[Marxism] Fwd from Jim Craven: Wounds by Dr. Norman Bethune

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 16 07:21:50 MST 2005

>By Norman Bethune
>The kerosene lamp overhead makes a steady buzzing sound like an 
>incandescent hive of bees. Mud walls. Mud floor. Mud bed. White paper 
>windows. Smell of blood and chloroform. Cold. Three o'clock in the 
>morning, December 1, North China, near Lin Chu, with the 8th Route Army. 
>Men with wounds. Wounds like little dried pools, caked with blackbrown 
>earth; wounds with torn edges frilled with black gangrene; neat wounds, 
>concealing beneath the abscess in their depths, burrowing into and around 
>the great firm muscles like a dammed-back river, running around and 
>between the muscles like a hot stream; wounds, expanding outward, decaying 
>orchids or crushed carnations, terrible flowers of flesh; wounds from 
>which the dark blood is spewed out in clots, mixed with the ominous gas 
>bubbles, floating on the fresh flood of the still-continuing secondary 
>Old filthy bandages stuck to the skin with blood-glue. Careful. Belief 
>moisten first. Through the thigh. Pick the leg up. Why it's like a bag, a 
>long, loose red stocking. What kind of stocking? A Christmas stocking. 
>Where's that find strong rod of bone now? In a dozen pieces. Pick them out 
>with your fingers; white as a dog's teeth, sharp and jagged. Now feel. Any 
>more left? Yes, here. All? Yes; no, here's another piece. Is this muscle 
>dead? Pinch it. Yes, it's dead, Cut it out. How can that heal? How can 
>those muscles, once so strong, now so torn, so devastated, so ruined, 
>resume their proud tension? Pull, relax. Pull, relax. What fun it was! Now 
>that is finished. Now that's done. Now we are destroyed. Now what will we 
>do with ourselves?
>Next. What an infant! Seventeen. Shot through the belly. Chloroform. 
>Ready? Gas rushes out of the opened peritoneal cavity. Odour of feces. 
>Pink coils of distended intestine. Four perforations. Close them. Purse 
>string suture. Sponge out the pelvis. Tube. Three tubes. Hard to close. 
>Keep him warm. How? Dip those bricks into hot water.
>Gangrene is a cunning, creeping fellow. Is this one alive? Yes, he lives. 
>Technically speaking, he is alive. Give him saline intravenously. Perhaps 
>the innumerable tiny cells of his body will remember. They may remember 
>the hot salty sea, their ancestral home, their first food. With the memory 
>of a million years, they may remember other tides, other oceans, and life 
>being born of the sea and sun. It may make them raise their tired little 
>heads, drink deep and struggle back into life again. It may do that.
>And this one. Will he run along the road beside his mule at another 
>harvest, with cries of pleasure and happiness? No, that one will never run 
>again. How can you run with one leg? What will he do? Why, he'll sit and 
>watch the other boys run. What will he think? He'll think what you and I 
>would think. What's the good of pity? Don't pity him! Pity would diminish 
>his sacrifice. He did this for the defence of China. Help him. Lift him 
>off the table. Carry him in your arms. Why, he's as light as a child! Yes, 
>your child, my child.
>How beautiful the body is: how perfect its pads; with what precision it 
>moves; how obedient, proud and strong. How terrible when torn. The little 
>flame of life sinks lower and lower, and with a flicker, goes out. It goes 
>out like a candle goes out. Quietly and gently. It makes its protest at 
>extinction, then submits. It has its day, then is silent.
>Any more? Four Japanese prisoners. Bring them in. In this community of 
>pain, there are no enemies. Cut away that blood-stained uniform. Stop that 
>haemorrhage. Lay them beside the others. Why, they're alike as brothers! 
>Are these soldiers professional man-killers? No, these are 
>amateurs-in-arms. Workman's hands. These are workers-in-uniform.
>No more. Six o'clock in the morning. God, it's cold in this room. Open the 
>door. Over the distant, dark-blue mountains, a pale, faint line of light 
>appears in the east. In an hour the sun will be up. To bed and sleep.
>But sleep will not come. What is the cause of this cruelty, this 
>stupidity? A million workmen come from Japan to kill or mutilate a million 
>Chinese workmen. Why should the Japanese worker attack his brother worker, 
>who is forced merely to defend himself. Will the Japanese worker benefit 
>by the death of the Chinese? No, how can he gain? Then, in God's name, who 
>will gain? Who is responsible for sending these Japanese workmen on this 
>murderous mission? Who will profit from it? How was it possible to 
>persuade the Japanese workmen to attack the Chinese Workman - his brother 
>in poverty; his companion in misery?
>Is it possible that a few rich men, a small class of men, have persuaded a 
>million men to attack, and attempt to destroy, another million men as poor 
>as they? So that these rich may be richer still? Terrible thought! How did 
>they persuade these poor men to come to China? By telling them the truth? 
>No, they would never have cone if they had known the truth, Did they dare 
>to tell these workmen that the rich only wanted cheaper raw materials, 
>more markets and more profit? No, they told them that this brutal war was 
>"The Destiny of the Race," it was for the "Glory of the Emperor," it was 
>for the "Honour of the State," it was for their "King and Country."
>False. False as hell!
>The agents of a criminal war of aggression, such as this, must be looked 
>for like the agents of other crimes, such as murder, among those who are 
>likely to benefit from those crimes. Will the 80,000,000 workers of Japan, 
>the poor farmers, the unemployed industrial workers - will they gain? In 
>the entire history of the wars of aggression, from the conquest of Mexico 
>by Spain, the capture of India by England, the rape of Ethiopia by Italy, 
>have the workers of those "victorious" countries ever been known to 
>benefit? No, these never benefit by such wars. Does the Japanese workman 
>benefit by the natural resources of even his own country, by the gold, the 
>silver, the iron, the coal, the oil? Long ago he ceased to possess that 
>natural wealth. It belongs to the rich, the ruling class. The millions who 
>work those mines live in poverty. So how is he likely to benefit by the 
>armed robbery of the gold, silver, iron, coal and oil from China? Will not 
>the rich owners of the one retain for their own profit the wealth of the 
>other? Have they not always done so?
>It would seem inescapable that the militarists and the capitalists of 
>Japan are the only class likely to gain by this mass murder, this 
>authorized madness, this sanctified butchery. That ruling class, the true 
>state, stands accused.
>Are wars of aggression, wars for the conquest of colonies, then, just big 
>business? Yes, it would seem so, however much the perpetrators of such 
>national crimes seek to hide their true purpose under banners of 
>high-sounding abstractions and ideals. They make war to capture markets by 
>murder; raw materials by rape. They find it cheaper to steal than to 
>exchange; easier to butcher than to buy. This is the secret of war. This 
>is the secret of all wars. Profit. Business. Profit. Blood money.
>Behind all stands that terrible, implacable God of Business and Blood, 
>whose name is Profit. Money, like an insatiable Moloch, demands its 
>interest, its return, and will stop at nothing, not even the murder of 
>millions, to satisfy its greed. Behind the army stand the militarists. 
>Behind the militarists stand finance capital and the capitalist. Brothers 
>in blood; companions in crime.
>What do these enemies of the human race look like? Do they wear on their 
>foreheads a sign so that they may be told, shunned and condemned as 
>criminals? No. On the contrary. they are the respectable ones. They are 
>honoured. They call themselves, and are called, gentlemen. What a travesty 
>on the name, Gentlemen! They are the pillars of the state, of the church, 
>of society. They support private and public charity out of the excess of 
>their wealth. they endow institutions. In their private lives they are 
>kind and considerate. they obey the law, their law, the law of property. 
>But there is one sign by which these gentle gunmen can be told. Threaten a 
>reduction on the profit of their money and the beast in them awakes with a 
>snarl. They become ruthless as savages, brutal as madmen, remorseless as 
>executioners. Such men as these must perish if the human race is to 
>continue. There can be no permanent peace in the world while they live. 
>Such an organization of human society as permits them to exist must be 
>These men make the wounds.
>Written in 1939; published in 1940.



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