.A. is free to print what its creditors and advertisers want printed.

* * * * *

Henry Adams warned his brother [American historian and critic of capitalism] Brooks Adams that he might be martyred. Brooks didn't much care, and he died at a ripe old age, but the public is still nearly unaware of his books, in especial of "The Law of Civilization and Decay" and "The New Empire."

I know of no American author from whom the Tokyo reader can learn so much Occidental history from so small a number of pages. He was not a fanatical monetary reformer or insister on monetary pact and the known history of money, as is your present correspondent, but he had covered most of the rest of the ground. He knew and said very plainly that the old Roman empire flopped because it failed to protect the purchasing power of agricultural labor.

Every time a dynasty has endured for three centuries we find certain laws at its base. You must defend the purchasing power of labor, in especial, of agricultural labor.

Whether the Orient has learned anything from the effects of Indian usury, I do not know. Every now and again we get a gleam, that is, three or four lines of print, showing a very acute sense of money, both in Japan and in China. Perhaps your records have not been so often and so successfully destroyed as have those of the Occident.

It may even be that my original intention in this article is unnecessary. I started to warn you against accepting "shop-fronts." The European press is full of talk about Reynauds, Blums, Pierlots, Churchills, all of whom are labels pasted over the very solid facts of the firms running the gold exchange in London, the Bank of England, the Banque de France.

As no American seems to know whom Mr. Morgenthau bought the ten billion of gold from, perhaps some Oriental will have the ingenuity and patience to start finding out. No one would be more delighted by full and detailed information on this point than would your present correspondent.

Excerpts, edited for space but retaining the language of the time, from four of the articles Ezra Pound contributed to The Japan Times between May 1939 and September 1940 are used with permission from New Directions Publishing Corporation. © 1991 The Trustees of the Ezra Pound Literary Property Trust

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