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The Birth of the Communist Movement in Iran Print E-mail


With the growth of industry, and along with it the development of the capitalist mode of production in the late 19th and early 20th century, Marxist ideology found its way to Iran. The social and political scene of that era can be summarised as the period of historical transformation of the Iranian society from feudalism to capitalism.

Towards the turn of the century, anti-despotic actions developed dramatically, and an ever-increasing number of people took part in the revolutionary struggle. Underground political organisations were formed in major cities of Iran, to mobilise and lead the masses particularly in Tabriz, Tehran and Esfahan. Among them was a political grouping formed in 1898 by Ali Monsieur, an outstanding intellectual from Tabriz. This organisation later became one of the strong centres of the anti-despotic struggle. Social democracy was first brought to the country by those Iranian workers who travelled to Caucasus's (Ghafghaz), and Russia's Asian countries, for seasonal work, especially in the Baku oil industry (more than half the workers in Baku oil fields were Iranian). It was from these workers that great Iranian revolutionaries like Heidar Amou Oghly (one of the leaders of the Constitutional Revolution, and the general secretary of the Communist Party of Iran) were raised. In 1904, in order to organise revolutionary social democratic activities among the people of Azarbaijan and other Iranians, a political group called "Hemmat" (Aspiration) was founded in Baku.

In the same year, leaflets and pamphlets published by the Baku, Tbilisi, and Tabriz branches of the Social Democrat Workers' Party of Russia (Bolsheviks) were distributed by Ali Monsieur not only in Azarbaijan and other areas of Iran, but also after translation into Arabic, in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Kazemein. Between 1901 and 1902, the central organ of the Bolshevik Party, Iskra, was sent to Baku from Berlin via Tabriz. The operation was organised by Lenin himself and Kropskaya. The "Hemmat" group for the first time translated the term "Social Democracy" into Persian, in order to make it more understandable for Iranian people who had no knowledge of European languages.

Having returned from Russia, in 1904, Heidar Amou Oghly, together with some of his comrades, organised the first cells of the revolutionary Social Democrats of Iran in Mashhad. A year later, on the eve of the Constitutional Revolution, the first official document of the social democratic movement in Iran was adopted at a meeting in Mashhad. Following the victory of the Russian Revolution in February 1917 and the overthrow of the Tsarist regime, Iranian revolutionaries who had immigrated to Russia found the opportunity to organise openly, increase their activities and establish their offices. In May 1917, the Iranian Social Democrat Party Edalat (Justice), was founded officially, and published its programme in two languages, Persian and Azari, in Baku.

The downfall of the bourgeois government of Russia, led to an even greater opportunity for the Iranian living in that country, to increase their political- social activities, and establish their party.

In Gilan (northern Iran), social democrats, together with revolutionary intellectuals and peasants staged a united uprising. Against this background, in June 1920, the first congress of the Iranian social democrats was convened in Bandar-e Anzali (a northern Iranian port) and officially founded the Communist Party of Iran. Heidar Amou Oghly was elected as the leader of the Communist Party of Iran.

The British government who wanted the defeat of the Communist Party of Iran, penetrated the movement, and by deceiving a number of its leaders prepared for a carefully planned plot. Using Mirza Kouchak Khan as a tool assassinated Heidar Amou Oghly and a number of other leading figures of the Communist Party of Iran and ordered an attack on the party organisations in Rasht and Bandar-e Anzali (two major cities of Gilan). At the same time the central government which was waiting for an opportunity, sent its troops to Gilan to break the resistance. This marked the end of the open activity of the Communist Party of Iran, and once more forced it underground.

The Communist Party of Iran helped to found the Union of the Oil Workers in 1925, when Reza Shah took power and two years later, under increasing pressure from the police, was forced to take the trade union underground. Women's and youth organisations were established as a result of the activities of Iranian communists. In 1923 "Peyk-e Saadat-e Nesvan" (messenger of Women's prosperity) was formed and in 1926 the women's group "Bidarye Ma" (Our Awakening) was established. With the intention of ending the growth of these movements in the country, Reza Shah stepped up the suppression and in 1929 passed a bill through the Iranian parliament, banning all communist activity in Iran. These years are also marked by the appearance of Dr. Taghi Arani in the leadership of the Communist Party of Iran. The new party leadership, which was endeavoring to unite the ranks of the organisation, launched a theoretical journal, called Donya (the world) in early 1932. A year later, by the decision of the Central Committee of the party, Donya became the official organ of the Communist Party of Iran.

In 1936, Reza Shah's police succeeded in capturing Dr. Arani and a group of his associates, known as the group of 53. It was only two years later that under public pressure, the regime was forced to try the imprisoned communists. The trial in fact turned against the regime itself. In a historical, 6 hours long defence, Dr. Arani not only openly exposed the regime of Reza Shah but also set out to defend the principles of socialism. Dr. Arani was later murdered in prison.

The Formation of the Tudeh Party of Iran
Reza Shah was entering into a secret alliance with Nazi Germany. Consequently, on 25 August 1941, the Allied Forces entered Iranian territory. The north of Iran was occupied by Soviet Union and south by British and United States forces. Reza Shah was forced to exile and the British succeeded in bringing his son, Mohammad Reza Shah to power. Taking advantage of the vacuum created after the events of August, the Tudeh Party of Iran was formed in September 1941 to continue the work of the banned Communist Party of Iran under conditions of open activity. Following the collapse of Reza Shah's regime, with the new conditions prevailing, a large group of political prisoners were released. These included Dr. Arani's group (known as the Group of 53) who adhered to the communist ideology. The first foundation stones of the Tudeh Party of Iran were laid by these communists. On 29 September 1941, the founding conference of the TPI was held in Tehran under the chairmanship of Soleiman Mohsen Eskandari. Later the Tudeh Party of Iran turned into a significant and influential political force.

It was in 1942 that the Party succeeded in gaining recognition and launched its central organ "Siasat" (Politics). The Party's ranks grew. In a short time, Party cells and trade union organisations were formed in many industrial centres. In a year's time the Party had formed extensive organisations in many counties and provinces. County organisations were set up in Azarbaijan, Esfahan, Gilan, Mazandaran and Khorasan. The most important Party organisation was in Tehran which convened its first conference in October 1942 with 120 participants. The Conference decided to replace the paper "Siasat", which had closed following the expulsion of, its editor from the Party, with the paper "Rahbar" (Leader) as the Party's central organ.

In 1944, having assessed its strength, the Party decided to enter the elections to the 14th parliament. Eight of the Party's candidates were elected to the Parliament and formed the Tudeh faction.

At this time the Party's total official membership was 25,000. It was therefore the Party's priority to convene a congress in order to reorganise its structure. The Party's first congress was opened on 1st August 1945 in the Party's Central Club with the participation of 164 delegates.

December 1945, Azarbaijan Crisis
In Azarbaijan during the period 1944-1946 under occupation of Soviet Union the Democratic Party of Azarbaijan was formed.

In September 1944, while American companies were negotiating for oil concessions in Iran, the Soviets requested an oil concession in the five northern provinces. In December, however, the Majlis passed a law forbidding the government to discuss oil concessions before the end of the war. This led to fierce Soviet propaganda attacks on the government and agitation by the Tudeh in favor of a Soviet oil concession.

The Azarbaijan People's Congress held on 20th November 1945 declared itself the founding parliament in Tabriz (capital of Azarbaijan) and took the decision to found the Azarbaijan Autonomous Republic. One party election was held and the Azarbaijan Parliament was opened on 21st December1946. This parliament assigned Jafar Pishevari, the leader of the DPA, to form a government. Under military support of Soviet Union, the central government's army chiefs in Azarbaijan were disarmed and the powers of the central government were eradicated.

Soviet pressure on Iran continued as British and American troops evacuated in keeping with their treaty undertakings. Soviet troops remained in the country. Prime Minister Ahmad Qavam had to persuade Stalin to withdraw his troops by agreeing to submit a Soviet oil concession to the Majlis and to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the Azarbaijan crisis with the Pishevari government. In April the government signed an oil agreement with the Soviet Union; in May, partly as a result of United States, British, and UN pressure, Soviet troops withdrew from Iranian territory. Qavam took three Tudeh members into his cabinet. However, Qavam was able to reclaim his concessions to the Soviet Union. A tribal revolt in the south, partly to protest communist influence, provided an opportunity to dismiss the Tudeh cabinet officers. In December, ostensibly in preparation for new Majlis elections, he sent the Iranian army into Azarbaijan. Without Soviet backing, the Pishevari government collapsed, and Pishevari himself fled to the Soviet Union.

In the new Majlis, a strong bloc of deputies organized in the National Front and led by Mohammad Mossaddeq, helped defeat the Soviet oil concession agreement by 102 votes to 2. The Majlis also passed a bill forbidding any further foreign oil concessions and requiring the government to exploit oil resources directly.

Soviet influence diminished further in 1947, when Iran and the United States signed an agreement providing for military aid and for a United States military advisory mission to help train the Iranian army. In February 1949, the Tudeh was blamed for an abortive attempt on the shah's life, and its leaders fled abroad or were arrested. The party was banned.

The 1953 Coup (August 1953)
The 1953 coup, which was staged with the direct intervention of US and British governments, imposed a regime which reversed the democratic. The coup aimed to suppress the national liberation movement, eliminate the TPI, abandon the nationalisation of oil, reinstate the domination of multi-national monopolies over oil resources and to recruit Iran to a western pact against the Soviet Union in the strategically important Persian Gulf.

In a report send by the British ambassador to the British government of the time, the dangers to the interests of the British Oil companies, which had suffered as the result of the nationalisation programme of the nationalist government of Dr. Mosaddeq and the growing influence of the Tudeh party of Iran, are clearly stated. The report urges the British government and the Americans to take immediate action in overthrowing the elected government of Dr. Mosaddag. The 1953 coup was undoubtedly a great blow to the mass movement of Iran. This was caused by the large scale abandoning of the movement by the closest friends of Dr. Mosaddeg and the treachery of Ayatollah Kashani the leader of the religious movement, and by taking a wrong tactical decision of the Tudeh Party of Iran which put party against nationalist government of Dr, Mosaddeq.

In spite of pro-shah coup the TPI continued its work until 1955, when the Party's underground organisation among the military personnel was uncovered and a large number of officers were arrested and later executed. In the difficult conditions, internal differences within the Party and among the leadership surfaced. They were exacerbated as a result of the treachery of a number of the Party leaders. The Party organisations were therefore unable to resist blows the regime which came to power after the coup, and the regime succeeded in consolidating its position, and the popular movement of country went into a period of stagnation.

The Tudeh Party leadership of the time was heavily influenced by the warming of relations between the Soviet Union and the American administration and hence failed to take decisive measures to combat the regime of Shah.

Shah's Reforms (White Revolution)
The Shah's regime implemented a set of reforms from above under the name of the white Revolution, a major part of which was on land reform. In addition, an important aim of the reforms was to uproot the obsolete feudal system and transform Iranian society to a modern society. The Tudeh opposed these reforms in an article in its central organ dated 20 February 1963.

One of the most important characteristics of this period was the re-appearance of the religious movement against the Shah's regime. The religious movement which had lost all credibility and influence after Ayatollah Kashani's betrayal of the popular government of Dr. Mosaddeq in favour of Shah in the coup of 1953, surfaced once again, this time in opposition to the Shah. The religious leaders entered the arena of anti-Shah struggle because they feared losing their social base as a result of the reforms made by the Shah which threatened the feudal system and "Westernised" Iranian society. The clergy using the religious sentiments of the people and their network organised large demonstrations in Tehran and Qom on 6 June 1961. The demonstrations were suppressed by the army. A large number of demonstrators were killed.

The second split in the Tudeh Party of Iran
Despite all the efforts shown by the Central Committee, the Party faced a second split in 1965. The splinter group had for some time been engaged in factionalist activities.

The splinter group which voiced armed struggle, and had visions of arming the southern tribes and overthrowing the Shah. The split was a serious blow to the Party organisations, especially to those in exile. It took the party some time and much consistent effort to eradicate the damaging effects caused by the split.

This period also coincided with the arrests of Ali Khavari and Hekmatjoo, members of the Central Committee and Asef Razmdideh and Saber Mohammadzadeh, cadres of the Party in Iran. In the summer of 1966, the regime of the Shah sentenced Khavari and Hekmatjoo to death and the rest to long-term imprisonment. As a result of international solidarity and hunger strikes in Europe and consistent demonstrations, the Shah's regime was forced to retreat and reduce the death sentences to life imprisonment.
The Guerrilla Movement
During the early 70's a new wave of revolutionary movement started in Iran against the Shah's regime. This decade witnessed the beginning of the guerrilla movement by the newly-formed Organisation of the Iranian Peoples' Fadaian Guerrillas and Organisation of the Peoples' Mojahedin of Iran and also the emergence and development of the underground organisation of the Tudeh Party of Iran called "Navid". The guerrilla movement started in the woods of Siahkal (Mazandran a northern province of Iran) by disarming a Gendarmerie station. Subsequently army troops and secret police (SAVAK) attacked and crashed their armed uprising.

The mid 70's witnessed a growth of the revolutionary struggle in Iran. Workers' strikes and people's protests reached an unprecedented level and the Shah's regime's crisis were intensifying ever more. The first massive clash of the people with the regime's oppressors took place in Qom on 7th of January 1978.

It was less than a month after the demonstration in Qom, when the people of Tabriz stormed the streets and challenged the Shah. Meanwhile the Tudeh Party of Iran and its underground organisation, "Navid" started to recruit the young people and organize its regional committees.

The people armed struggle and resistance on 8th, 9th and 10th of Feb. inflicted the decisive and final blow to the regime of the Shah and put an end to the 2500 years of monarchy in Iran.

February 11th, 1979 Revolution
The victory of the 11th February 1979 Revolution resulted in the emergence of a political atmosphere in which for the first time, after 25 years political parties and organisations were allowed to organise freely. Tudeh Party of Iran was among those too.

Immediately after the 1979 revolution, all the apparatus of the Shah's regime was abolished, and political power was transferred to religious and civil representatives. The representatives of the left parties were not included in the new leadership. Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers managed to attract the masses by promising them freedom and independence. Ayatollah Khomeini himself succeeded in this manner in becoming the indisputable and unchallengeable leader of the revolution. The first government after the revolution was formed by Mehdi Bazargan as Prime Minister.

The new government took some important measures under the domination of the revolutionary spirit in Iranian Parliament. These measures included: the expulsion of US military and civilian advisers and dismantling of its military bases, nationalisation of 70% of big industries belonging to the big national capitalist and foreign monopolies, taking 600 small industry enterprises into its hands, nationalisation of private banking and insurance firms which were operating with joint national and foreign monopolies' capital, adoption of a land reform known an "clauses J and D", increasing minimum wages by 2.5 times, introduction of government control on foreign trade, abolition of unjust economic agreements with imperialist states, stepping out of the CENTO pact and joining the Non-Aligned Movement, breaking diplomatic relationship with Israel and the Apartheid regime of South Africa and so on. In addition to the above measures the new government also abolished the 1973 agreement signed between an international consortium of oil companies and the Iranian National Oil Company, hence bringing the oil industry into the hands of the latter.

In February 1979, almost one year after the revolution, the first presidential election in the history of Iran took place. The Tudeh Party of Iran according to its policy took part in the election and supported the candidate Hassan Habibi. In this election, Abolhassan Bani Sadr, one of the closest people to Ayatollah Khomeini was elected as the President of Iran. After the presidential election, parliamentary elections took place. The Tudeh Party and the rest of the left organisations after nearly 25 years were able to participate in the Parliamentary election. The Islamic Republican Party under the leadership of Ayatollah Beheshti won the majority of the seats in the election. With the victory of the Islamic Republican Party in the election, disagreements between the government that had been elected by the Parliament and Bani Sadr intensified. This led to a chaotic political atmosphere in the country. With the help of the Iran-Iraq War and mistakes made by the leftists, the right wing forces were able to strengthen and stabilize their positions within the ruling apparatus. Disagreements and clashes between Bani Sadr and the government reached its peak in 1981.

In this year, the Parliament voted for dismissal of Bani Sadr and Ayatollah Khomeini endorsed the decision. This endorsement led to an armed uprising of the people's Mojahedin Organisation and Bani Sadr who represented some sections of the nationalist movement. The political situation of the country turned for the worse, a wave of repression was unleashed throughout Iran. Thousands of young people were tried by semi-military tribunals and were executed.

With the escape of Bani Sadr abroad, and the strengthening of the clergy inside the government, regime was consolidated. The Tudeh Party of Iran held its seventeenth plenum at the beginning of 1981 and decided to take part of the clergy regime and even to some extend collaborated with the security apparatus of the regime in order to expose the organizational structure of those groups. The Tudeh Party saw these attacks on the leftists of Iran as an opportunity to clear the Iranian political arena of other leftist rivals.

After repressing the organisation of the People's Mojahedin, and other left groups, Islamic regime turn its attention toward the Tudeh Party of Iran and the Organisation of Iranian People's Fadaian (Majority). On 6th February 1982 with the help of CIA's list of the Tudeh Party members to the Islamic Republic and information suplied by British government on the party, branding those identified as “Soviet agents”, the Iranian government charged the Party's leadership with "spying", and sent them to prison. In later consecutive attacks, the Iranian government arrested more than 5,000 members and cadres and supporters of the Party, and declared the Tudeh Party of Iran outlaw. The U.S. concern was that a post-Khomeini Iran might move to the left.

The Party confronted grave difficulties; its organisation collapsed, many of its members and cadres were forced to emigrate, and general confusion prevailed. In spite of these problems, the period did not last long, and the Party, convening its 18th plenum in December 1984, succeeded in taking a step in reorganising itself both within and outside the country.

The Islamic Republic started the trials of 101 members of the underground military wing of the Tudeh Party and sentenced 10 of them to death, and the rest to total imprisonment terms exceeding 700 years. But Noureddin Kianouri first Secretary of the Tudeh Party, Ehsan Tabari (The great theoretician) and many other leaders collaborated with the Islamic Republic and lived.

In May 1985, together with the Organisation of the Iranian Peoples' Fedaian (Majority), the Tudeh Party published a joint statement calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

In the summer of 1989, a committee of Islamic Republic representatives visited the Iranian prisons and tried and sentenced to death thousands of political prisoners. The real number of executed prisoners is still unknown, but human rights organisations such as Amnesty International put the figure at more than five thousand prisoners from various political parties and organisations. Among those executed were 38 members of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the Tudeh Party of Iran as well as hundreds of party members and cadres. The blow to the party was tremendous; it destroyed a layer of party leadership and cadres.

On the 1st of October 1991, the Tudeh Party of Iran celebrated its fiftieth birthday and in February 1992, the Party held its 3rd Congress after more than 43 years and reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of Marxism - Leninism. The Tudeh Party elected a new central committee and re-elected comrade Ali Khavari as the chair of the party.

http://www.iranchamber.com/history/tudeh/tudeh_party03.php

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