APRIL 28, 1952
I HAVE HAD the privilege of visiting in the Middle East and Asia for three summers. I have seen most of the country from the Mediterranean to the Pacific and I have come back filled with prejudices. I have traveled it with my eyes and my ears looking and listening for things that I thought were important to Americans. But each time I came back with my heart very heavy and my mind filled with fear for the future of America, because I realized that America did not understand the world in which it was living.
I do not pretend to be an expert. All I can hope to provide is a point of view, but I do think that we need a different point of view and a new point of view else this great civilization that we call the civilization of the West may disappear. If it does, it will carry with it not only the things that we hold dear but the hopes and the aspirations of little people all around the worlds— the little people of the rice fields of southeast Asia, the aspirations of the goat herders of Persia. That is because we are more important, we Americans, we of the West, than we have pretended to be. We have, in large part, been assuming, in my opinion, a false role that is not true to our character, not true to our ideals, not true to our civilization.
We, in America, have been engrossed in the luxuries of our own civilization—our golf clubs, our hot dogs, our soft drinks—the rich, material civilization that our productive capacity has given us. We have imagined that other people should be like us. We are industrialized and have these things; therefore other people should be industrialized and they can have these same things. But industrialization is a very involved problem.
This summer I was where few Americans have been. I was on the Sinkiang border—up in the Karakorams in an area called Gilgit, Hunza and Nagir. The habitable portion of the region is about a half mile wide and 100 to 250 miles long. The valleys are about 5,000 feet and the canyon walls go up as high as 28,000 feet. It is a bleak, desolate, terrifying country. Those people, in February and March, have nothing left to eat. It is one of those food deficit areas. They have enough for 10 months and the problem in March and April is to find enough out-croppings of new weeds or flowers to carry them through. That is what those good people of the Gilgit area are doing now. They are tightening their belts. They can’t grow anything more than they are growing no matter how much Point Four technical assistance you bring them. But there is something that can be done from the industrial point of view that can help them. There is an American by the name of John Clark from St.Charles, III, a geologist, a graduate of Princeton, about 40 years old, who is now in a hospital with amoebic dysentery that he got in this area. John Clark went in there two years ago. He had a “vest pocket” Point Four. He taught these people simple industrial skills—how to make a pipe, how to turn a lathe. Up to last summer, no wheel had ever been seen in parts of this area. John Clark brought them a few of the rudiments of industrial civilization.
The reason he did it was that they needed exports, something they could trade—a pipe, a piece of cloth—and send over the high passes of the Karakorams and the Himalayas, down to the Punjab in exchange for food. When John Clark, a self-financed American, left that region in November, 1951, he couldn’t get on his horse until he had walked six miles. The reason he couldn’t get on his horse until he had walked six miles was because the people were lined up to shake hands with him, and kiss him, and thank him for coming in. There is no other experience of mine abroad that has been as moving, from the American point of view, except one. And that was when a Negro lawyer from Chicago, Edith Sampson, God bless her, stood up in New Delhi, India, and defended America on the race issue before a hostile audience.
Industrialization is a big problem. In the Gilgit area it means doing the kind of a thing that John Clark did, teaching the people simple things, teaching them how to utilize a few of their resources, not opening up great power projects, not opening up great mines that some absentee group of stockholders will exploit, but teaching them simple skills.
Those who have seen Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and the other big population centers of India and Asia, will appreciate as I appreciate the great dangers of quick industrialization. If private capital were turned loose and if the physical potentialities of that part of the world were exploited in the full sense, there could easily develop in a few years the greatest sweat shops in the world.
Those who criticize Nehru for being a Socialist don’t understand the background of India and the environment out of which he came. That’s what Nehru is against—exploitation. That’s why Nehru believes in his brand of Socialism. That’s why Nehru carries out his type of controlled and managed capitalism. Nehru does not want sweat shops in India. You can appreciate how great a sweat shop it would be when you realize that a skilled laborer in India gets $1 a day in American money, and the unskilled labor gets around 25 cents a day. Industrialization, as we know it, presupposes a lot of other things. It presupposes labor unions. It presupposes the organization of labor so that labor will get its fair share of the production, so that it will not become the victim, so that it will not become the slave.
Industrialization even on the farms presupposes a lot in the Middle East and Asia. In 1950, I was near Kermanshah in Iran. It’s a big, broad valley that looks very much like the valley that stretches south from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a beautiful valley, rich in bottom land. There is a wonderful man up there. He’s a big landlord, but not the vicious type of absentee landlord that has placed a curse upon the Middle East and Asia. His name is Tavakoli. Tavakoli is a man who has seen the same vision that many of our industrialists have seen in America—the vision of a broad base of participation in the wealth of the country—opportunities for everyone— dignity and justice and freedom for all classes. Tavakoli has some model villages near Kermanshah. When I asked him about his American farm machinery that he had imported, there was sadness in his eyes because he had $500,000 worth of it and it was all broken down; and there was not a mechanic in Persia that could fix it. There were no mechanics and there were no spare parts. Even in Persia, the country that is a first or second cousin to us, there are no mechanics who can fix this farm machinery. There are no factories to produce spare parts. And in 1950 there was no foreign exchange to import replacements so Tavakoli had $500,000 of American farm machinery idle. I went down to see his beet sugar fields out of Kermanshah. He had artesian wells and there were pumps to bring the water at various levels to the fields. But the pumps weren’t working. Tasked him why and he said because the valves broke and there are no valves in Persia and there is no factory to produce them.
In Persia Point Four has done a very good job, by and large. For example, Isfahan is one of the most beautiful Eastern cities that I have ever seen, as remote from anything that we in America have as you can imagine. Isfahan is in the center of a region where there has been a wide distribution of land. Our Point Four people have done a very fine job in Isfahan. The reason they have done a good job is because they start their base of operations at a level which will benefit the people of the country. They have also done throughout Persia and Iran a very fine public-health job in malaria control. Point Four, as an isolated venture, is a very difficult thing to justify in many countries. But that is not true in Isfahan. It is not true in areas like Uttar Pradesh in India, where there has been considerable progress in the break-up of the landed estates, or Himachal Pradesh in northwest India, or in parts of Kashmir. In some of those places Point Four at-the agricultural level could have a very profound effect. In other places, it might be almost a monstrosity. Let me illustrate what I mean.
In this part of the world of which I speak, eight out of ten of the babies die before they reach the age of one. We could take the simple public-health measures that we practice in America, send a half dozen experts from country to country, and save those babies from dying. We could do there what we did in Puerto Rico. It would be easy. Control the water supply, learn how to vaccinate for dysentery, and so on, and all would be well. But if we stopped there without more, we would be doing nothing but increasing the number of people among whom you would have to ration the poverty. We could send our agricultural experts and we could increase the production of the land 10, 20, perhaps 50 percent. In large portions of this part of the world of which I speak, the net return to the man who works the land is between 5 and 10 percent of the crop; the rest of it goes to the landlords, many of whom are absentee landlords. Most of them live in Paris, Rome or Beirut. Those people who get the 5 to 10 percent of the crop have barely enough to live on. They don’t have enough to send their children to school. They don’t have enough to have medical care or hospitals. They don’t have enough toprovide what we call material civilization, such as bathrooms, water taps, electric fans, radios, rugs on the floor. These people live in dirt and misery. Increase the production of that land 10, 25 or 50 percent and most of it will-go to the man who owns the land. Some of those countries are owned by 200 men for whom 3.5 million people work. Increase the productivity of that land and you make 200 men wealthier. Why should American taxpayers undertake that kind of a project?
This business of Point Four becomes complicated. It’s easy to figure out a way whereby with the same amount of food you can increase the weight of a hog from 85 pounds to 100 pounds; how cross-breeding can push the number of eggs per hen up; how as a result of this or that or of the other thing you can increase the yield of millet, or barley or wheat 10 percent. But Point Four cannot be judged merely from a technical viewpoint. The Middle East and Asia have a feudal economy, a feudal political, social and economic system. That system was long supported by the British and made very romantic by the British. But those who want to stabilize that situation are the most dangerous people in the world. They are the ones most apt to accelerate the trend of that part of the world to Communism. You can’t stabilize feudalism in the world today and expect to survive.
What begat Communism in Russia? Feudalism. What is the great political strength of Russia in any part of the world? Feudalism. As long as there is an opportunity for people to work and to meet the ordinary requirements of life, none of these desperate creeds will have any appeal to our people; nor will they appeal to other people.
One who is down at the bottom—as you would be if you were a peasant in the Middle East—would have to take desperate measures to escape. The desperate measures are the measures to get rid of feudalism. I have heard American officials talk about underwriting the status quo in the Middle East and Asia. That means in plain language underwriting the 200 men in charge of a country—stabilizing the political control of a government of, and for, the landlords. With all the wealth of America, it can’t be done. With all the atomic bombs of America, it can’t be done. This is a revolution that is going on—a revolution against the control by a few men of the destinies of the great masses of the people. I’ve been among them—I’ve eaten with them—I’ve walked with them—I’ve shivered with them. They are wonderful people—as fine as the people in our communities here. I say that when we go with the Point Four program, let’s be prepared to make up our minds whom we are for.
Are we for the people or are we for the landlords? Don’t think we can avoid the issue. We won’t be there —our Point Four people won’t be there—a week before we’ll have to take sides. It can’t be avoided. The peasants will ask, “For whose benefit is this increased production going to accrue? Is it going to accrue to us or is it going to accrue to the man who lives in Paris?”
I’m very happy that many of our people have stood up in the villages and said, “We’re for you.” It made me feel good, because I knew that that’s what a town meeting in America would vote. But I’ve also seen other Americans in other projects who have been aligned on the side of the landlords. We can’t take that position if we want to be in a position of leadership. Whatever you may desire, whatever you may wish. Point Four is a political instrument. Point Four, like ECA, is going to weld an economy either one way or the other. As long as it’s American influence and American ideas and American dollars, I say let’s do it the American way.
Sometimes there’s almost an impossible choice. Sometimes Point Four will be brought to a country where it’s difficult, terribly difficult, for a representative of the American Government or a person carrying an American passport to promote the kind of project that the great bulk of Americans would believe in. It is difficult because it would bring revolutions and the local governments would be opposed to it. But there are many places where you can do it. And I say, by and large, it would be a good idea to keep out of the places where you can’t act in accordance with American principles and ideals.
Let me tell you about Mossadegh in Persia. I should say parenthetically that he’s a personal friend of mine, and I have a great admiration for him. When he left this country in November, empty-handed, I was sad for him because of the tragedy of the situation. The British said, “He won’t last three months as prime minister. We have a prime minister we’ll put in when Mossadegh falls.”
You know what has happened in Persia. Since December when Mossadegh returned, 80 seats have stood for election in the parliament—80 seats out of 136. How many do you think Mossadegh got? Seventy-five. You know the province up on the Russian border called Azerbaijan— the troublesome province that was under a Soviet-controlled Government about 1945? How many seats do you think Mossadegh got from Aberbaijan? He got all of them. He was opposed on all sides by two groups: the British and landlord groups and the Communist group. Out of two million votes the Communist group got 25,000 votes; but out of the first 80 candidates, the Communists in Persia didn’t get a single candidate into the parliament. I say a man who can control a country at the polls like that is a strong man. I say he’s a man who should be respected and supported.
Mossadegh is a wealthy man—an aristocrat. He has a land program that calls for the break-up of the feudal estates of Persia, for a sale of that land to the peasants, so that Persia will have the kind of land program that we, thank God, have had in this country, even before the Civil War, when all the land of the West was opened to our people and nobody got too much. Mossadegh would limit the holdings in Persia. The land problem, is the heart of the problem of Iran. Mossadegh is out to solve it. Mossadegh in Persia presents an opportunity that is rare. There aren’t many political leaders that you can back in the Middle East because they’re largely the status quo group, the feudal group, the landlord group. And why spend American taxpayers’ money financing them?
Let me tell you about the composition of the new Persian parliament today. This is a grass-roots parliament; it represents a revolution come to the Middle East. That is something that has never happened in the history of the Middle East—a grass-roots parliament, as a result of a free election. Why? Because every goat herder in Persia loves Mossadegh and believes in him, just like the people in this country—most of them—loved FDR. Among the 75 new members of the Majlis are three professional politicians, 25 small landlords, 35 intellectuals. I suppose that would include most of us. There are six clergymen; there are two trade unionists; and there are three small businessmen. There are still 56 seats to stand for election, and I predict that Mossadegh will bring in 110 of the 136. Even though he doesn’t, he already has 75 out of 136 which is rather good by American political standards, and even with that Mossadegh may get through his land reforms. And so I think we should be supporting Mossadegh, because those opportunities don’t come very often in the Middle East.
We in America have great technical skills. We can produce machinery; we can produce a material civilization. But I imagine that Russia could do about as well as we could do at that level. I don’t underestimate the tremendous power of our technical capacity and the importance of the material civilization that we have and its significance in terms of employment and the comforts of life and our standard of living. But I hate to think that America will go down in history as the nation that made the first atomic bomb or had the finest bathrooms or the greatest television sets or the fastest motor cars. Surely, America should be remembered and measured by things more important than that. What is this thing, America, in our hearts and souls? Is it something we can put up and see and look at? I don’t believe so. I think it is what we wrote into the Declaration of Independence. And it wasn’t written just for ourselves. Abraham Lincoln believed that the Declaration of Independence was designed not for Americans alone but was a document that would inspire other people to shake the weight and burdens from their shoulders the world around—the people of all races and all tongues. That’s the idea of America we should spread abroad. That is the idea of America that I think is real and vibrant. America stands for freedom. America stands for independence. America stands for justice. Not justice in the landlords’ sense; not justice in the French or the British or the Dutch or the Russian colonial sense—but justice in the American sense.
Why did we refuse to put Tunisia on the agenda of the Security Council? Why do we refuse to give these little people of the world a hearing? Do we believe in the righteousness of power? I thought we believed in the power of righteousness.
Well, that’s Point Five. If we can go to a region in India where there is an equitable distribution of the land, where there is opportunity for the common man, and tie into that program—then we are promoting the American ideal—then we are identifying ourselves with the peoples of the world in their aspirations—then we’re making impossible this crude, this crass, this dismal thing known as Communism.
If we go to a region to make a group of landlords richer, then we are promoting the thing that at home we hate. If we go to Persia and back Mossadegh with Point Four, giving him wholehearted support, then we’re promoting the cause of the civilization that we believe in, then we’re promoting freedom, justice and opportunity, and dignity for the common man. Those who oppose him, who align themselves with the forces that would destroy him, are conspirators to turn the Middle East into a Russian concentration camp.
If you and I were in Persia, we’d be for Mossadegh 100 percent. If we were in India, we might not be for Nehru 100 percent, because Nehru has been compromised by reason of his position in the Congress Party —though we’d be for him about 90 percent. If the conditions existed in America that exist in the Middle East and Asia, we tonight would be forming an American revolutionary committee—a committee to promote a revolution—to lead a revolution—to destroy the octopus that was overpowering us. The proudest thing in our history is the American Revolution. The ideas that it espoused are ideas that spinned throughout the world. Point Five is the American Revolution. Let’s make it a good revolution. Let’s put our ideas behind it and a few of our dollars. The strange thing about it is that if you’ve got some good ideas, you don’t need much financing. It is the lousy ideas that require a lot of money.
Ideas are very dangerous; ideas have no boundaries— no state lines, no national lines, no oceans. They’re powerful—the most powerful things in the world today. A few simple, good, old-fashioned ideas from the Declaration of Independence coupled with a fair portion of Point Four Can stem the political tide of Communism. Take all the American money that you can collect and all the guns and all the atomic bombs and keep your program sterile of these ideas of freedom and justice and opportunity—and the Red tide of Communism will roll on and on and oh. And that’s what it’s doing today. You can’t stop it by talking about democracy and peace. You have to talk about it in terms that are understandable at the village level. We can’t do that unless we are prepared to go into the villages of Asia and the Middle East with a program of political action. If you can’t go in that way, stay out. When you go in, go in wholeheartedly in the American way. With a few dollars and a few great ideas, you can save the world from this horrible spectre of Soviet imperialism.
The Persians have a legendary character they call Mullah Nasr-ed-Din. He dates back to about the twelfth century; he’s legendary. He’s a character that Irvin S. Cobb and Will Rogers and some of our other American humorists would have enjoyed knowing. When you go into the villages of Persia, you pick up a lot of his stories. Some of them you have’ to clean up a bit and others are all right as they are. They nearly always start out with Mullah and a donkey. One day he was going down the road with the donkey; and this donkey was the slowest donkey in the Middle East. The day was hot, and Mullah got very discouraged about his donkey. Mullah, being a very ingenious person, always had something along to help him out. This time it was a bottle of turpentine. So he pulled out this bottle of turpentine and he applied it to the donkey, and the donkey immediately burst into a terrific spurt. It went so fast Mullah couldn’t keep up with the animal. Mullah ran as fast as he could and still could not catch the donkey. So he pulled out the bottle of turpentine and put some on himself. Pretty soon Mullah passed the donkey. About that time they came to a village. The villagers rushed out and stopped the donkey and Mullah said, “For heaven’s sake, “don’t stop him—stop me!”
Well, I think we’ve been stopping the wrong thing. I think that if we get behind Point Five and put it together with Point Four, we can really start to see things happening in the Middle East and Asia.