The Birth of the Communist Movement in Iran
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.