Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is a Free Tibet ?

The BBC carries a report the Dalai Lama's demand for "legitimate and meaningful autonomy" for Tibet in a message on the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He accuses China of having killed "hundreds of thousands of his people" and that Tibet's religion, culture, language and identity were "nearing extinction" and that Chinese development was devastating the Tibetan environment and way of life.

China counters by claiming its troops freed Tibetans from slavery in a feudal society and is planning to mark 28 March - the day in 1959 on which the Communist Party dissolved the existing local government in Tibet - as Serfs' Emancipation Day.

We can expect much sympathetic reporting of the plight of the Tibetan people and the glorification of the saintly Dalai Lama . But actual in depth reporting we should not expect .

The Socialist Standard has carried an article that endeavours to dispel some of the myths concerning Tibet .

The Dalai Lama has in the past proposed that Tibet “should become the planet's largest natural, reserve”, and that the country “could return to the simple life of its ancestors”. However , the article held out no such hope . Tibet is now wholly an integral component of the world market, capitalist, system. There can be no turning back to the “simple life” of feudalism.

Nor should the darker side of the the Dalai Lama be forgotten . In 1996 he announced a ban on the worship of a Buddhist deity called Dorje Shugden, declaring somewhat vaguely that he had discovered Shugden to be a "Chinese" spirit who was somehow physically threatening both his own life and the future of Tibet. He declared this ban not only in his capacity as a "spiritual leader", but as head of a government-in-exile. Those refusing to accept the ban on Shugden have accordingly been labelled as enemies of the state and Chinese agents . actions taken against those refusing to comply with the deity ban have included the dismissal of all such dissidents from government employment and the report that the residents of at least one monastery were "persuaded" to sign forms in support of the ban by the presence of Indian state police. Some 300 cases of house arrest, destruction of personal property, and harassment by Dalai Lama supporters have been reported, including one case of a family being forced from their home by a large crowd, which petrol bombed and ransacked their house. In addition posters denouncing religious dissidents have become commonplace in Tibetan exile communities. These notices generally include the name, address and photo of the particular "enemy of the state" and the schools their children attend. It is little wonder that many of the exiles have become refugees all over again. Al Jazeera asked one of the Tibetan government in exile members of parliament whether there had been any parliamentary debate about Dorje Shugden. He replied that there had been no debate simply because there was no opposition, adding "We do not have any doubt about Dalai Lama's decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He's a supreme human being and he is god." Theocratic democracy in action !! Any criticism of the Dalai Lama is immediately labelled as being pro-China, which effectively makes the dissenter an outcast in Tibetan society.

We should also take with a big pinch of salt the Dalai Lama's apparent attraction to Marxism but some truths exists within his pronouncements .

Q: You have often stated that you would like to achieve a synthesis between Buddhism and Marxism. What is the appeal of Marxism for you?

A: Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes--that is, the majority--as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. I just recently read an article in a paper where His Holiness the Pope also pointed out some positive aspects of Marxism.

As for the failure of the Marxist regimes, first of all I do not consider the former USSR, or China, or even Vietnam, to have been true Marxist regimes, for they were far more concerned with their narrow national interests than with the Workers' International; this is why there were conflicts, for example, between China and the USSR, or between China and Vietnam. If those three regimes had truly been based upon Marxist principles, those conflicts would never have occurred.

I think the major flaw of the Marxist regimes is that they have placed too much emphasis on the need to destroy the ruling class, on class struggle, and this causes them to encourage hatred and to neglect compassion. Although their initial aim might have been to serve the cause of the majority, when they try to implement it all their energy is deflected into destructive activities. Once the revolution is over and the ruling class is destroyed, there is not much left to offer the people; at this point the entire country is impoverished and unfortunately it is almost as if the initial aim were to become poor. I think that this is due to the lack of human solidarity and compassion. The principal disadvantage of such a regime is the insistence placed on hatred to the detriment of compassion.

The failure of the regime in the former Soviet Union was, for me, not the failure of Marxism but the failure of totalitarianism. For this reason I still think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.The Dali Lama is quoted as saying

Elsewhere he reveals his misunderstanding of Marxism , confusing it with some form of state capitalism

“I am a Marxist monk, a Buddhist Marxist,” said the Dalai Lama while delivering a lecture on ‘Ethics and Business’ at the Indian Institute of Management here on Friday. Addressing the audience, consisting mostly of management students, he added: “I belong to the Marxist camp,” he said, “because unlike capitalism, Marxism is more ethical. Marxism, as an ideology, takes care of the welfare of its employees and believes in distribution of wealth among the people of the state.”


citizenX said...

a person cannot truly be believed to be free and happy just because his govt tells him he is.
no matter what kind of political leadership a country may have, a group of people possibly sharing common ancestry, culture, tradition, (maybe religious beliefs) but most importantly sharing a common 'way of life' should have the right to self determination.

ajohnstone said...

From an article here http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/may03/patriotism.html
"...the illusions of nationality are yet another tool of the ruling class, intended to trick workers into thinking that this really is some kind of collective society, and to misplace their passions that could otherwise be directed into the class struggle..."

And as the blog entry touches on , with his own treatment of his own religious dissenters , is the Dalai Lama good role model .

Wisdomsword said...

Thank you, you explain the situation well.

I speak as a Dorje Shugden practitioner, who helps with this blog:


Your readers might be interested in this blog if they want to follow up.

Thanks again.

Improvedliving said...

a group of people possibly sharing common ancestry, culture, tradition,

Jock said...

"the illusions of nationality" - would you not accept as a possibility that a worker could understand his economic position as a wage slave as well as having a geographic identity eg Tibetan, Welsh, Scottish, English or Irish etc?

ajohnstone said...

Just how geographic will we be with our identity , Jock ?

i know about the highlander -lowlander rivalry , the border -lowlander rivalry , the glasgow -edinburgh rivalry , the edinburgh - leith rivalry ...being scottish doesn't define people from scotland all that well , does it ? Certainly not sn identical common ancestry nor culture nor traditions . And shall we exclude those recent arrivals or first generation born in scotland and demand a cultural conformity from them thats all dependent mind you on historic myths and legends .

No-one denies certain common backgrounds are shared but even these are often exagerrated and mis-directed (and are mostly class not geography) . What we do question is the automatic political connotations of this perceived similarity ie the creation of national states that does create divisions between workers on the issue of "national interest" . (Remember also , the promoters of the Scottish culture such as highland dress and the tartans was not the working class but the Victorian landowners and aristocrats.)

i think here on SOYMB we would be more supportive of Eugene Debs position:-

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." - Eugene V. Debs

Jock said...

I agree that our economic position as wage slaves is fundamental, but would disgree with Debs because as propertyless wage slaves we have no country and therefore "our" country would only be the Earth in a future world socialist society of common ownership. However, Scottish identity is something associated with this wee bit of the planet and I for one am comfortable with this identity, as are people all over Scotland from whatever part that may be, and from whatever varied background. You ask "just how geographic will we be with our identity"? The democratic answer is, of course, as geographic as a person wishes it to be. I presume you are not suggesting that geographic identities will be frowned upon in a socialist society ! ?

Anonymous said...

A lot of Tibetans died as a direct result of the invasion. Thousands more suffered under an imperialistic regime that views us as inferior human beings and has launched a systematic campaign to eradicate Tibetan identity.
i'm not happy about the treatment of followers of he-who-wears-the-hat (btw no1 ever said this demigod was a Chinese spirit) in fact i feel its quite inhumane and horrific.
At the same time please don't tell us that the Chinese invasion was either good or necessary. Gods! can you imagine how some1 who lost family would feel reading this.

ajohnstone said...

Socialists don't support or condone the suffereings of our fellow workers wheter under the cloak of politics , nationalism or religion. I don't believe the blog described the chinese invasion as good or necessary but socialist would describe war , territorial and economic expansionism as part and parcel of the capitalist system.

In regard to the comment about chinese spirit i refer you to http://wisdombuddhadorjeshugden.org/dorjeshugden05.php

He [dalai lama explains how he knows that Dorje Shugden is a Chinese spirit based on locals' dreams: "Others have reported of a bearded monk strangling them: this is very clear indication that Shugden is a Chinese spirit, far from being a deity."

Anonymous said...

I wish you would stop loading everything with ideology. within any system there will be individuals who abuse their power. The Tibetan people are suffering dreadfully bcos they've been subjugated by China, period. This isnt about ideology it's about liberty.
as i said before im extremely unhappy about how the followers of he-who-wears-the-hat have been treated. i also happen to believe that the vast vast majority of what HH has done since the invasion is frankly amazingly positive. Like i said i've never heard of any suggestion that this demigod (Asura) is a Chinese spirit. An allegation made against his followers is that they're in the pay of the Chinese govt. personally i'm extremely sceptical of that claim. while it wudnt surprise me at all if China made the offer i doubt that many Tibetans wud accept it. everything on your link is translated from Tibetan. Given that you dont speak Tibetan and the sound quality on the videos is too poor for me to translate we cannot verify your claim based on this website alone.
as a socialist you probably believe that shamanism is the superstition of a primitive people. Which is why you'll never understand the true nature of this controversy, it's actually fascinating albeit with very negative ramifications for a not insignificant number of vulnerable people. it's also the reason why i can respect and revere HH and feel very lucky that we have such an intelligent leader during these difficult times but still disagree with him on this particular issue.

Anonymous said...

oh also you mention house arrests. by the indian police? the Tibetan govt doesnt have a police force.

ajohnstone said...

In regard of the house arrests i quote a pro-shugden web source "They are prevented from leaving their rooms and kept under virtual house arrest by the local police under instructions from Dharamsala, who allege that the monks are a threat to H.H. the Dalai Lama's security." , so yes by Indian policmen , on the advice of dalai lama's officials

I think you do miss certain aspects of the blog post , dismissed by you as ideology. SOYMB is opposed to religion as a mystification of reality and opposes nationalism as a false consciousness.

You may indeed find the religious aspects of this schism to be fascinating but what interested this blog was the actions of an aspirant government in waiting, regardless of religious expressions, and how it behaves in a similar co-ercive manner as existing governments to dissidents. SOYMB awaits a new Tibetan government who'll have the power and the forces to impose its will and we'll note if it acts much differently from any other class divided state.