Seminar about the Women

Seminar about the Women’s Question

“On the role of communists in the struggle for the parity and emancipation of women”

Intervention by the Tudeh Party of Iran

Brussels, March 26, 2010 ,

Dear Comrades,

First, on behalf of the Central Committee of the Tudeh Party of Iran I would like to thank the leadership of the Communist Party of Greece for organizing this special event and for inviting our party.

Our party believes that it is particularly important to review the role and duty of communists in the struggle for equality of women and their emancipation from the shackles of violent and reactionary gender policies rooted in the exploitation-based systems, especially when the women in many countries around the world are commemorating the International Women's Day for the 100th time. The instigators of March 8M as the International Women's Day and militant celebrations on this day around the world were themselves true believers in socialism and activists for the rights of working people and particularly women workers. On the 1001 anniversary of this victorious celebration, it is imperative that the workers and communist parties of the world and communist activists in the women's movement realistically evaluate their role in the struggle for equality and emancipation of women.

The history of the 8th of March stems from the struggle of women workers of textile industry in the USA in the 19th century in opposition to the brutal exploitation of female workers and for a reduction in working hours, and in general for better living conditions; a struggle that was suppressed in bloodshed by the bullets of agents of capitalism. In the following years, this struggle continued in other capitalist countries and always enjoyed the support of labour and socialist organizations of the period. A hundred years ago, 100 women representatives from 17 nations attended in the International Socialist Women's Conference in Copenhagen and endorsed the proposal submitted by Clara Zetkin, herself a socialist leader of the international labour movement and prominent activist of women's movement, as to establishing the 8l of March as the International Women's Day and the day of militant solidarity with the struggle of women around the world. At that time, these women perhaps could not imagine that a century later, and after going through a period of ups and downs, the international women's movement would become such a creative and instrumental force in the political developments of world that would leave its mark on the most central areas of the popular movement. Clara Zetkin's proposal was officially adopted a year later in 1911 by the 2nd International. Today, in the onset of the 21st century, the women's movement enjoys a broad participation of women in the anti-exploitation and anti-despotism struggle and the struggle for emancipation and equality and justice, for peace, for preserving the environment, and for the elimination of violence and discrimination against women.

Since 1911, the 8th of March has been stunningly commemorated in many countries - except during the World War years and when fascism ruled over Europe - and communists took an exceptional part in organizing the celebrations. This consistent and strategic support has been based on the fact that communists believe that without the emancipation of women the liberation of society is impossible. In conjunction with their struggle for putting an end to exploitation-based society, communists also fight for political and trade union demands of working people. They consider this struggle as part of their struggle for socialism. As Lenin said: 'The task of a social revolution is not determined by one battle, but a series of battles for economic and democratic change, the decisive realization of which is made possible through removing ownership from the bourgeoisie.'

Therefore, communists are vanguards of women's emancipation and equality, and in addition to political activism within the framework of workers parties must help organize and give direction to the struggle of women for their political, social and trade demands, and to tie this struggle with the general political struggle of the masses.

Now after a century, the violation of women's rights, gender and class discrimination, and deprivation of women in various countries, although somewhat different, still widely exists, particularly in countries under despotism, like Iran. While in the developed capitalist countries the demands of women consist of equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity for job promotion, and the right of women to have control over their body, however in countries suffering from despotism and harsh exploitation, the democratic struggle of women includes other basic and humanitarian demands as well, such as monogamy, the right of child custody, the right to work, the right to travel without permission from husband, and even the right to dress freely, elimination of gender discrimination and segregation in public institutions and places and in universities (as in Iran). Our party deems it the duty of communists to choose appropriate slogans to draw larger masses of women and specifically working women to the social struggle. Having a proper and versatile understanding of women's demands will heighten the ability of the movement to utilize appropriate means for deepening and achieving these demands. Lenin believed: 'the struggle for women's equality is an integral part of the general struggle of the working class for democracy and social progress. The women's movement must include the broadest strata of women this movement should be a part of the mass movement, that is to say a part of all the oppressed and exploited and not only the working class'. Today, these brilliant ideas of Lenin that have been proven time and again during the struggle of masses, light up the path for activists.

It has been based on this Marxist-Leninist understanding that Tudeh party of Iran put particular emphasis on steady and focused work amongst the women since the very day it was founded. The analyses of the Tudeh Party of Iran stress the point that women are one of the significant and instrumental constituents of the popular movement, and that their struggle for political, social, and economic equality and equal rights is an indivisible and vital part of the general struggle for freedom and social justice, and serves to lay the ground for fundamental changes and for achieving the goals of the national-democratic phase of the revolution. The Tudeh Party of Iran sees its role in the women's movement in Iran from this viewpoint.

A decade after the official declaration of March 81' as the International Women's Day by the Second International, the first March 8th event in Iran was celebrated in 1922 by the early guilds of women that were affiliated with the Communist Party of Iran. Later, after the founding of Tudeh Party of Iran and the Democratic Organization of Iranian Women, and particularly during the time they were operating openly, this day was celebrated in full glory and through massive street demonstrations. As the world press reported at the time, on the 8th of March of 1954, only in Tehran more than six thousands came to the streets. The Democratic Organization of Iranian Women that was founded in 1943 left a fundamental impact on the organizing of the political and social struggle of women and raising gender awareness. During its short period of legal struggle, and besides its endeavors for literacy of women, DOIW demanded the right to vote, equal rights of women and men, better living conditions for working women, equal pay for equal work, public health care and social security, and maternity leave. The outcome of the struggle of women and workers was the Labour Law of 1943 which had a few merits for women. Later on, the right to vote and some other positive changes in the constitution and civic laws of the country, such as the right to divorce, the right of child custody, ban on polygamy, etc... were among some of the significant achievements of the struggle of popular movement and women in particular. Even after the bloody suppression of TPI and DOIW in 1953 coup, the reactionary regime of Shah was forced to submit to these demands as a result of years of struggle of women.

The participation of Iranian women in the political events of the last hundred years, notably in such decisive moments as the Constitution Revolution, nationalization of oil industry, revolutionary struggles against the dictatorship of Shah, the national-democratic revolution of February 1979, the struggle for peace and ending the 8-year long Iran-Iraq war, the fight against the reactionary policies of the theocratic regime of Supreme Religious Leadership, endeavors to raise gender awareness in the society, the outstanding role of women in the recent popular movement known as the Green Movement, have all won the admiration of the world for the heroic struggle of Iranian women, which at the same time is a vivid indication of consciousness and persistence of this movement and its organic ties with the struggle of other components of the popular movement in Iran. Even though the Iranian women played a determining and significant role in the 1979 revolution, but right from the beginning, the Islamic regime that seized the state power demonstrated its reactionary convictions about the role of women in the society. Over time, and with the crush of popular ideals of the February revolution and formation of a regime based on theocratic autocracy that was determined to annihilate the achievement of women's movement during the past decades under the pretext of religious laws and Sharia, not only women did not reach their legitimate demands but also were robbed of some of their previous achievements. For instance, the Family Protection Law was annulled after the revolution with the excuse that it did not comply with the Islamic laws, and the reactionary law of 1935 became effective in which women did not have the right of divorce and child custody, and polygamy was legal. The misogynist regime of Iran tries to pass the above reactionary articles in the parliament, but last year the Iranian women fought a united fight and forced the regime to withdraw the Bill. However, recently in the wake of the electoral coup d'etat and the overwhelming suppression of women, the judiciary committee of the parliament approved it again. This blatant violation of women's rights is continuing in many areas and in the most brutal fashion. Through more restrictions and obstructions, instead of laying the grounds for growth and advancement of women, the ruling theocratic reactionaries have tried, in the past three decades, to block the way to elevate the place and role of women. Opposition to the presence of women in the economic arena through passing laws such as the reduction of permissible working hours for women, early retirement and gender discrimination, like gender segregation and setting quota to limit the admission of female students in universities, is meant to block the powerful presence and participation of women in the scientific, social and political life of the society. As a result of these misogynistic policies as well as unfair employment practices, the gender development index in Iran ranks at 87 amongst 140 countries around the world, and women comprise a mere 12% of the workforce in Iran. Nevertheless, the regime never succeeded in preventing the active participation of women in the political developments of the country. The decisive and instrumental role of women in the recent popular protest movement to reject reaction and despotism, strengthened the movement in general. The determined presence of women in the first lines of the struggle enraged the reaction against the women. "Neda" and "Mourning Mothers", symbols of resistance and fight back, are at the same time the symbols of the integrated and indivisible nature of the heroic struggles of women and the popular nation¬wide struggle of masses in general.

Dear Comrades,

The reactionary regime of Islamic Republic that claims to be anti-imperialist, in practice pursues neo-liberal economic policies in line with the plans of global capitalism. By fully implementing the economic prescriptions of the plundering global institutions, Islamic Republic is imposing disastrous conditions of living on our people, the first victims of which are women and children. Aggravation of poverty and malnutrition and other social problems such as addiction and increased numbers of street children are all the consequences of these devastating policies. Despite the substantial oil revenue, the living conditions of working people, and consequently the women, is ever exacerbating due to the dual exploitation of women. Temporary employment contracts have aggravated the exploitation and job insecurity of women bread-winners and heads of the family. As always, the first victims of unemployment are women who are forced into the black labour market with ruthless exploitation. The official statistics indicate a tripling of the rate of unemployment among women, and the impoverishment of more than one million and three hundred thousand of women bread-winners. The response of the anti-people regime of Iran to the social and economic anomalies has been the destructive and provoking policies and practices, as well as imposing misogynistic and medieval convictions on the society, such as promoting polygamy and marriage of school-age girls, imposing dress code (hijab), and passing misogynistic laws, in order to distract people from the principal reasons for the exacerbation of the living conditions of the working people.

Tudeh Party of Iran has fought close to 70 years for the rights of women. Tudeh women have played an instrumental role in raising gender awareness in the society. Similarly, today the Tudeh Party of Iran considers itself an inseparable part of the struggle of the women of our country for freedom and emancipation from class and gender injustice, and believes that changing the discriminatory laws and securing women's rights in the society and in the family are closely tied with the continuing struggle against the coup d'etat government and integrating it with the women's demands at the current moment. Therefore, it is with joint efforts with other social forces like workers, students and working people in general that the struggle of women's movement could open the way for fundamental changes to eliminate gender and class injustice, and to achieve freedom and social justice in the country.

Dear Comrades,

In our country, the adamant celebration of March 8th in this year, after the electoral coup and at the peak of theocratic tyranny, heightened suppression particularly against women, is an indication of the resolute determination of heroic women of our country in the struggle against medieval despotism and obscurantism. The current demands of women, as posed to the presidential candidates during the election campaigns, include the elimination of any form and shape of gender discrimination from the laws of the country, joining of Iran to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in addition to the general democratic, class and freedom-oriented demands of the masses. The vanguard and militant women of Iran, can achieve their demands through raising awareness amongst and organizing the working people particularly women. In the theocratic regime of Supreme Religious Leadership, the social organizations of women are brutally suppressed. Nevertheless, in recent years women have been able to play an instrumental role in raising gender consciousness in the society through various initiatives and campaigns, and for this reason they are the target of the rage of the reactionary forces. Currently, hundreds of militant women, from women journalists to civil and human rights or children's rights activists, female students, Mourning Mothers, Mothers of Peace, and those who were arrested during the recent mass demonstrations, are detained under the most inhumane conditions in the formidable prisons of Islamic Republic and the regime is not shy of committing any form of brutality and violence against them, even the mourning mothers. It is only in suppression and torture and execution that the reactionaries acknowledge gender equality.

Dear Comrades,

Honoring the 100th anniversary of March 8th is a good opportunity to renew our militant vows and solidarity with the struggle of brave women who are fighting an unbalanced fight against despotic and dictatorial regimes under very harsh conditions. The solidarity of progressive and freedom-loving forces of the world and particularly the workers and communist parties with the people of Iran, and protesting against suppression and killing and arresting and torturing of Iranian women, especially the incarceration of the Mourning Mothers who just want to find out how their beloved sons and daughters were murdered by the Supreme Leader coup regime, are of utmost importance. During the peaceful demonstrations of the last few months against the electoral coup, tens of people were killed by the regime. We call upon the workers and communist parties and all the democratic forces around the world to support the demand of unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners and women in particular, which will certainly aid the brave and courageous and spirited people of Iran in their challenging struggle.

We salute the 100th anniversary of March 8th, the day of militant solidarity with the struggle of women around the world.