In August of 1956, the town of Clinton, Tennessee prepared to follow the US Supreme Court directive to de-segregate their public schools. Everything was proceeding peacefully until John Kasper came to Clinton with the avowed purpose of stopping “race mixing”. Within days there were threats, assaults, and attempts to intimidate those in charge of the process, culminating in the destruction of the school by a bomb in 1958. Kasper was an acolyte of poet Ezra Pound, who fostered a group of neo-fascists from the mental hospital where he was confined. Kasper and Clinton attracted national attention and inspired a novel, The Intruder, by Charles Beaumont, which Roger Corman made into a movie starring William Shatner. Here’s the story.
Born in 1929, Frederick John Kasper grew up in New Jersey. His father was very Right-wing, an America Firster, and young John attended Carl McIntire’s Bible Presbyterian Church in Collingwood, N.J., which was expelled from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1937, as conservative Presbyterian factions splintered. McIntire later toured the country, preaching that the Civil Rights movement was Communist-inspired. (details here.) McIntire was a central figure in the politicizing of American religion.
Kasper attended Columbia College and became interested in poetry. This, in turn, led to correspondence with Ezra Pound, who was confined in St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Insane in Washington, DC. Pound was an energetic letter-writer and soon drew Kasper into his group of admiring followers. They came for the poetry; they received the politics — Pound had unorthodox economic views and was very anti-Semitic.
Kasper wrote a paper on Pound and Nietzsche. His instructor at Columbia, Babette Deutsch, remarked that one could admire Pound as a poet while dismissing his politics. Kasper took exception and there was some heated back-and-forth in the classroom. Afterward, Kasper wrote a letter of apology to Deutsch:
Strange, but I always thought myself free from insidious falsehood. I was the one who childishly railed at superstition and malicious teaching. And yet I fell into the pit like any other subnormal inhuman beast of an uncivilized age. I thrilled at Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche, and the political Ezra Pound. … I know now by the living example of another, that the myth of fascism is “a clear and present danger”…[NY Herald Tribune, Jan. 30, 1957. Part two of a four-part series on Kasper by Robert Bird. see Sources below.]
Deutsch later concluded that his apology was “insincere”.
In June, 1951, 21-year-old John Kasper graduated from Columbia and, after two years of correspondence, travelled to Washington and met his guru face-to-face.
Born in Idaho, raised in Pennsylvania and New York, based in Europe after 1908, Pound was a force in the literary dynamics of his day. Besides his own poetry, Pound’s importance lies in the way he nurtured great Modernist talents.
Pound aided Hemingway with the publication of In Our Time, he published Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, and edited T.S.Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. These are only a few of the young writers he helped. Many artists felt a debt to Pound and tried to aid him later.
While in England, Pound met “Major” C.H. Douglas, whose concept of Social Credit Pound adopted as an economic panacea that would end the Jewish Banking Conspiracy. (another analysis of Pound’s Social Credit thinking, here’s another). He also was attracted to the thinking of Silvio Gesell, who promoted notions of “free money” and public ownership of land. Whether Pound developed his anti-Semitism in Europe or the US, it permeates his writing after 1910. All this was cobbled into Pound’s own political vision, an interpretation of which which you can read for yourself here, or here, or here, if you are so inclined.
Pound put everything on an economic basis. The real problem was usury, usura, as Pound termed it in his poetry, calling it a sin and a cancer. The solution was a just and autocratic government, and a new economic system based on Social Credit and the ending of banks and Jewish financial power. Scholars explicate and debate Pound’s ideas as though they add up to a coherent political philosophy; I don’t think so, but that’s just me.
Pound’s forceful energy wore out his welcome in England, and he and Dorothy moved to the continent, finally settling in Italy. He became an admirer of Mussolini and an adherent to fascism. He maintained a connection with Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and published in their magazines. In 1933, when Pound finally met Mussolini, he tried to persuade Il Duce that Social Credit was a proper economic partner to fascism. Mussolini was not convinced, but Pound admired him anyway, comparing him to Thomas Jefferson.
Fascism is notoriously difficult to define, but: “…the writer of these pages has already defined Fascism as an organized, centralized, authoritarian democracy.” [Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932)]
So there you have it: fascism = authoritarian democracy. Of course, the individual is subordinate to the State, and the State is run by emotion, not reason. “Believe — Obey — Fight!” was the fascist mantra. Sometimes Pound said he wasn’t a fascist: “I have at all times opposed certain “gray” zones of the Fascist opportunism by defining Fascism in a way to make it fit my own views.” And Pound had very idiosyncratic views. (Pound’s fascism.)
When World War II began, Pound offered himself to the Italian government as a propaganda instrument and, once they determined that he was Aryan and friendly to fascism, he began a series of broadcasts extolling Mussolini, attacking Jews, and demanding that the Allies abandon the War. Hundreds of these radio broadcasts were made. In 1943, Pound was charged by the US government in absentia with treason. Pound was returned to the US to stand trial at the end of the War. People were understandably a bit raw after the years of destruction and the revelation of the death camps. William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw, was hanged two weeks before Pound arrived at St. Elizabeths. Trials of other Lords Haw-Haw, Tokyo Roses, Axis Sallys, and the like were taking place, but there was no real plan by any of the Allies on how to handle these people and punishments varied. Pound’s friends seized on an insanity plea as something that could save him from a firing squad.
Examination by sympathetic doctors returned a diagnosis of “undifferentiated psychosis”, meaning that Pound was unable to stand trial for treason because he could not understand the charges against him. He was confined in St. Elizabeths, while his many well-wishers tried to get him released. He was allowed visitors and a fair amount of freedom. Soon Pound began corresponding with everyone who had any interest in him or his politics. Kasper was not the first to visit.
John Kasper and Grampaw
When Kasper graduated in 1951, he opened a bookstore in Greenwich Village called Make It New, after a line in Pound’s Confucius poems/translations. His business partner was Lina Lett, five years older, then breaking up with her husband, who invested some of a legacy that came her way. The store was dedicated to promoting Pound’s poetry and anti-Semitism. Kasper decorated the windows with Pound’s writings, including some letters, and the store sold mostly Pound-approved material. Kasper offered some non-approved works as “muck”, intended for informed readers to learn about the enemy. Pound was not pleased and ordered Kasper to clean out the “Jew-rot” and, also, remove his letters from the windows. Kasper was very apologetic:
I’m damn sorry NOT TO HAVE CONSULTED about windows. I AMMarsh, Saving the Republic, p.41
trying to stand on own 2 feet, but thought someone here in the heart of the
“red ghetto” ought to do something GOOD (what Kasper though wuz good),
However, be that as it may, the windows are changed and everything is now quiet.
Before his visit to St. Elizabeths, Kasper always addressed the poet as “Mr. Pound”; after meeting him, Kasper referred to Pound as “Grampaw” or “Master”. Other visitors included T. David Horton, a law student who worked with the Defenders of the American Constitution, a group whose leadership consisted of retired military officers. Horton edited the DAC magazine, Task Force. Pound got Horton and Kasper to run the Square Dollar Press, dedicated to reprinting out-of-copyright works that Pound thought important. In theory, there was an advisory board (that included Marshall McLuhan), but that was window-dressing. Kasper worked up a volume of Louis Agassiz’ 19th Century writings opposing Darwinism and other Square Dollar books were reprinted from photostats of the original publications so as to save money on typesetting.
Eustace Mullins, a member of the Aryan League and the neo-Nazi National Renaissance Party, had gone to Pound for advice on his writing. In 1951, Pound gave him $10 a week to research banking and Mullins produced the book that would later be titled Secrets of the Federal Reserve. In its original form, as Mullins on the Federal Reserve, the work had far less direct anti-Semitic content than later editions. Mullins also wrote for various newsletters such as Common Sense and did research for defenders of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. During the early 1950s, his roommate and partner was Matt Koehl, later to lead the American Nazi Party.
Mullins was invited to St. Elizabeths by Pound’s wife Dorothy Shakespear, who met him in Washington. Meanwhile, Pound had a long-term mistress, Olga Rudge, who visited St. Elizabeths twice, but did not become part of the coterie there. Dorothy and Olga despised one another. Both were from privileged families and used to getting what they wanted. Olga and Dorothy had been competing for Pound’s affection since 1922, even engaging in dueling pregnancies to get it. Now they were separately working on obtaining his release from St. Elizabeths. They were joined by established poets and writers, many of whom felt some debt to Pound.
There were other women — young “muses” — who also hung out with Pound: Sheri Martinelli, later to move West and become the “Queen of the Beats”, and Marcella Spann, an earnest young teacher who wanted to collaborate with the Master. “The honey-pot girls” as Dorothy called them.
Kasper’s anti-Semitic bookstore attracted both black and white customers. After the Clinton riot, the FBI looked into Kasper’s past and one informer told the FBI that the store was frequented by “Negro and Chinese homosexuals”. (From the FBI Kasper files ) The FBI also was told that Kasper was funded by various women he was accommodating. There is a kernel of truth in this. Kasper did have liasons with various women who helped him and others like him with a few bucks here and there.
Ezra Pound suggested in a letter that Kasper look up poet Louis Dudek. Kasper did so and became acquainted with Stephanie Dudek, eight years older, whose marriage to Louis was disintegrating. She described the 6’4″ gangly Kasper as “a gentle and likable boy”. Kasper persuaded Stephanie Dudek to give Mullins $3000 to publish his book on the Federal Reserve.
Kasper hit on Diane Di Prima, later a well-known poet and activist, but she resisted his advances — she was somewhat younger — calling him in her memoirs a “really unpleasant fascist”. In revenge, Kasper wrote her parents and others accusing Di Prima of being gay. He wrote to Pound:
Diane di Prima & Co. no use. I stand by J.K. who sd. banishment yrJK letter to Pound May, 1955, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.61. “J.K.” is John Kasper, who often referred to himself in the third person.
& ½ ago. Lessies may be o.k. in their circle but they corrupt otherwise
One problem with having youthful supporters was that they were all so “YOUNG”, as Pound wrote. Others referred to his “kindergarten”. He appreciated the adults who visited, poets, of course, and politicos like Pedro del Valle, retired Marine Corps general, who had been an observer during the Italian campaign against Ethiopia. Del Valle admired Mussolini and hated Communists. In 1953, he joined with other military men in forming the Defenders of the American Constitution (DAC), the group that employed Dave Horton, who brought Del Valle to St. Elizabeths. Del Valle had political ambitions — he was almost Governor of Puerto Rico — and ran for the Maryland Republican Gubernatorial nomination in 1954. Some of his campaign rhetoric might have come from Pound. Del Valle lost the election.
From New York to Washington
Kasper’s Make It New bookstore was not doing all that well and his letters to Pound through 1954 reflect his depression and desire to leave New York. In order to keep the store going, Kasper worked outside jobs, including six months as an agent at Household Finance Company. It was too much. Kasper located a Washington, DC site and rented Cadmus Books in November, 1955. By December, he had cleaned out the New York store and left town. Lina Lett claimed afterward that he owed her money. Kasper denied it.
One person that came to Washington with Kasper was Florette Henry, a dedicated worker at Kasper’s bookstore. Kasper took her to meet Grampaw who found her good company. Florette wrote Pound a polite thank-you letter after the visit. Florette Henry was black. After the Clinton incident in 1956, Henry and other African-American artists and poets who had hung out with Kasper expressed their astonishment at his contradictory behavior. What happened to him, to change him so? Unless, of course, this was the real Kasper, and the man they had once known, a fraud.
Robert Furniss, a lawyer that helped Kasper close the deal on his bookstore, had been recommended by Ezra Pound. It’s possible that Eustace Mullins brought the poet to the lawyer’s attention. Mullins had some articles in publications overseen by Furniss, who first wrote Ezra Pound in March, 1955. Very soon they were penpal buddies. Furniss knew both Dave Horton and General Del Valle. Furniss and Horton are named as co-owners with Kasper of Cadmus Books in the newsletter Right [FBI Reports]
It was through Furniss that Kasper met Admiral John Crommelin, a famous Navy pilot. Crommelin was one of the Admirals who opposed the re-structuring of American armed forces after World War II. He was urged out of the service and retired in 1950 to his farm in Alabama. There he took up Right-wing causes and ran for office.
In 1954, Crommelin and Del Valle were both part of the “Ten Million Americans for Justice” campaign, which defended Senator Joseph McCarthy when he was threatened with censure. Crommelin addressed a crowd of 13000 in Madison Square Garden, where he warned of “the HIDDEN FORCE in government” that McCarthy had exposed.
It may be that Kasper heard of Crommelin when he was in New York, though he apparently did not meet him then. Kasper had approached some Congressional committees friendly to McCarthy, such as the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Senate Committee on Government Operations, to send any printed material they put out to his bookstore, where he gave it away. Kasper made friends in Congress. When he put together a catalogue of books available at Cadmus, he mimeographed it on machines in the House of Representatives basement. Possibly he was helped by a female assistant to Rep. Usher Burdick that he seduced. The assistant was somewhat older than Kasper and, under his direction, got her boss to make references to Pound’s plight in the Congressional Record.
Kasper brought Crommelin to St. Elizabeths. Pound approved of him:
…Kasp/ come up with a good admiralquoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.116.
last Thurs./ a few words of wisdom from bloke as had been wrigglin round
dodging jap crash-bombers / BUT adults are still rare…
Furniss wrote Pound of a meeting at the house of Del Valle’s aide, Colonel Pomeroy. Both Kasper and Horton were there and Furniss volunteered them to work toward consolidating the various Right-wing organizations that had come into existence since the end of the War. Furniss had established his own group, “We the People” (later to be folded into the Liberty Lobby) and wanted to organize “a Right-wing, national, political action group”.
The groups Furniss hoped to bring together were anti-Communist, segregationist, and anti-Semitic. And they brought other issues into the mix, such as the Alaska Mental Health Bill, or fluoridation (which Crommelin believed was being used to turn people into “zombies”), or banning rock and roll music. Some were more one thing than another — more anti-black than anti-Jew, for instance — but they were brought together under this notion: Jew Communists were forcing white and black together because race-mixing would weaken America. Race mixing = “mongrelization”. Pound agreed that race-mixing was a bad idea — he had a liking for thoroughbreds. From #39 of the wartime broadcasts:
As to the Hitler program, it was (what we ALL knew, and did nothing about, namely) that the breedin’ of human beings deserves MORE care and attention than the breedin’ of horses and wiffetts, or even the breedin’ of sheep, goat, and the larger livestock. That is point ONE of the NAZI program. Breed GOOD, and preserve the race. Breed thorough, that is for thoroughbreds, conserve the BEST of the race. Conserve the best elements. That means EUGENICS: as opposed to race suicide. And it did not and does NOT please the Talmudic Jews who want to kill off ALL the other races whom they can not subjugate…May 18, 1942 Ezra Pound Speaking
I think “wiffetts” = “whippets”, fancy pets of thoroughbred aristocrats. Or something.
Many of Pound’s friends worried that these political activities would upset the authorities and delay his release. One wrote to Pound that he’d been having bad dreams after meeting Horton and Kasper at St.Elizabeths. He reminded Pound that he now lived in “the backyard of the gov’t” and an incident could endanger his release. [letter from G.Giovaninni Oct. 8, 1955, quoted in Marsh, p.98]
Pound ignored this advice. In fact, he seldom spoke of being released. Some of his friends began to suspect that he didn’t want to leave St.Elizabeths. “Of course, we want out of this place,” said Dorothy, but Ezra changed the subject. After all, he had the love and attention of devoted followers; he had the time and space to write; and his days were scheduled so that he was never exhausted, only invigorated, by bustle and fuss during limited visiting hours. He oversaw the production of a half-dozen or so literary magazines, he wrote articles about economics and politics under pseudonyms, he gave interviews to scholars researching Modernism, he wrote hundreds of letters to poets and politicians, he worked on his Confucian translations, he worked on the Cantos. Since first being confined, Pound’s surroundings had gradually improved. He used the hallway outside his room as as a reception area for visitors, who were offered food sent to him by admirers. He loved ice cream and ate a lot of it. He played tennis. In the summer, Pound moved outside and presided over gatherings on the St. Elizabeths lawn. In winter, sometimes a group would drive Pound up to “the Point”, where they sipped wine, “the whole of Washington, D.C. in panorama below”. Pound had enormous energy and it was exciting to be around him, to work with him, to try to change the world. It was a lively scene at St.Elizabeths:
Contrast the delightful afternoon/miracle of five intelligentPound, November 1956 letter to Olivia Rossetti Agresti, an Anglo-Italian fascist sympathizer.
peoplevisitors and one highschool article in course of getting educated by Horton/whether it wd/be possible to duplicate such a gathering in the Jewnutted States OUTSIDE a bughouse I don’t know.
So, Kasper was to go to Alabama to work for Crommelin’s Senate run, and Horton was working with Del Valle and the DAC, as well as producing a radio show. But first, Pound’s crew testified before a Congressional committee on the Alaska Mental Health Bill. Alaska was not yet a state and mental patients had to be sent to the lower Forty-eight for hospitalization. The bill would allow for treatment in Alaska. But Pound’s team was concerned that a concentration camp was being planned. This camp would incarcerate those the government thought subversive — like Pound, perhaps.
Kasper’s testimony before the Committee soon became a plea to release “political prisoner” Ezra Pound, then an attack on Jews, who ran psychiatry as well as the banks, “almost 100 percent of psychiatric therapy is Jewish…” and “…there is tremendous tension between Jew and Gentile. . . Jews historically have not always been assimilated. . .” The Committee members took issue with these statements but allowed Kasper to ramble on about the Bank of the United States. The next witness made a point of dissociating himself from Kasper’s remarks. With Sen. Barry Goldwater’s help, the bill became law in July, 1956.
The Alabama Campaign
“Am now leaving to make Admiral Crommelin dictator”, Kasper wrote Pound. He continued to send dispatches from the campaign and Pound responded with bullet-point lists of key positions:
DON’T fight from a teeter-board. Don’t fight from confused principles.Letter from Pound to Kasper, April, 1956, cited Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.124. [Hollis Frampton]
Fight from the original declaration of the Rights of Man.
Droits de L’homme.
Droit de faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas aux autres.
To do anything that harms not others.
Nothing is more damnably harmful to everyone, white AND black than
miscegenation, bastardization and mongrelization of EVERYTHING.
Less sense in breeding humans (eugenics) than is used for cattle and sheep.
Also the ruin of neighborhoods for the speculations of real estate sharks now
down, now up, now out, now building projects.
Blood banks an infamy also.
Get onto that Beria program. I think [Hollis] Framp[ton] may reprint some, etc.
Local self govt. well, admit NO immigrants to registration who don’t swear
loyalty to state constitution/work back toward QUALIFIED suffrage, IMPOSE
educational qualification, to get in less experienced votes/ fight the 18 year old
vote/ if necessary, but not to put in program and print, give circus tickets for
dont confuse ingenuity with proclamations.
[. . .]
leave local option in principle, but make it unbearable in fact. metaphor and
tradition: refusal of water and fire. ostracize ‘em. Surro[u]nd ‘em, cut ‘em off,
but don’t MIX principles for an immediate advantage.
Federal courts had struck down a lot of Jim Crow laws since 1945. For instance, courts ruled that it was illegal to bar blacks from voting in Democratic Party primaries, so they could now cast a meaningful ballot in the South. But that was only one of a number of legal decisions that were changing the way things operated. Nationally, Truman integrated the Armed Forces and that upset many professional officers, especially in the Navy where every captain had his black messboy. Southern politicians and big planters saw that their system was about to collapse. In 1948, at the National Democratic Convention, many Southern delegates walked out after the Democratic Party added civil rights to the platform. These Dixiecrats ran their own candidate, hoping to throw the election into Congress where they could bargain, as they did in 1876. Truman didn’t even appear on the Alabama ballot, but he won the election without those electoral votes and the court cases continued, culminating in the Brown decision of 1954 that ordered an end to segregated schools, and the follow-up implementation order a year later.
Crommelin’s opponent was Lister Hill, a long-serving Democrat. In March, Hill signed the Southern Manifesto — a pledge to fight integration through “massive resistance”. But Crommelin still thought he was soft on racial issues:
Crommelin charged that the campaign against segregation in the South was led by “Felix Frankfurter. A Jew, [and] Senator Lehman [D-NY], a Marxist Jew. Don’t you know it’s their kind of people who areMarsh, Saving the Republic, p.120
behind this whole mess?”
Kasper was very optimistic about Crommelin’s chances and wrote Pound enthusiastically that a boycott was successful in hurting the businesses of those opposing segregation. He did not say how that indicated success for Crommelin over Hill, though. And he complained that the newspapers ignored Crommelin, but they were all run by Jews. Even so, Crommelin was sending out the message, exposing “the kike behind the nigger”. Pound added Crommelin and Del Valle to Canto 105, promoting them as warriors — “With a Crommelyn at the breech-block/ or a del Valle,/ This is what the swine haven’t got…” Kasper said Crommelin appreciated the gesture.
Kasper’s fellow organizer in Alabama was Asa “Ace” Carter, a radio host who had been fired for expressing extreme views on-air. Now he was leader of the North Alabama Citizens’ Committee, which he formed after being kicked out of the Alabama White Citizens’ Council for refusing to tone down his anti-Semitism. (Jews were Council members in some areas of the state). Carter hated rock-and-roll, claiming the NAACP used it to subvert white teenagers, so rock and roll should be banned! “Be-bop promotes Communism.”
George Lincoln Rockwell, later to form the American Nazi Party, but now a paid organizer for Americans for Constitutional Action, paid the campaign a visit:
Rockwell flew down here last week. He was very disheartened at C’s rejectionLetter from Kasper to Pound, April, 1956, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.122
of his work and flew back next day. The enclosed cartoon is his work and he
turned out 10,000 on the offset press in Georgetown. The Admiral, however put
his foot down and refused to let it circulate on the grounds that white people as
well as the Nigra would say he hated the Nigras, which he doesn’t. That is a very
delicate matter here and the races have lived with separate but equal facilities
in harmony for 85 years. The Jews (NAACP) are trying to drive a wedge in the
south and what has taken years to build is being destroyed in 2 or 3.
By April, it must have been obvious — at least to Carter — that Crommelin would not win. Hill was so unconcerned about him that he left Alabama to campaign for other Democratic Senators. Kasper was still confident of victory. Pound wrote:
Kasp/whooping perhaps with too great elation re/ his nobl/ Admiral down in Florida.quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.133. “Florida”, Alabama, it’s all the same to Grampaw.
Tomorrow the primaries, and leZ keep fingers crossed, cause it wd/ be TOO
bloody glorious to git a real admiral into our decrepit senate
Meanwhile, Carter’s North Alabama Citizens’ Council had decided on some direct action. Nat King Cole was to perform in Birmingham backed by Ted Heath’s English band. It was illegal in Alabama to have a mixed white and black audience, so Cole was to perform for whites, then give a second concert for African-Americans. On April 10, when Cole took the stage in Birmingham, Carter’s gang was in the audience.
Carter’s group had been publicizing their action, saying that more than a thousand segregationists would show up and end the concert. Police took this seriously and there were many officers at the Birmingham auditorium. When five Citizens’ Council members rushed the stage and attacked Cole, the police arrested them right away. But Cole had been knocked down, hit in the back by a microphone. During the confusion someone yelled for the band to play the National Anthem. Ted Heath’s group struck up “God Save the Queen”.
After the arrests, Cole reappeared, said that his back hurt and that he would not continue. Then he went to play the concert for blacks. Six members of the North Alabama Citizens’ Council were charged and convicted: four men got six months in jail, two others received suspended sentences. Carter, who had been in the audience, but did not charge the stage, defended their actions. He said it was “a short step … from the sly, nightclub technique vulgarity of Cole, to the openly animalistic obscenity of the horde of Negro rock ‘n’ rollers.” Carter was unsuccessful in raising a defense fund and the NACC ceased to exist. Later in 1956, he ran for Birmingham Police Commissioner. He was defeated by Bull Connor.
On May 1, the primary results had Hill out-polling Crommelin two-to-one. Kasper returned to Washington where Pound gave him some advice:
AN intellectual movement/
may be ONE man, 50 years ahead of his time. a POLITICAL party, in a republic
with democratic suffrage must be something that can get 85 million votes out
of 160 million or at least 80.000.001 . . . must contain people of VIOLENTLY
opposed views on MANY points, probably on all save one or two points.
…[A ]Politically (effective) formula must not be FALSE BUT it must NOT go into details re/which the 85 million disagree.
You can NOT say: Nationalist. You can not put segregation as BASIC[.] You
cannot say, Douglas (C. H.) or Social Credit or Gesell. You must use a formula
which allows you to plug for what is correct in all three. You can say local control of local
affairs. …You can not SAY local control of local pur [chasing]
/pow[er] which is the only way to GET loc[al]. Cont[rol]. Loc[al]. af[fairs]…
(“Noone is accused of antikikismo until they monkey with question of monetary issue”)…quoted from Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.133
Something that stands out here is that Pound is serious. There are no goofy Ezratic puns and nonsense; Pound wants Kasper to understand. But Kasper wants action. He is competing for Pound’s affection with Dave Horton and needs to accomplish something.
Horton had a radio show where he interviewed Members of Congress. He operated in the DC area and had frequent access to Pound. He was often the person called upon to pick up visitors and drive them to St. Elizabeths and back to train station or hotel. Pound thought well of him and Kasper was jealous, often squabbling with Horton. Pound admonished him, but fed the competition between his acolytes:
Score: Dave got del V[alle] / Yu got Crommelin… If you don’t have VIOLENT oppositions IN the centre, there will be VAST blocks of people shut out.
…when I want to depress yr/adored confrere D.H. I remind himletter from Pound to Kasper, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.135
that a democracy is a place where ole VYoleR [his old friend Viola Baxter Jordan
who was obsessed with astrology] has a vote. Just as much VOTE as he has (I
never added the second part of that statement. Reserve it for moments of stress).
He assessed his youthful proteges to another correspondent: “mullins flighty, Kasp impulsive Horton solid. several others YOUNG.”
In November, 1953, when Kasper was still commuting from New York, he showed up at St. Elizabeths at the same time as aspiring poet Frederick Seidel. Seidel had no time for non-poets. He told Pound that he would not share his time with Kasper. Pound then ordered Kasper out and Seidel did not see him any more, though he spent the weekend visiting with Pound. [Swift, The Bughouse, Chap.6] Pound kept his followers in line by giving or withholding his approval, so of course they were willing to undergo small humiliations in order to receive it.
Kasper was emotionally needy and his worship of Pound was intense. He wrote:
O Sidgismundo, Your army’s gathering every day, please, we need you for the
offense and the “charge.” There’s nothing they can do, NO NUTHIN they can’t
take it away from you, not a damn thing can they take way, from thee THOU
GREATEST GIVER, KNOWER, SEER, SAGE, WATER, GRAIN, RAIN, and
[signed] Yours, John Kasper, Cap’n, 34th Brigade 16th Cuirassiers Regiment of the Line
[and in another letter:]
Granpaw, Granpaw, I love you, love you.letter Oct. 1952, quoted Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.6. Sigismondo Malatesta was a 15th C. condottiero admired by Pound.
The Cadmus Bookstore was limping along — various Poundian disciples looked after the store while Kasper was away; for a time, his mother even came down from New Jersey to work there. But Kasper had too much to do. On June 4, he announced the formation of the Seaboard White Citizens’ Council. Motto of the SWCC: “Honor, pride, fight, SAVE THE WHITE!” In July he transferred the store to Nora Devereaux, secretary-treasurer of the SWCC. Then Kasper mobilized his troops. His targets were those identified with the Jewish mongrelization plot: Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and Chief Justice Earl Warren, architects of the Brown decision; US Solicitor-General Simon Sobeloff, who had overseen Brown II, the 1955 implementation order; Senator Herbert Lehman; and Mrs. Douglas King, chair of a Maryland NAACP chapter. On July 14, crosses were burned in front of their homes.
The FBI tagged the SWCC as probable perpetrators right away, but Ronald Eugene Rowley, a student at the University of Virginia, confessed to the cross-burnings. He said he was protesting July 12 court rulings that Charlottesville schools had to integrate, and refused to name his accomplices. Rowley was released on bail which he later forfeited after failing to show up in court.
The Virginia Excursion
Charlottesville was Kasper’s next target. On July 28, Kasper sniffed out the territory. He spoke to city officials who shined him on. Then on August 4, four members of the SWCC accompanied Kasper on the drive from Washington, DC. to distribute leaflets and SWCC membership forms. They handed out a mimeographed leaflet, Virginians On Guard!, which included photographs of the crosses burning on July 14. The four were arrested right away for violating city ordnances, and released pending their court appearance a week later. But Kasper had another problem: Grampaw did not like the broadside.
Pound had a hand in writing the bulk of Virginians On Guard! which had a list of “proposals” including a new Constitution for the United States. There are discussions of economic fixes, including a Poundian screed on usury. The new Constitution also included an anti-fluoridation clause and banned rock and roll, but racial integration was the main topic. Not only are schools to be segregated but blacks are not to be allowed to attend college without passing a rigorous exam. It would be unlawful to even suggest that integration was a good idea. (But Pound’s essay on press freedom was also included in the leaflet.) And there were photos to spice up the mix: black men embracing white women and so on. The problem, for Pound, was the cover which included bits of his poetry.
Pound wrote Kasper that the broadside looked too much like Blast, the 1914 Vorticist manifesto put out by Wyndham Lewis. Kasper was puzzled and replied that he had never seen Blast. More likely, Pound was upset about his poetry being used this way. (Compare Blast here.)
Gramps, mebbe I’m wrong but I figure I’m working REAL POLITIK instead ofKasper to Pound, Aug. 8, 1956, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.144
“practical politics.” The REAL has to master, in the end.
If I’m doing wrong, going down the wrong road, getting corrupt in character,
acting unConfucian, am in a rut or stupid, please so say. I would quit Citizens
Councils today if you asked me to. I will do anything you ask me to. Sire, you’re
my real Grampop sure.
[. . .] our aim is NOT educationalist, defensive maneuvering, discussion-debate,
security- conscious, or ivory tower [. . .] We are aiming for a people’s
grass-roots, actionist, nationalist, ATTACK organization, UNCONTROLLED
BY THE POLITICIAN or the JEW or FINANCIER.
I am also a bit puzzled by Pound’s reaction. After all, he actually added lines to a poem to glorify Crommelin and del Valle, so what is the complaint here? Anyway, Pound praised Kasper’s actions to others, at least later, after the Tennessee campaigns.
The Seaboard White Citizens Council accused returned to Charlottesville for trial on August 11 — one member deciding to forfeit bond rather than appear — and there were no convictions due to lack of evidence. The SWCC had their picture taken as they stood before the Confederate Monument in front of the Albemarle County courthouse. Kasper’s chum, Asa Carter, sent a congratulatory telegram comparing them to Confederate raiders Mosby and Forrest.
Immediately the group began leafletting again. Now they had a new broadside: Charlottesville Attack, an “Open Letter To The White Citizens of Charlottesville”.
Kasper wrote about meeting the city officials of Charlottesville — “…scoundrels who have let your city be put under attack by the reds, NAACP, pinks, race-haters and mongrelizers.” and warned “White citizens of Charlottesville!! …your children will go to school with niggers…”
First the sacred schoolhouse.
Then restaurants, picture-shows, DANCES, home, then marriage-bed. Now fight.
NOW. FIGHT! There’s nowhere to run
Meanwhile, pro-integration forces were organizing. A chapter of the Virginia Council on Human Relations formed in late-July. At its inaugural meeting a month later, Kasper and the SWCC invaded the room. Kasper seized the podium and yelled that the VCHR would be “run out of town”.
An SWCC mass meeting was poorly attended. The group continued to leaflet and burned some crosses, but then Virginia Governor Harry Byrd’s Massive Resistance strategy became policy. The court order to de-segregate Charlottesville schools was stayed because of new state legislation. A new round of legal maneuvers began, but the schools remained segregated. There was nothing left for the SWCC to do in Charlottesville. Kasper chose a new target: Clinton, Tennessee, and began to organize the foray that would attract national attention.
One thing that Kasper may not have understood was that many people saw the potential violence in his activities. The established segregationists in Charlottesville never wanted anything to do with him. Wanting to ban rock and roll seems so silly that it’s funny, but no one laughed about the assault on Nat King Cole. Worse was to come.
That’s enough for today. Part 2 will be about Kasper in Tennessee.
Alec Marsh, John Kasper and Ezra Pound, Saving the Republic is a major source for this post.
The standard bio of Pound now is David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet. The third volume covers the years 1939 – 1972.
Daniel Swift, The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound
Matthew Feldman, “Ezra Pound’s Political Faith from First to Second Generation; or, “It is 1956 Fascism””, article that details Pound’s fascist beliefs and his activities after he was confined in St. Elizabeths. The title quote is from Kasper, but aside from the Kindergarten, Pound was involved with the British Union of Fascists and writing for their magazine, The European, until he was released in 1958.
Clive Webb, Rabble Rousers: the American Far Right in the Civil Rights Era has chapters on Kasper and Crommelin
Robert Byrd, NY Herald-Tribune, Four part series on Kasper Jan.30 – Feb. 4, 1957.
FBI reports on Kasper and others mentioned here are on-line at Archive.org as well as
publications of Eustace Mullins.
Crommelin FBI reports.
Carl McIntire publications
House Committee on UnAmerican Activities report on National Renaissance Party
Ernie Lazar FOIA Collection: Extreme Right Groups
Greg Barnhisel, “‘Hitch Your Wagon to a Star’: The Square Dollar Series and Ezra Pound.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 92, no. 3 (1998): 273–95.