In solidarity with the people of Tibet

By Pierre Rousset

March 18, 2008 -- The demonstrations which began on March 10, 2008, in Tibet, and which turned into riots since March 14, are remarkable both for their breadth and their radicalism. Far from being confined to the capital, Lhasa, they have spread to the bordering provinces of China, where communities of Tibetans reside: witnesses report important mobilisations in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan.

Image removed.

These riots sometimes have taken an quasi-insurrectionary turn. They testify to the despair of a population, of their feeling of oppression and dispossession. Indeed, Beijing continues in this ``autonomous area'' a systematic policy of colonisation by settlement: the development of infrastructure (such as the creation of a fast-rail link) is used for this purpose. Thus, the Han ethnic group (the dominant Chinese ethnic group) have become a majority in Tibet; it is they who, moreover, profit most from ``development'' in Tibet. This is the source of the revolt of the Tibetans, threatened by forced acculturation and assimilation. It also explains violence expressed by some ``rioters'' against Han passers-by and shopkeepers.

The reaction to events in Tibet are particularly sharp in South Asia. But in Nepal, and in India -- where Dharamsala is the seat of the ``government in exile'' and where the Dalai Lama resides -- demonstrations of the Tibetan community have been repressed by the police force. Gatherings denouncing the Beijing's policy have also been held in various countries, including France, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland. Many human rights associations have mobilised.

It is the time for solidarity. It is past the time when Tibetan nationalism can be used by the West against the Chinese Revolution. The survival of Tibetan people is the issue. The Chinese army has entered the action. According to sources, repression could have already caused scores or a few hundred deaths.

Beijing does all that it can to censor information. The truth of the situation in Tibet must be established by an independent commission. The right to self-determination of the people of Tibet must be recognised - including by governments and the United Nations.

[Pierre Rousset is editor of the Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF) website and a member of the Revolutionary Communist League of France (LCR). The original French version of the above article is at .]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sun, 03/23/2008 - 12:30


From Liam MacUaid's excellent blog:

Tibet, Engels, Hegel and Andy

Posted on March 22, 2008 by Liam

Tibet <> Andy posted a piece on Socialist Unity <> a couple of days ago called /China and the riddle of Tibet/. Madam Miaow <> takes a more scenic route but gets to the same destination.

Here is a quote from from Andy’s piece:

   Tibet is too marginal to the world economy and too poor to be
   genuinely independent and develop a national economy and high
   culture of its own. In reality it can only exist as either part of
   China or as a bankrupt client state of Western imperialism – the
   fact that the figurehead for the Free Tibet campaign is the Dalai
   Lama, the feudal figurehead of the old slavery and barbarism is
   illustrative of the fact that no progressive national-popular and
   democratic campaign exists among the mass of the Tibetan Chinese,
   rather the movement is the expression of declassed intellectuals and
   dispossessed exiles. In the absence of a popular national dynamic to
   create a viable independent state, there is no prospect of self

Here is a quote from Engels which is fairly similar.

   Peoples which have never had a history of their own, which come
   under foreign domination the moment they have achieved the first,
   crudest level of civilisation… have no capacity for survival and
   will never be able to attain any kind of independence. And that has
   been the fate of the Austrian Slavs. (`Democratic PanSlavism’,
   February 1849)

The Engels quote is cited in a review by Andy Clarkson of an out of print book by Roman Rosdolsky*,* /Engels and the/ `Nonhistoric’ /Peoples: the National Question in the Revolution of 1848. /The review is on Revolutionary History’s <> site and I’m grateful to Marxsite’s <> Phil for drawing it to my attention. The Austrian Slavs are what we now call Czechs.

Rosdolsky attributes Engels’ concept of the “nonhistoric peoples” to Hegel and Andy Clarkson provides an illustration from the philosopher to show just how reactionary the concept is:

   Anyone who wishes to study the most terrible manifestations of human
   nature will find them in Africa…it is an unhistorical continent,
   with no movement or development of its own.

It is best for socialists to err on the side on the side of supporting national liberation struggles. Rosa Luxemburg thought that the reunification of Poland was reactionary utopianism too so even though Andy is wrong he’s in some pretty good company. His judgement on the role of the Chinese state is comparable to Engels’ enthusiasm for German industry as a civilizing and unifying factor in Central Europe and he provides examples of progress under Chinese rule such as big leaps in life expectancy and literacy as well as the elimination of serfdom. This is true. The Chinese bureaucracy has pulled Tibet out of the 12th century. A consequence of this is that it has also created an indigenous intelligentsia separate from the clergy and, more importantly, a working class population which is rebellion both against its relative poverty and national oppression.

There is a big debate to be had about whether or not you can categorise China as any sort of workers’ state. The bureaucracy is attacking the social gains of the revolution with vigour and much of the economy is now capitalist. We are in the final stages of a bureaucratic counter-revolution. What is beyond dispute is that the Chinese government’s policy towards Tibet is oppressive and reactionary and if one were a hypothetical socialist in China one would have to support the Tibetan demands for national liberation.

The Tibetans manifestly now have a national self-identity which makes Stalin’s <> checklist of nationality redundant. As Michael Lowy (one of the editors of the new Socialist Resistance magazine - £10 for 5 issues) remarked in his book Fatherland or Mother Earth “the consciousness of a national identity and a national political movement, is no less important.”

Andy makes the point that “breaking the unity of the historical Chinese state and nation will not strengthen the Chinese people in their struggle for economic and democratic progress, but only carve China up at the mercy of the imperialists.” You could flip that proposition. By denying the Tibetans their right to self determination the Chinese bureaucracy is creating an opportunity for the imperialists to actively engage in Chinese politics. Nancy Pelosi’s meeting with the Dalai Lama yesterday was just such an intervention. The irony is that the the rioters on the streets no longer seem to be taking a political lead from a religious leader whom they see as too willing to accommodate to the bureaucracy and they certainly were not demanding a confessional state.

At least since the League of Nations the imperialists have been using rhetoric about democracy, freedom and civil rights in the wars of ideology, often with a great deal of success. A socialist response to this has to include an assertion that we are the strongest defenders of these things. We don’t do this by accepting the Chinese government’s line <> that its state is eternally indivisible but rather by supporting the rights of oppressed nationalities when they say they want to rule themselves. 

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 03/25/2008 - 09:05


CRACKDOWN: China's Brutal Olympic Echo

China's crackdown against Tibetan protesters ahead of the Summer Olympics in Beijing carries with it a brutal echo from the past. Scores of people, including school children are reported dead and more repression has been promised. The People's Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), said "[We must] resolutely crush the 'Tibet independence' forces' conspiracy and sabotaging activities."

Even after decades of occupation, the ruthlessness of the crackdown has shocked much of the world. It happens the week after the US State Department removed China from its list of the world's worst human rights offenders.

Yet the concern expressed by world leaders has seemed less for the people of Tibet than the fate of the Summer Games, with Olympic cash deemed more precious than Tibetan blood. The Olympics were supposed to be China's multibillion-dollar, super sweet sixteen. Britain's Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, Mark Malloch-Brown told the BBC, "This is China's coming-out party, and they should take great care to do nothing that will wreck that."

Other countries hankering after a piece of China's thriving economy have rushed to put daylight between the crackdown in Tibet and the Olympics. No surprise, the Bush's White House, underwriting their war in Iraq on loans from Beijing, headed off any talk that President Bush would cancel his appearance at the Olympic Games when spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush believed that the Olympics "should be about the athletes and not necessarily about politics." Earlier, the European Union said a "boycott would not be the appropriate way to address the work for respect of human rights, which means the ethnic and religious rights of the Tibetans."

While the nations of the West have ruled out the idea of boycotting the games, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday that the EU should at least consider boycotting the opening ceremony if violence continues. Later Kouchner backtracked, saying "We're not in favor of it. When you're dealing in international relations with countries as important as China, obviously when you make economic decisions it's sometimes at the expense of human rights. That's elementary realism.''

Whatever happens next, China's crackdown is not happening in spite of the Beijing Olympics, but because of them. It is a bold play by China to set a tone for the remainder of the year. Since its occupation of the country in 1951, China has suppressed its Buddhist faith and made Tibetans a persecuted minority in their own country via the mass migration of millions of Han Chinese. As monks and young Tibetans took their grievances to the streets over the weekend, the government made clear it would brook no protest and tolerate no dissent.

But it's helpful to remember that in many countries, including our own, pre-Olympic repression is as much of a tradition as lighting the torch.

In 1984, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates oversaw the jailing of thousands of young black men in the infamous Olympic Gang Sweeps. Gates also sent the LA Swat Team to Israel and West Berlin for special training.

The 1996 Atlanta games were supposed to demonstrate the gains of the New South, but the New South ended up looking much like the old one, as public housing was razed to make way for Olympic venues, homeless people were chased off the streets and perceived trouble-makers were arrested. As Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project recently recalled in Vancouver, BC, another city poised to crack down on crime, drugs and homelessness in preparation for the Winter Olympics in 2010, Atlanta officials "had six ordinances that made all kinds of things illegal, including lying down. Lots of people were shipped out, and lots of people were put in jail. [The Olympic Planning Committee] actually built the city jail. Activists there called it the first Olympic project completed on time."

Repression followed the Olympic Rings to Greece in 2004. As the radio program "Democracy Now," reported at the time, authorities in Athens "round[ed] up homeless people, drug addicts and the mentally ill, requiring that psychiatric hospitals lock them up." The pre-Olympics "cleanup" included detaining or deporting refugees and asylum-seekers. Being the first Olympics after 9/11, police surveillance of immigrant Muslims and makeshift mosques in Athens greatly increased.

But the worst example of Olympic repression--and the most resonantto the current moment--came in 1968 in Mexico City, where hundreds of Mexican students and workers occupying the National University were slaughtered in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas on October 2, 1968, ten days before the start of the games. Recently declassified documents paint a picture of a massacre as cold and methodical as President Luis Echeverría's instructions.

Echeverría's aim was the same as China's: a pre-emptive strike to make sure that using the Olympic games as a platform for protest would not be on the itinerary. The irony, of course, is that while Echeverría succeeded in crushing the protest movement outside the games, on the inside US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in an expression of Black Power, cementing the 1968 games as a place defined by discontent. It's a lesson the 2008 athletes might remember. Officials may try to smother dissent on the streets of Lhasa and elsewhere in China, but in the games themselves--from the path of the Olympic torch up Mount Everest to the opulent venues constructed in Beijing--the risk for protest, and the opportunity, is real.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to Contact him at]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 04/08/2008 - 09:08


Tibet's new resistance to Chinese repression

By David Whitehouse | March 28, 2008 | 

TIBETAN PROTESTS against Chinese repression have escalated into a series of riots and confrontations in Tibet and three neighboring provinces.

The protests began March 10 when Buddhist monks gathered near a monastery in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to commemorate a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Security forces arrested several monks and forcibly broke up the gathering.

In the following days, the city's old Tibetan Quarter erupted in riots in response to the news about confrontations between robed monks and armored riot police. By March 16, Tibetans throughout the region, including Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces, took to the streets in crowds numbering from 100 to 3,000, according to reports gathered by TibetInfoNet.

The Chinese central government has sent in tens of thousands of security forces to shut down the protests. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao blamed the agitation on the "Dalai clique" of the exiled Dalai Lama, who leads a Tibetan "government in exile" from Dharamsala, India.

The protests threaten to tarnish China's image in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics in August, so the government has avoided an overt declaration of martial law. President Hu Jintao rose to prominence in the Communist Party for leading a crackdown in Tibet in 1989.

The Dalai Lama denied organizing the movement, and distanced himself from its violence. The Beijing government claims that 13 ethnic Chinese died in the Lhasa riots, but the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile claims the victims, numbering nearly 100 so far, are Tibetans killed by Chinese armed forces.

The Dalai Lama is probably correct to say that he hasn't controlled the direction the protests have taken, but his close followers clearly promoted the initial phases of the movement. The monks' March 10 action in Lhasa was coordinated with a demonstration in Nepal and an attempt of exiled Tibetans to march from India to Tibet.

Mirroring the Chinese repression, Indian and Nepalese officials shut down the local protests out of fear of antagonizing their important neighbor, China--and to avoid encouraging ethnic insurgencies in their own countries.

Criticism of the Chinese crackdown was likewise muted from U.S. and European officials, apparently in light of China's importance to their own economic future. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for example, merely urged the Chinese to "show restraint" toward protesters.

On the other hand, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared with the Dalai Lama during a previously planned visit to Dharamsala. She called on the world to take note of the Tibetans' plight--but like the Dalai Lama himself, she stopped short of a call for countries to boycott the Olympics.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE TARGETS of the protests reflect the grievances of Tibetans. Religious and cultural freedoms are at the center of their demands. Tibetan students and governmental employees, for example, are banned from Buddhist religious observance, and images of the Dalai Lama--Tibet's chief religious figure--are illegal.

But Tibet is also the poorest region in China, and the country's rapid economic growth of recent years has left most Tibetans behind. One-third still live below the official poverty line of $150 yearly income.

The class divide in China has a strong ethnic character. Han (or ethnic) Chinese dominate business, including the growth sectors--tourism and real estate--along with a small elite of Mandarin-speaking Tibetans. Han Chinese individuals and businesses were the main targets of the Lhasa riots.

Outside Lhasa, however, "the protesters' anger was largely focused on symbols of state power and government-owned properties," according to TibetInfoNet.

Prosperity was supposed to follow when the first railroad link to the rest of China was completed two years ago, but many Tibetans say the railroad only brought more Han Chinese, who have bought up prime properties in Tibetan neighborhoods.

In addition, a program of forced relocation of Tibetan herders--affecting 10 percent of the population since 2006--has bred widespread resentment. The program requires the Tibetans to pay most of the cost and do most of the construction, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Chinese officials say that the new housing is necessary for hygenic reasons--to separate the herders from the diseases of their livestock. But many are now separated completely from their animals, their main source of income. Without job skills or Mandarin education, these displaced herders face unemployment, according to HRW.

Economic grievances like these, which mirror the experience of Han Chinese workers and peasants elsewhere, have fueled the protests as they have spread beyond the monks. Wang Lixiong, a Beijing-based Tibet specialist, noted the expanded scope of the protests in an interview with Inter Press Service.

"The last major unrest in Tibet in 1987 and the riots of 1989...were limited to...Lhasa and involved only monks, intellectuals and students," Wang said. "But today's unrest has spread over all Tibetan areas, and there are people from all walks, including peasants and workers."

In fact, the Tibetan movement takes place six years into a rising movement of strikes, riots and demonstrations that have involved millions of Chinese peasants and workers since 2002.

The Chinese leadership, including Hu Jintao, the engineer of the last Tibetan crackdown, is well aware that Tibetan protests and price inflation were precursors to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. But this time, incomparably larger social forces have already moved into action.

It could turn into a long Olympic year for Chinese officials. It could also be a breakthrough year for the social movements--if they can find political common ground that allows them to reach beyond the sectional and regional limits that have kept them isolated from each other so far.