In 1960, the USA was 90% white, only 5% of the population was foreign-born, the South and adjacent border states were racially segregated, and 29 states prohibited inter-racial marriage. The country was still enjoying the fruits of the postwar boom which had created the first mass prosperity the world had ever seen. A stalemate with the Soviet Union in the Cold War kept the peace. Within a decade, that world was turned upside down.
Change was already in the air in 1960. Previously in 1958, five men associated with the National States Rights Party were indicted for blowing up a Jewish synagogue in Atlanta. There were no injuries. But the bombing convinced the white business community in Atlanta that the integration of the downtown business district would be peaceful. Gradualism seemed to be in the offing.
But the pace was evidently going to be too slow for many, so black college students started staging sit-ins at segregated lunch counters.
At the same time, a white Southern fightback was under way. The main political vehicle was supposed to be the National States Rights Party.
The NSRP, which had been founded in 1958, was not just staunchly segregationist but openly White Supremacist and anti-Jewish as well. Its leaders were Party Chairman J.B. Stoner and Ed Fields, Editor of the NSRP’s newspaper THE THUNDERBOLT. The Party was denounced as neo-Nazi but conservative-populist would be a more accurate label. With the USA being overwhelmingly white and pro-segregation still the majority sentiment in the South, the National States Rights Party proposed nothing more extraordinary than contesting elections. The one-party Democratic South seemed ripe for the pickings. Southern Democrats were being tarred with the brush of the liberal Kennedy Administration. Republicans were still largely a paper organization, still tarred with the brush of the First Reconstruction.
The NSRP was poised to intervene in a major way. Moreover, in 1962 they were heartened by the Canadian elections where the conservative-populist Social Credit Party gained 30 seats and established itself as Canada’s Third Party. The NSRP hoped to emulate that success.
John Kasper was to be the Party’s candidate for President in 1964. His journey began in 1950 when as a 20 year old student at Columbia University he wrote a term paper comparing poet Ezra Pound to Friedrich Nietzsche. He sent a copy to Pound and they began corresponding.
Who was Ezra Pound? Ezra Pound was quite simply America’s greatest living poet. He had been a mentor to others including Robert Frost. He got T.S. Eliot’s breakthrough poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to be be published as well as ULYSSES, the experimental novel by James Joyce. He took the young Ernest Hemingway under his wing.
In 1925, the same year THE SUN ALSO RISES was published, Hemingway wrote this of Ezra Pound:
He defends his friends when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. He loans them money. He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying. He advances them hospital expenses and dissuade them from suicide.”
But did I mention that when John Kasper met Pound, the world famous poet was incarcerated in an American mental hospital which he called the ‘the booby hatch.’
Ezra Pound, an expatriate in Europe most of his life, was profoundly shaken by the carnage of the First World War. He blamed the war on international capitalism. But like T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence and Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Ezra Pound was on the political Right, not the Left. He located the evil in finance-capitalism which he termed usury. He saw the solution in the Social Credit theories of C.H. Douglas. And he saw fascism as the means for putting Social Credit into practice. His writings on this are codified in his book, JEFFERSON AND/OR MUSSOLINI. A leading critic of Franklin Roosevelt, he termed the New Deal to be the Nude Eel.
During World War II, Pound broadcast on Rome Radio for Fascist Italy. Near the end of the war he was captured by American troops. He was to be transported beck to the States to be tried for treason.
But was he guilty? In his broadcasts, he did attack Roosevelt’s family and blamed the Jews for the war. But in his radio talks, the brilliant but eccentric Pound was just as likely to talk about poetry and Chinese philosophy.
There was a real question of his ultimate sanity. So the government took the easy way out and place him at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in DC, a mental institution. It was there that John Kasper met him.
John Kasper was to be converted to the political, economic and social views of Ezra Pound. This made Kasper, like Pound, a white racial advocate which included antagonism toward Jews.
John Kasper would move South in the 1950s to become an activist against the court-ordered integration of the public schools.
We pick up the story in our next Blog.