Cantos XVIII and XIX constitute a sharp critique of contemporary economic and political conditions and should always be read together. The poems are part of the fraught cultural moment of the post-war, shell-shocked 1920s, partaking in the debate the question of whether revolution, or radical reconstruction is the proper way to reconstitute European societies in a way that might provide a livable future. Their thrust is diagnostic. Canto XVIII points out that the control of credit is equivalent to the control of the empire and exposes the international armaments trade and the oil/guns/ money nexus that is at the core of the modern globalized economy, even today. Canto XIX shows that “sabotage” culminating in catastrophic wars is the essence of a system that is run for the benefit of “vested interests,” warns that social revolution is the likely alternative and implies that the imperial fantasy of easy abundance is a pipe dream under present conditions. Both cantos depend on what can called Pound’s “anecdotal method” consisting of things Pound himself may have overheard from contacts like Wickham Steed, Lincoln Steffens, Tomaš Masaryk, and Arthur Griffith. Much of Pound’s information can be confirmed by the memoirs of these important figures. The discourse of radical reconstruction is pervasive in The New Age and The Dial, which printed such thinkers as John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen and C,H. Douglas, whose work provides context for these intriguing cantos.
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