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Disabled workers in the Russian strike wave of summer 1923

June 2, 2012 1 comment

Stolen from S. Pirani, The Russian Revolution in Retreat, 1920-24: Soviet workers and the new communist elite (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), p.201

… a protest organized over the summer by disabled workers, who were not union members and fell outside the party’s ideologically constrained definition of workers. The several thousand disabled, mostly injured in the world war, civil war or industrial accidents, met at municipal centres (doma invalidov); those that could work generally did so in the private or municipal workshops. Cost accounting impacted on disabled people’s benefits, and on 19 July the Moscow soviet proposed to abolish free tram travel for the disabled. This drew immediate protests from mass meetings of the disabled in five of Moscow’s six districts. A threat to demonstrate outside the Moscow social welfare department’s main offices quickly secured assurances that the measure, due to take effect on 1 August, would be reconsidered. But it was not. In the days before the deadline, a disabled ‘initiative group’ was formed. Its political colouring is unclear, but it may well have included rank-and-file communists, who had previously been active among the disabled. Its representatives visited dormitories and workshops. On 30 July, with the cancellation of free travel imminent, a 400-strong demonstration was held at the social welfare department. On 2 August, the ‘initiative group’ organized a meeting and made plans to convene an all-Russian conference of disabled people’s delegates. On 8 August a further gathering demanded not only free tram transport and the replacement of individual benefits by collectively paid benefits, but also the convening of a soviet of disabled deputies and places for disabled delegates on the Moscow soviet…*

*[Footnote by the author] I have found no information about the disabled workers’ movement dated later than 8 August. It may have been repressed, or have struck a deal with the Moscow soviet.

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