CasaPound Italia
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RE: CasaPound Italia



"Devil, I am devil." ― Pekka Siitoin
2017 Apr 22 11:53
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RE: CasaPound Italia
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Quote:Hanging Out with the Italian Neo-Fascists Who Idolize Ezra Pound

Hanging Out with the Italian Neo-Fascists Who Idolize Ezra Pound
They Call Themselves "i Ragazzi di Ezra"—Ezra’s Boys

A couple of years ago, I went to Italy to visit a gang of neo-fascist Ezra Pound fans who I’d seen mentioned in horrified newspaper articles and couldn’t quite believe really existed. It was spring in Rome, and I dropped my suitcase at the hotel and walked across the city. Near the main train terminal, I turned a corner past a woman begging in a black velour hat and a man selling handbags. Across the street was a building, grey and brown, seven stories. In front hung a tattered flag, red and black, and on the ground floor were Chinese boutiques selling bejeweled phone cases and neon scarves. Above the shops was a sign, in letters three feet tall: CASAPOVND.

The hallway into the house of Pound is filled with names painted bright upon the walls. Here are soldiers and philosophers, novelists and Communists and cartoon characters. It is a contradictory set. George Orwell is next to Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists; Kerouac is next to Wagner. Spengler, T. S. Eliot, Saint-Exupéry; Yeats, Clausewitz, Ian Stuart, who was the lead singer of the English white power rock group Skrewdriver. Evita is in red, Dante is in orange. Plato, J. G. Ballard, Corto Maltese.

My meeting that morning was with the militant in charge of culture, which is a grand and alarming title, but Adriano Scianca turned out to be a nicely rumpled man. He opened the door and walked me up the stairs to the office. It was macho and unkempt, with slightly too much furniture and a Tibetan flag over the door. We sat on mismatched chairs at a conference table full of holes, beneath a poster saying “Your Friendly Bank Betrays You” and another of blood-spattered gladiators. They are occupying the building, he told me, and upstairs are 20 homeless families who have nowhere else to go.

We began in Italian, but my Italian is not good enough, nor was his English, so the cultural militant called for a translator, who came to us down the stairs. Let’s say his name is Seb. He spoke with a slight French lilt and his haircut was that of a matinee idol, spit curl and side parting. His features were delicate against the hard outfit of cargo shorts and a sweater, but his shoulders were broad.

They call themselves “i ragazzi di Ezra”—Ezra’s boys—and they speak in a collective “we.” When I emailed them to set up the meeting or to follow up after, their replies were always unsigned and the addresses generic. They speak like the chorus in an ancient play, and as Adriano told me their history it sounded like a modern myth. They began by printing 15,000 stickers with the word zetazeroalfa in block black letters, and they stuck them on walls all across Rome. This was, Adriano explained, to make the people wonder. Could this be a new brand of car, a TV show? It was a punk rock band, who play concerts in abandoned train stations and whose audiences beat themselves in a dance they call the “cinghiamattanza,” the belt massacre.

On the day after Christmas 2003 a few of the boys began to squat in an abandoned government building not far from Rome’s main train station, and this is where we met that day. When they arrived, they found that the lights had been left on for a decade, Adriano told me, with a shrug at the waste of governments. They had occupied buildings before, but this was the first one inside the city of Rome, and with it came a new name and a new purpose. Soon they began to arrange conferences. Since the start of the occupation there have been a hundred of these, Adriano explained: four or five on Pound, and others on themes dear to Pound, such as money, housing and the sovereignty of nations. They ran one on Jack Kerouac to mark the 40 years since his death, and another on Japanese tattoos. They opened 33 new places across Italy last year, Adriano told me: bookshops, gyms, pubs. Here they conduct what he calls meta-political activity. He added: in those places we pay the rent.

Adriano is good with slogans and careful with language. We want to be effective 360 degrees, he said, and several times he reminded me, we do not call ourselves a political party, but a movement. If I tell you that we are a political party, he said, you will not imagine that we have a theatre, an art gallery and evenings where people dance. He likes this idea of movement. He was not so much answering my questions as defining terms, and when I once described the group as “right wing,” he corrected me. In one of his letters, he reminded me, Pound describes himself as a fascist of the Left, and this is how our conversation proceeded: in triplicate, robotic, as if by rote.

The Ezra Pound of CasaPound is a man of many things. On their website is a short biography in which he is introduced as “Poet, essayist, economist, translator, cultural agitator, a free man,” and in their eyes this variety is precisely what gives him value. He rolled up all these disparate pursuits into a single life and they treasure him for his struggle. The biography lists his literary friendships with Eliot and Joyce, and his horror at the First World War, and then it tells how he was “declared insane and imprisoned in the criminal hospital of St. Elizabeth’s in Washington. He passes the first year in complete isolation, in a cell with no windows, with no contact with the outside world. He remained there for 13 years.” This is not wholly accurate, but the black and white of their telling has a purpose.

These young men have turned Pound’s trouble into strength and have built a mythology from his life. In the stairwell outside the office are three photographs of an ancient Pound in Venice, frail inside a tweed jacket. He looks as though his skin is set to fall softly from him, so otherworldly is he, but here in the house of Pound he lives again as a promiscuously fertile symbol: a poet punished by foolish capitalism; a seer and a time traveler. His biography is a parable and his writings are scripture. There is a contradiction, Adriano told me. People say he was the best poet of the 20th century, a genius, and when you raise the subject of his political involvement, they say he was a child, he was stupid. We see the contradiction, he said, and he quoted Pound to me: “With usura hath no man a house of good stone.” This is from Canto 45, which continues:

with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling.

From the beginning, Adriano explained, CasaPound was concerned with the question of housing, how Rome is full of empty buildings and yet so many are homeless. In Pound’s name, and with reference to the Cantos, they have developed a policy proposal which they claim might restore these houses of good stone to Italian families. They call it the Social Mortgage. Italian families with limited income are, in this scheme, granted an interest-free mortgage on a newly built house. The repayment rate on the mortgage is limited to one fifth of the family’s income and the house cannot be repossessed, nor can it be resold. It is only a living space and it is, of course, restricted to Italian citizens.

As if he were another empty building, Pound has been occupied by these strong young men: we might call it theft or we might call it resurrection, but it is also an act of literary criticism. “With usura is no clear demarcation,” Pound wrote, “and no man can find site for his dwelling,” and the canto’s biblical repetitions continue to echo. The poem ennobles the politics, and the politics fill out the poem, and in the hands of CasaPound all is entwined, even the unlikeliest things: difficult poetry and simple policy; the promise of a home and scorn for such bourgeois tastes. To celebrate Pound’s birthday in November 2013—he would have been 128—the boys of CasaPound hung posters in 50 Italian cities. “Il tempio é sacro perche non é in vendita,” their slogan ran, in a quotation from the Cantos: the temple is holy because it is not for sale.

At the end of my morning at CasaPound I asked Adriano what he is writing now. He is writing not a biography and not something ideological, he told me, not another book trying to see Pound strictly as a fascist. His book is called Ezra Fa Surf—”Ezra Surfs”—after a line in one of his favorite films. In Apocalypse Now the psychopathic Colonel Kilgore declares of the Viet Cong he is about to napalm: “Charlie don’t surf.” Adriano wants to say the opposite of Pound. He wants to say, Pound is cool, Pound is iconic, a pop figure who has come to save us from the global financial crisis and the shadowy bankers behind the European Union. As we parted, Adriano and I warmly shook hands and agreed to exchange copies of our books, once we are finished.

What happened next has stayed with me since. The interview ends and, as Adriano and I are saying our goodbyes, the interpreter, Seb, offers to take me to lunch at a restaurant nearby. This restaurant is, he explains, friendly to CasaPound. Before we go, we lean out of the window and smoke cigarettes. He tells me about the atelier, using the French word, where artists can use studio space in return for a few hours work as nightwatchmen. Last year, they projected a huge image of Mussolini’s head on to the side of a building.

On our way out he takes me upstairs, along tiled and dusty halls and into the hostel. People pay a few euros a night, he says, and there are flags on the walls and bunk beds. I ask where the people who stay here come from. They come from Quebec, he says, but not English Canada. They come from Ireland, but not England, and they come from Mediterranean countries, from Latin America. Seb lives here with his wife. He tells me that he worked for ten years in an office in Quebec, a good job with a pension, and one day he came here, to live in a building with no heating.

We walk to lunch through colonnades and dashes of sunshine, past carts selling underwear and CasaPound posters on the walls, each showing their logo of a sharp geometric tortoise, red and white and black. At a corner we meet a couple of other men—beards, clipped hair, grins—and we duck into the shade of an open-fronted restaurant. It looks like any other in Rome—white tablecloths, photos of minor celebrities who have eaten here—except all the waiters have tattoos up their forearms, and except that at the end, after cold antipasti, a heavy tagliatelle all’Amatriciana with fat nuggets of bacon swimming in the sauce, red wine from a carafe, bitter brown digestivo, and coffee, no bill ever came. What we are doing, Seb tells me as we eat, is not connected to money.

Before I went to Rome I expected many things. I had seen the photographs of the strong young men, their shaved heads, their beards; I had seen the symbol, the tortoise which is almost a swastika. I had read about how they collect used syringes from parks in poor neighborhoods and how they clean bike paths; and I had also read about how in December 2011 a CasaPound supporter went on a shooting spree in a market in Florence and killed two Senegalese traders and wounded three more. I could have predicted that Italian neo-fascists would sit for an excellent lunch, and that their generosity, while narrow, would feel deep. I was ready for both the smile and the teeth.

What I wasn’t quite expecting was their high-mindedness alongside the thuggery, and how these two traits might cohere into a single way of being in the world. At lunch Seb and I agreed that George Orwell was one of the great writers, and another young Poundian at the table recommended a book to me. It was Tim Redman’s Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism, published by Cambridge University Press, and it is a serious, scholarly study, and indeed a book I do very much admire. I’m not a fool. I understand that these sons of Ezra saw in me that which they could agree with, and perhaps this works both ways. Whenever I interview people, I always dress up. Usually, I play the absent-minded poetry professor, knitted tie and bright socks, but the night before I went to Rome I clipped short my hair, because I wanted to look like them and because I wanted them to like me.

Historians have been understandably wary of acknowledging the appeal of extremist politics, and particularly of fascism. “Fascists don’t really have concepts,” notes the historian Tony Judt, “they have attitudes,” and this light condescension is shared by liberal analysts and historians of fascism. They note the contradictions in fascism’s alliances, and the endlessly negative character of its ideology, which has many things to dislike, but few to propose. “Fascist policy was constructed from a wholesale borrowing of ideas,” writes Mussolini’s biographer Denis Mack Smith, and those ideas changed often: Mussolini was by turns a socialist, a free-trade liberal, and a monopoly capitalist. If we wish for fixity in our politics, then this looks like hypocrisy or contradiction. Mack Smith concludes that any attraction fascism holds for intellectuals must be “irrational.”

The parasitic, collage aspect of fascism—a movement that is always reactive, that lifts its symbols from elsewhere and is not led by any clear ideology—has made it easy to ridicule and easy to miss. But it is precisely in this hoarding up of disparate things that fascism finds power. In October 2012 the think tank Demos surveyed those who follow CasaPound on Facebook. The sample is not necessarily representative, for people have many reasons to click “like” on the movement’s well-tailored page—I have been following CasaPound for several years—but the report observes that CasaPound’s supporters tend to be male and tend to distrust institutions. It notes the “ambiguity” of the movement, and continues:

What seems to be clear from our research is that CasaPound is appealing to a significant number of Italians—particularly young Italians—through a combination of right- and left-wing ideology, symbols and methods. A number of people view CasaPound’s direct approach to politics—through street protests, occupying abandoned buildings and political stunts—and emphasis on culture and music as an exciting alternative to traditional politics.

There is no holy book of fascism, no manifesto or founding document. The temple is bare and upon finding this hollow space the boys of CasaPound have filled it with the figure of Ezra Pound. They have a militant in charge of culture. They paint the names of their heroes upon the walls.

In the restaurant Seb tells me that a couple of years ago this was ranked at number five among all the restaurants in Rome on the tourist website TripAdvisor. He is not sure how this happened—perhaps a glitch in the algorithm, perhaps a small number of disproportionately positive reviews—but it meant that people from Tel Aviv and Sydney called to book a table a year in advance. Seb laughs as he tells me this, how the boys had to pretend to have a reservations book while the gastronomic tourist waited on the other end of the line. The restaurant doesn’t even have a freezer, he says. This is how we end our lunch. As we stand to leave I offer to shake hands with the waiter and he reaches out his right hand, with the tortoise on the forearm, and he grasps my arm just above the wrist, and smiles.

We are close, this waiter and I; and for that instant bound in a frozen gesture, and even as it was strange and abrupt, it was also familiar. This is the Roman handshake I had read about. “My skin tensed between my shoulder blades and my wrist,” writes Pound in Canto 72:

seized in such an iron grip
That I could move neither wrist nor shoulder
And I saw a fist grasping my wrist but saw no forearm.
Holding me fast as a nail in the wall.

It is a curious, disembodied image—these grasping wrists apart from arms—and he adds: “This sounds foolish to anyone who has not been thru it.” A little awkward, but sinister, for the phantom who here is grasping Pound finishes by promising: “The regiments and the banners will return.”

Pound wrote Canto 72—and its companion, Canto 73—at the very end of 1944, as Italian Fascism was collapsing. Rome had fallen in June of that year, and as the Allied armies progressed up Italy, the Fascist state retreated to the Nazi-backed Republic of Salò in the north. By December British troops were in Ravenna, and Mussolini gave his last public speech, but the cantos written during this period promised eternity. “If one begins to remember the dung war / certain facts will well up again” begins Canto 72, and Pound—ever the eager historian—recounts how a dead man comes to him. It is Marinetti, who died on 2 December 1944, but who wishes to fight on. “I want to go on fighting / & I want your body to go on with the struggle,” the shade of Marinetti tells Pound. “I will give you a place in a Canto,” promises Pound, “giving you voice.”

This is what Pound had always given. In the Republic of Salò he continued to write scripts for others to read on air, and here in the canto he is still broadcasting to the ruins and giving voice to Fascism’s ghosts. Marinetti leaves with the cry “PRESENTE!”—which is the slogan engraved upon the white marble statues set up across Italy in the 1930s to mark the martyrs to the Fascist cause—and Pound goes on to encounter a medieval despot, who lists the heroes of the Fascist movement and generals who have died during the war. They are now forgotten, but named again—Farinacci, Miele, Borsarelli, Volpini—and he calls them “heroes.” The poet hands the canto over to these visions; he salutes the parade. This is less a poem than a bow.

Canto 72 is a poem of presence—of the modernist return of the dead and of the perpetuity of the Fascist dream – and yet it is also anxiously a poem of absence and of forgetting. Later, Pound used to joke that Cantos 72 and 73 were his ‘ghost cantos’, for they had been carefully left out of his published volumes. They look a little like splendid defiance; and yet in them, too, is an abashed silencing, and the awareness that this poet’s best efforts have come to little, have ended in what the canto describes as “Confusion of voices, as from several transmitters, broken phrases.” If this poem is a Fascist monument it is also like all monuments acutely aware of the ease with which its history may be forgotten.

For the critic Robert Casillo, Canto 72 is “the smoking gun” of “the reality and centrality of Pound’s fascism,” and for Pound’s biographer Humphrey Carpenter “There is nothing even faintly ambiguous about the political stance of this canto.” I am not so sure. I have read this poem many times, and each time end in division. I see its ugly boasts and how it vows itself to the name and charge of an abhorrent politics; and I see its odd hesitations and its deep awkwardness, and then, in turn, I wonder whether I am by now only trying to forgive Pound by blessing him with indecisions he does not, in fact, display. In the Roman sunshine the poem looks different. Now it warns of the perils of complicity; now it whispers of the weakening body and the promised message, and beneath it all it knows that attachments must come at a cost. In the after-lunch sun on the street outside the restaurant, I say my goodbyes, and Seb says, when the book comes out, you can come back and give a talk at CasaPound. We invite you, he says, if you are courageous.

From The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright 2017 by Daniel Swift.

"Devil, I am devil." ― Pekka Siitoin
2017 Nov 08 22:44
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Post: #13
RE: CasaPound Italia
Seems great from a distance, but is the actual situation for an ordinary family in Italy more or less as hopeless as anywhere else in Western Europe, despite the odd impressive stunt put on here or there wherever the activists have happened to hit a sporadic critical mass? Now that I'm getting older, I wonder if too youthful a style and approach might be holding this movement back? What is the place of the harried precarian paterfamilias in such a culture war?

"And now if a whole nation fell into that? In such a case, I answer, infallibly they will return out of it. For life is no cunningly-devised deception or self deception, it is a great truth that thou art alive, that thou hast desires, necessities: neither can these subsist and satisfy themselves on delusions, but on fact. To fact, depend on it, we shall come back: to such fact, blessed or cursed, as we have wisdom for."
Thomas Carlyle
2017 Nov 09 13:24
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RE: CasaPound Italia
I don't think we can expect CPI to solve the housing problem.

As for age and youthfulness, it started as essentially a youth movement and but I'm thinking as the founders and leaders get older (Iannone is looking like grandpa already) the variety of activity (which is already very impressive) will grow. And what's your place? Why, guide the the youngsters, of course. Impart some of that hard earned wisdom.

"Devil, I am devil." ― Pekka Siitoin
2017 Nov 09 14:20
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Post: #15
RE: CasaPound Italia
Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Ur-Fascism by Umberto Eco is an illuminating read in comparison if you had not read it before.

I see now that what CPI is mostly doing is good and admirable, but in my humble opinion resorting to an attitude of militarism and the culture of outward discipline is not enough in the long term. It takes much more work and special type of effort to elevate the psychological and spiritual state of people.

Promoting family values and affordable housing for natives is entirely just and righteous, so it is also very disturbing how this is deliberately overlooked or demonized by other "civilized" intellectuals and movements. In this view it is not difficult to see why Fascism rose against the budding decadence of the 20th century Europe. In some sense it was the waking of common sense and common decency and the spirit of "Why do we have to deal with this same bullshit from time after time again?". Its reactionary character is still viable because the same self-destructive spirit of materialism is poisoning Europe with familial indifference and moral nihilism.

Yet this reaction did not end well because it went overboard with the same materialistic delusions taken to another unwholesome extreme. Whether CPI will learn from the errors of the past failures and successfully cut ties with all the excess reactionary activities and ill-rationalized violence that tarnished early Fascism remains to be seen.
2017 Nov 09 17:02
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RE: CasaPound Italia
(2017 Nov 09 14:20)Mustapaita Wrote:  hard earned wisdom.

¡Ojala! LOL










i.e. "if only!"

"And now if a whole nation fell into that? In such a case, I answer, infallibly they will return out of it. For life is no cunningly-devised deception or self deception, it is a great truth that thou art alive, that thou hast desires, necessities: neither can these subsist and satisfy themselves on delusions, but on fact. To fact, depend on it, we shall come back: to such fact, blessed or cursed, as we have wisdom for."
Thomas Carlyle
2017 Nov 09 18:02
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