135. Despatch From the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State1
- Conversation with a Prominent Leader of the National Front
The Labor Attaché recently met with Dr. Mosafar Bagai, leader of the Iranian Workers’ Party and prominent member of the National Front. Dr. Bagai was interviewed at his home, in a district of unlighted back streets, in an atmosphere of considerable secrecy. This was the fifth conversation of the Labor Attaché with Dr. Bagai. He looked tired and his pallor properly reflected his recent, and serious, illness.
The common denominator of the conversation, so far as the reporting officer was concerned, was the complete absence, at this date in the deteriorating Iranian economy, of a plan. The conversation followed these lines:
1. The break-up of the Iranian Workers’ Party is based on issues long buried, but early recognized by Bagai. The beginning was in 1948 when Bagai believed that he could make a strong labor party, based on socialist convictions, if he could unite with him in a middle-of-the-road policy the anti-communist socialists led by Maleki and the largely leaderless religious elements. He found the Maleki-men to be hard and efficient workers but not good socialists and too ambitious to attempt to dominate the party through their own faction. Dr. Bagai alleged that Mr. Maleki supported a change of government from a monarchy to a republic. When Dr. Bagai left on his trip to Europe and to the United States (and more lately) when he was ill, he left the power of the party in their hands. On his return to active participation in party affairs he found that although they paid lip service to socialist principles, they were in fact communist agitators, and not loyal to Dr. Mosadeq.
Bagai therefore forced the issue and said that unless the party was purged of those elements, he would resign. Asked if he would return if the Maleki faction were forced out he agreed, and (having witnessed the discrediting of Maleki) he had no alternative but to keep his word and resume active participation, as leader, of the party. During this part of the conversation Dr. Bagai seemed abstracted and warmed up during the second phase of the talk.[Page 383]
2. The Government believes that once the British have gone that the spying and attempts by the British Government to control Iran will be reduced, but hardly eliminated. Bagai ascribed to pro-British officers of the Iranian Government the failure of the Government to collect income or duty taxes. He coupled a combination of those men and the premature Mosadeq demand for rural reform as the basis for the refusal of the large landowners to pay the taxes levied on them.
3. He professed to believe quite sincerely that the American Government has been the tool of the British in Iran (and the whole of the Middle East). He sees as the only succor to Iran either tankers sent from the United States (despite any legal actions which the British might take) or cash help. He at once discounted my estimate of the unemployment in Tehran at 40,000–50,000 (halving it), and yet said that Tudeh was growing daily, especially among the “great numbers” of unemployed.
4. He said that although it was true that his party was founded on the concept of raising the standards of living for the poor, that the development of such a program would not be possible without the preliminary step of ridding the country of the British. He claimed to agree with the Government that it must prepare an oil-less economy, but stated that the Government (and he) have no plans for the gradual movement away from the concentration of unemployed workers in Khuzistan. He said that earlier he had proposed to the Government that it use the unskilled labor to build irrigation canals in the south and roads in the north but the Government did not favor it.
5. He believes that his split with Maleki will go on indefinitely, with Maleki gradually losing the intellectuals’ support he now has; that no worker does, or will, support Maleki. He pictures a withering away of Maleki as a Titoist communist element and symbol.
6. He contends that with the departure of the British that America will have an opportunity to have a new, independent and enlightened oil policy for Iran. He spells that out in terms of distribution and marketing facilities. Failing that he believes that America will be under deserved attack, not only by the leftist people and papers, but also by Iranian patriots who will realize that the Tehran Declaration was without meaning.
7. He apparently hinges a part of his hope on the coming American election, believing that a Republican President would at least act independently of (if not in open opposition to) the British. On this score he linked the American Democratic and British Conservative Parties in their international relations. He thought that Point IV was doing some good work, but that Iran not only did not need the Military Missions, but that they were dangerous to Iranian neutrality. He suggested, in an involved way, that Iran could hardly count on military defense from [Page 384] the United States, a country which would stand idly by, thus permitting the continuance of the British blockade, while Iranian nationals were starving.
8. His only comment on the reported infiltration of Tudeh elements in the Party and Government was that the greater danger of the moment was the retention of British elements in positions of power.
9. When questioned concerning the need to alleviate the desperate conditions of the workers, Dr. Bagai stated that the present labor law does not have adequate provisions for enforcement. He ascribed this to the machinations of the AIOC influence with the government just after the Second World War (when the labor law was passed). He stated that the proof of his allegations were in the documents captured by the Workers’ Party from the AIOC information office. Dr. Bagai stated that it should be a primary responsibility of the deputies of the Parliament to pass a new, and enforceable, labor law. He personally believes that the only hope for effective enforcement is in the control by the government not only of labor wages but also of factory production and distribution.
In short, Bagai has an exaggerated idea of the strength of his own Party, of the readiness of Maleki’s branch to fade quietly away. He is unwilling to recognize that the Tudeh Party has become a more important political agency than his by far. He has no plan for financing the Government deficit, no plan to reduce the concentration of dependent National Iranian Oil Company workers, nor for feeding or housing the unemployed, no plans to meet the economic crisis which winter is certain to bring.
He is waiting for the American election in the hope that the Republicans will be elected, that their election will mean the solution either of the oil question, or that it will generate an American urge to underwrite whatever budget deficits might exist.
For the Ambassador:
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1950–1954, 788.00/10–2752. Confidential; Security Information. Drafted by Finch. Received November 18.↩