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International Red Aid

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International Red Aid
Dissolved1941 (Soviet affiliate – 1947)
Focus"Assistance in the creation of organizations to render material and moral aid to all captives of capitalism in prison."
Area served
Key people
Julian Marchlewski (1st chairman)
Clara Zetkin
Elena Stasova

International Red Aid (also commonly known by its Russian acronym MOPR, for Междунаро́дная организа́ция по́мощи борца́м револю́ции) was an international social service organization established by the Communist International. The organization was founded in 1922 to function as an "international political Red Cross", providing material and moral aid to radical "class war" political prisoners around the world.

Organizational history


The International Workers Aid society, known colloquially by its Russian-language acronym, MOPR,[1] was established in 1922 in response to the directive of the 4th World Congress of the Comintern to appeal to all communist parties "to assist in the creation of organizations to render material and moral aid to all captives of capitalism in prison."[2]

Julian Marchlewski-Karski was named chairman of the Central Committee of MOPR, the governing body of the new organization. After 1924, the name of this directing body was changed to the Executive Committee.[3]

The first plenary session of the Central Committee of MOPR was held in June 1923 in Moscow. At this gathering it was determined that MOPR should establish sections in all countries, particularly those suffering from so-called "White terror" against the revolutionary movement.


MOPR poster from 1932
MOPR poster from 1932

The first international conference of MOPR took place in July 1924, simultaneously with the 5th World Congress of the Comintern.

According to Elena Stasova, the head of the Russian section of MOPR and deputy head of the Central Committee of the International organization, as of January 1, 1928, MOPR had a total membership of 8,900,000 people in 44 national sections. By January 1, 1931, MOPR's scope had grown to 58 national organizations, with a total membership of 8,305,454, according to Stasova.[4] At the latter date the international organization maintained a total of 56 periodicals in 19 languages, Stasova stated.[5]

Stasova noted that two forms of the organization existed, "mass organizations" — such as those of the USSR, Germany, France, the United States — and "organizations of a committee type", which limited themselves to legal and material aid to political prisoners and their families without attempting to establish large-scale membership organizations.[6]

Stasova emphasized the ongoing difference between MOPR and Workers International Relief, another branch of the Comintern's international apparatus. "The difference is this", she noted in 1931, "we are assisting the political prisoners and the Workers International Relief assists at the time of economic strikes, at the time of the economic struggle."[7]

The 1st World Congress of MOPR was held in November 1932. At that gathering it was announced that as of January 1 of that year, MOPR had established 67 national sections outside of the USSR, with 1,278,274 members.[8]


MOPR was headed by Elena Stasova until 1938, after which time its international character was deemphasized.

National histories

As of 1924 the organization had national affiliates in nineteen countries. By 1932 it claimed sixty-two affiliates (excluding the Soviet Union) with a total of 1,278,274 individual members.[9]


The International Red Aid made its first appearance in Spain as a charity organization during the workers’ revolt of October 1934 in Asturias. It provided aid to those imprisoned for their role in the rebellion, and organize amnesty campaigns for prisoners that were to be executed.

The organization, which included many artists and writers, was later re-formed and expanded in Barcelona in January 1936, with the aim of opposing fascism on multiple fronts.

Activities during the Spanish Civil War

SRI poster in Catalan language. Text reads 'Anti-Fascists: Think of those who struggle!'
SRI poster in Catalan language. Text reads 'Anti-Fascists: Think of those who struggle!'

During the Spanish Civil War, the writer Joaquín Arderíus served as the organization's president before exiling himself to France and then Mexico. The SRI created soup kitchens and refugee camps throughout the territory controlled by the Republicans, and also provided libraries for Republican soldiers, but many of their programs –as well as the food and aid that it collected- were focused on providing aid for children. [1] For example, the SRI founded the Escuela Nacional para Niños Anormales (National School for Mentally Disabled Children) in Madrid, with 150 students. It also founded a Children's Park on the outskirts of Madrid, providing shelter to an additional 150 children.

Other activities included:

  • The building of transportation networks between hospitals and the front.
  • The transformation of various buildings (convents, churches, palaces) into makeshift hospitals, clinics, blood banks, orphanages, and schools.

Medical contributions included the establishment of 275 hospitals, ambulance services, the establishment of the Orthodontics Clinic and College, dental hygiene campaigns, and the mobilization of dentists to the front. The Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), a minor Marxist party in Spain at the time, organized a parallel Socorro Rojo del P.O.U.M. in opposition to the International Red Aid.[10]

Military activities

The ranks of the Fifth Regiment (dissolved January 21, 1937), established by the Communist Party of Spain at the outbreak of the Civil War, were also swelled by members of the SRI. The Fifth Regiment, based on the Soviet Red Army, included Juan Modesto and Enrique Líster amongst its leaders, and fought primarily in the battles in and around Madrid throughout 1936. The SRI also helped Communist sympathizers in Nationalist Spain make their way to friendly territory.

The insignia of the SRI consisted of an "S" (for Socorro) behind the bars of a prison.


The Dutch section of International Red Aid held its first congress in 1926.[11] The same year it began publishing Rode Hulp.[12]


The Red Aid of Finland was active during the 1930s, led by the Communist Party of Finland. It gave assistance to revolutionary prisoners in Finnish jails. Women connected to Red Aid would make handicraft works and organized bazaars, in order to finance the activities of the organization. The organization also tried to mobilize public opinion against ill-treatment of the prisoners. The Red Aid of Finland published Vankien Toveri.[13]

Latin America

Towards the ends of the 1920s, Farabundo Martí became the leader of the International Red Aid in Latin America.[14] Julio Antonio Mella, the Cuban communist leader exiled in Mexico since 1926, was a leading figure in the Mexican section of the organization.[15]

Soviet Union

The largest section of MOPR was its Soviet branch, which accounted for the majority of the organization's international membership. MOPR organized numerous lotteries and fundraising drives.


Yi Donghwi was a prominent MOPR organizer.[16]

In Madagascar

A MOPR branch was formed in Madagascar in 1933.[17]

See also


  1. ^ The full Russian name of the organization was Международная организация помощи революциoнepaм ("International Organization for Aid to Revolutionaries"). This can be transliterated Mezhdunarodnaia Organizatsiia Pomoshchi Revoliutsioneram — MOPR.
  2. ^ Cited in Branko Lazitch and Milorad M. Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1986; pg. xxviii.
  3. ^ Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. xxviii.
  4. ^ H. Stassova [E. Stasova], MOPR's Banners Abroad: Report to the Third MOPR Congress of the Soviet Union. Moscow: Executive Committee of IRA, 1931; pp. 12-13.
  5. ^ Stassova, MOPR's Banners Abroad, pg. 30.
  6. ^ Stassova, MOPR's Banners Abroad, pp. 15-16.
  7. ^ Stassova, MOPR's Banners Abroad, pg. 19.
  8. ^ Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. xxix
  9. ^ Lazitch 1986, p. xxix.
  10. ^ ALBA - Articles - "Shouts from the wall." USF Magazine. 4 (Fall) 1997. pp. 24-27 Archived 2008-09-07 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Lijst Van Geraadpleegde Literatuur Archived February 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Universiteit Maastricht (bibliotheek) - results/illegal[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Suomen Punainen Apu[permanent dead link] (Kansan Arkisto)
  14. ^ "ALBA .:Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América - Content - BIOGRAFÍA". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2006-09-06.
  15. ^ "Fuentes,"
  16. ^ 이동휘 (李東輝 ; 1873~1928)
  17. ^ Busky, Donald F.. Communism in history and theory. Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Westport: Praeger, 2002. p. 128

Further reading

  • James Martin Ryle, International Red Aid, 1922-1928: The Founding of a Comintern Front Organization. PhD dissertation. Atlanta, GA: Emory University, 1967.

Congresses of MOPR

Year Name Location Dates Delegates
1923 1st Plenary Session of the CC of MOPR Moscow June
1924 1st International Conference Moscow July 14–16 109 (91 CP, 13 YCI, 5 non-party)
1927 2nd International Conference Moscow March 24-April 5
1932 1st World Congress Moscow November

National Affiliates of MOPR

Principal source: James Martin Ryle, International Red Aid, 1922-1928, pp. 262-263.
Country Group name Establishment date Comments
Algeria "before 1928"
Argentina 1926
Australia 1928
Austria Austrian Red Ad (Österreichische Rote Hilfe) 1924
Belgium Aug. 1925
Bolivia "before 1933"
Brazil 1927
British Guiana
Bulgaria Organization for Support to the Victims of the Capitalist Dictatorship Sept. 1923
Canada Canadian Labour Defense League Aug. 1925
Chile 1930
China Society of Aid Oct. 1925
Colombia 1932
Costa Rica 1932
Cuba 1929
Czechoslovakia Feb. 1925
Denmark 1923
Ecuador "before 1933"
Egypt 1928
El Salvador "before 1933"
Estonia 1923
Finland Finnish Red Aid (Suomen Punainen Apu) 1924
Formosa 1930
France Secours Rouge International 1923
Germany Red Aid of Germany (Rote Hilfe Deutschlands) Oct. 1924
Great Britain International Class War Prisoners' Aid 1925
Greece Workers' Aid 1923
Guatemala 1928
Haiti 1928
India "after 1928"
Indonesia 1928
Ireland 1928
Isle of Timor 1933
Italy April 1923
Japan Nekon Sekishoku Kyuenkai 1928
Korea Jan. 1926
Lithuania 1923
Madagascar "before 1933"
Mexico League for Support of Persecuted Fighters April 1925
Mongolia 1928
Morocco 1928
Netherlands Red Aid of Holland (Roode Hulp Holland) Feb. 1925
New Zealand 1928
Norway Norwegian Red Aid (Norges Roede Hjelp)
Palestine 1924
Panama "before 1933"
Persia 1928
Peru "before 1933"
Philippines "before 1933"
Poland Red Aid of Poland (Czerwona Pomoc w Polsce) 1925
Portugal 1925
Puerto Rico
South Africa Ikaka la Basebenzi 1928
Spain Sept. 1925
Sweden International Red Aid, Swedish Section
Switzerland 1923
Syria "before 1933"
Tunisia 1928
United States of America International Labor Defense 1925
Uruguay Feb. 1926
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics International Society for Aid to Revolutionary Fighters (MOPR) 1922
Venezuela 1931
Yugoslavia March 1924
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International Red Aid
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