The Red Army on a Peace Footing

Speeches, Articles, Reports

The Disabled of the Civil War

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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Among many other acute problems, this too is one which we should not lose sight of. During the ceaseless fighting we suffered many casualties, not only in killed but also in wounded. Care for the latter is a priority duty, in the first place for the Red Army and then for the working people’s republic as a whole. We have, of course, we are obliged, to concern ourselves also with the disabled of the imperialist war. They were not responsible for that war, but are its helpless victims. As we get stronger, as industry and agriculture improve, the Soviet Republic will better the existence of all the victims left behind by the old regime. But we must not dissolve in this great task, with which we shall cope only gradually, step by step, another urgent and crucial task, namely, to take care, first and foremost, of those warriors of the working class who were sent out by it to defend the frontiers of the world’s first republic of labour, and who were discharged from the army having suffered some mutilation.

Amid the fire and smoke we did not look behind us, and all too often we did not think about our wounded, sick, lame and disabled. The time has now come to pay attention to them and to care for them. This is imperative first and foremost for the self-preservation of the army itself. Every Red Army man must know that the working people’s republic will take care of him in an evil moment, if that should come.

The situation of the disabled continues to be grave. Some find a solution through begging and petty speculation; they become corrupt and go to pieces. Themselves demoralised, they inevitably infect the army from which they come. This cannot be tolerated. The work of helping the disabled, reeducating them – that is, training them for a new trade, adapting them to work which is within their powers – must be undertaken on a wide scale and with all thoroughness. The presidium of the Central Executive Committee has taken some extremely important steps in this direction. In the first place it has brought into close collaboration in this field the Commissariat of Social Security and the War Commissariat. A special directorate has been formed in the Commissariat of Social Security to look after the affairs of the war-wounded and the families of Red Army men. The provincial and uyezd military commissars have been brought into the provincial and uyezd organs of social security so as to ensure special care for the interests of the war-disabled. All departments have been called upon to give every co-operation to the work of ensuring social security for the disabled.

Besides these purely governmental means, the Presidium has indicated a way of arousing large-scale public initiative. As the organ for arousing the initiative and organising it expediently there must be an All-Russia Committee for Aid to Sick and Wounded Red Army Men, War-Disabled and their Families (Vserokompom). Today when the country’s economic life is far from being confined within the limits of the state economic enterprises, it is undoubtedly possible, given the appropriate energy and the right approach, to open up an important source of aid to the disabled, over and above purely state resources. This must be the task of Vserokompom and its local organs: helping the existing departments, supplementing their work with public initiative, and opening up new sources, new possibilities, new paths.

The departments operate in an undifferentiating way, that is, they deal with the disabled as a mass, applying to all of them, broadly speaking, the same methods of providing security. Public initiative can and must individualise, that is, it must take every disabled person separately, as a personality with his own special features, and adapt the character and form of its aid to these peculiarities and qualities of his. Finally, both the departmental and the public activities directed toward security for the disabled can produce the required results only if the Party, and, under the Party’s leadership, the trade unions, and, consequently, the broad mass of the working people interest themselves in this problem, understand its importance and learn to devote to it a share of their active attention.

Responsible military workers must, naturally, be in the forefront of the work to aid the disabled. They must present the problem in its full dimensions to the Party, Soviet and trade union organisations, bring it up at conferences and, most important, tirelessly seek practical ways of aid and cooperation. A proposal has, notably, come from the army’s ranks that a regular deduction be made from pay, for the benefit of the disabled. There can be no doubt that this proposal will find a wide response in the army. The Red Army cannot and must not forget its wounded warriors. If it remembers them, the whole country will remember them.

Isvestiya V.Ts.I.K. December 18, 1921, No.285

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Last updated on: 28.12.2006