Document Type : Research Paper
Professor, Department of Regional Studies, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
PhD in Political Science, Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch, Tehran, Iran
The occurrence of the Russian Revolution of 1917 influenced the growth of political groups with leftist tendencies, and had an impact on a small segment of Iranian women in the society. In the framework of Marxist school, the inferior position of women in the contemporary societies is attributed to the unfair historical process of the formation of exploitation and exploitative relationships. Since Marx and Engels considered politics and political power to be dependent on the economic infrastructure, they naturally considered the reason for women's lack of political participation to be her economic dependency as well as her being oppressed and exploited in the family and society at large. Although they did not pay sufficient attention to the issue of women's political participation, other Marxist leading figures such as Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and Lenin defended the equal rights of men and women in a way which led to the formation of the schools of Marxist and socialist feminism. These thinkers believed that the most important step for women's liberation is the abolition of private property and the elimination of exploitative classes, because the way for their liberation would be paved by these actions first and foremost. Based on this belief, Marxism presented a materialistic analysis and a scientific perspective for women's freedom, which was considered to be the responsibility of governments and Marxist parties all over the world, including the Tudeh Party of Iran and its affiliated Women's Democratic Organization (WDO).
Before the formation of Tudeh Party (the so-called the Party of the Iranian Masses), it was only the Communist Party of Iran that defended the political and social rights of women within the framework of its ideology. Accordingly, this party took measures to promote socialist tendency among women's rights activists and their organizations by presenting plans and programs to transform the living conditions of Iranian women, which were temporarily interrupted as a result of the establishment of Reza Shah's dictatorship. Despite some achievements in social and legal fields aimed at extending modern western-style social rights to women in Iran, Reza Shah’s regime created obstacles for their political rights and prevented them from engaging in non-governmental political activities. The changed Post-September 1941 political environment resulted from the vacuum created by the ending of the first Pahlavi Shah’s rule followed by the coming into power of his inexperience young heir as well as the continued intervention of the great powers in Iranian internal affairs facilitated the formation of new political organizations with different political, religious, ethnic outlook. Some groups and organization had communist and socialist inclinations and programs. Among these organizations was the Women's Democratic Organization — affiliated with the communist Tudeh party of Iran— and created at the same time as other similar organizations with the objective of defending women's rights.
The Two questions posed in this study are as follows: 1. What were the main objectives of the Women's Democratic Organization (WDO) affiliated with the communist Tudeh Party of Iran? and 2. How successful was this organization in achieving its objectives? In the hypothesis, it is postulated that the formation of women's democratic organization was largely influenced by Tudeh party's attempt to penetrate the social structure of Iran and using the capacities of women's society in order to achieve its political goals. Therefore, by addressing political issues instead of general women's issues and problems, and especially neglecting and confronting the religious and customary traditions of the society, women's organization were prevented from achieving a sustainable success. Focusing on a descriptive-analytical approach, the authors analyze qualitative data on the characteristics and function of this organization collected from historical documents, memoirs, books, and articles written by the WDO’s founders, supporters, critics, and various experts. The findings of the research, while clarifying the political participation of a notable segment of the society of Iranian women in the given period of time, indicate that the ideological leftist line of the Tudeh party was adopted by the Women's Democratic Organization, and consequently provoked the opposition of the traditional and religious groups in the society. Moreover, the establishment of authoritarianism in the country lead to the failure of this organization to achieve its ultimate objectives.