Various Subjects

Take Care of the Wounded
and Sick Soldiers!

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

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The army medical service is functioning as badly as ever. Wounded and sick Red Army men fail to receive even one-tenth of the attention they have a right to. The reasons for this are numerous.

Among the doctors, only a few are working from conscience. Often, the doctors’ sympathies lie on the other side of the firing line.

Among the lower medical personnel there are not a few self-seekers and even simply criminal elements. Embezzlement of food, drugs, alcohol and ether flourishes. The paramedics and orderlies frequently do not perform their simplest duties towards the sick and wounded, counting on enjoyment of complete immunity for their conduct. Very many of the so-called nurses busy themselves with anything but care of the sick soldiers.

It must, however, be said that the local soviet authorities, Party groups and cells, too, fail to pay the necessary attention to the conditions under which wounded soldiers are moved about and looked after. Often the comrade soldier who has been disabled feels as if the whole world has forgotten him. That arouses in the wounded man’s heart a natural sense of injury, and then of bitterness. Here is one of the reasons why Red Army men who have recovered from their wounds sometimes try to avoid returning to the army.

This state of affairs must be ended.

First and foremost, it is necessary to awaken concern among wide circles of the working class and conscious peasantry regarding the lot of the wounded and sick soldiers. Special committees for fraternal aid to the wounded must be formed. Communist working women must take the initiative in establishing such bodies. The War Department will help them with all its resources. A merely ‘official’ apparatus without the attentive, loving participation of working women, mother, sisters and wives, will not enable us to ease and brighten the life of the wounded warrior.

Given the bad state of the army medical apparatus – especially under the conditions of a retreat, such as is happening on the Southern front – initiative on the part of local soviet institutions and Party organisations is enormously important. They have no right to rely on the work of the army medical administration, which, as harsh experience has shown, when lacking supervision, criticism and support from wide Soviet circles, has proved impotent to cope with its task, and is, in the end, starting to concern itself merely with keeping up an outward show of activity.

At the same time, all the executives in the army medical department must be reminded of the responsibility that is theirs under. conditions of very grievous war.

A doctor who has not shown all proper care for the wounded must, like a commander who has failed to take all measures needed to carry out a military order, answer for it with his head, for in both cases dozens and hundreds of soldiers pay with their lives for the slovenliness of the commander and the negligence of the doctor alike.

A ruthless purge must be carried out among the paramedics, orderlies and nurses. Dozens of cases have been observed when orderlies and nurses have left the sick without a drop of water to drink, have failed to clean up filth, or have simply abandoned wounded men to the mercy of fate, leaving the echelon to go into the town on their own business. Scoundrels of this sort are to be shot, like deserters quitting their posts. At the same time, courageous and honourable executives, both men and women, in the army medical department must be promoted, encouraged and rewarded in every way.

As large as possible a number of Communist women devoted to the Red Army must be recruited to serve as nurses: they will bring a warm heart to their work of caring for the wounded.

In view of the immense importance of this task, I call on all Party organisations to place on their agenda the question of aid to wounded and sick Red Army men. This item must not be struck from the agenda until we have brought about, by combined efforts, the necessary improvements in this matter. The shameful conduct which, we observe today must be eradicated. A wounded or sick warrior of the Red Army must feel at every moment the caring hand of the Soviet power and the loving concern of the working masses.

None of the officials of Soviet Russia will dare to excuse himself on the grounds that care of the wounded does not come within the range of his responsibilities. Aid to the wounded Red Army man, in word and deed, is the duty of every Soviet office-worker, regardless of what his other official responsibilities may be.

Comrade working women! Conscious peasant women! Help the wounded and sick fighters for the cause of the working people!

July 8, 1919

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006