Fri Jul 19, 2024
July 19, 2024

Rebellion in Tibet – Studies

On the 14th March this year, Lhasa, the capital of Tibet served as scenery for massive demonstrations initiated by about 100 Buddhist monks, who commemorated the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Chinese occupation. After the police repression, which may have claimed as many as 203 lives according to the Tibetan government in exile, demonstrations spread into the rest of the country.

The greatest rebellion since 1987, remained out of control until 17th when a threat of worse repressions were issued, but independent sources report that clashes still take place even now.

The Dalai Lama, a Buddhist leader and head of the government in exile, was accused by Peking of having schemed it all in order to damage the image of social harmony carefully cultivated by the Chinese government to welcome the Olympic Games in August. The Dalai Lama denied such accusations and, in the same tone, American ambassador in China, requested opening of dialogue with the Chinese government and that “Tibetan comrades should not resort to violence”.[1]

One country, two systems

Tibet lies to the south east of China and is part of its territorial unity even if Tibetan ethnic roots, culture and language are different from those of the majority of Chinese population.[2]

When the socialist revolution took place in 1949, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) occupied the country. The new Chinese workers’ state could have carried out an enormously progressive task if they had expropriated the dominating class in Tibet, politically represented by Buddhist monks, and nationalised and distributed the land among the peasants, who lived in precapitalist relations of production.

The other great democratic task of the CPC would be to grant the Chinese people the possibility of choosing whether they preferred to become part of the Workers’ State o rather supported national independence.

Finally, they did neither. They instituted the principle of “one country, two systems” which, in the practice, stood for “an alliance between communists and the Tibetan dominating class, who would cooperate in the consolidation of Chinese sovereignty”. That is why an agreement was signed where the Dalai Lama government accepted the Autonomous Region of Tibet (ART)[3]as part of China, the permanence of the People’s Liberation Army and the leadership over foreign policy by the central government. In consideration of this, social religious systems would remain intact. Ever since then, Chinese presence in Tibet increased enormously and rebellion in quest of national independence began. The first one took place in 1959. On that occasion, the defeat of the movement led to nearly 87 000 deaths and caused the Dalai Lama to flee with 80 000 followers to India.

During the Cultural Revolution period, communes were created and 99% of the land became collective property, religious practice was forbidden. In spite of the fact that it was a progressive task, it was carried out bureaucratically and Chinese occupation continued.

Capitalist restoration

Since 1978, Chinese bureaucracy has been trying to change the old status of “one country, two systems”. A new agreement was signed: exemption from taxes for landowners, who recovered their property, the end of the communes created during the Cultural Revolution, investments by the central power for economic development of the ART while “autonomy” was maintained and so was religious freedom.

But in September 1987, people once more  went out in quest of their independence and demonstrated for 17 months, until martial law was imposed. Wang Lixiong, Chinese historian and defender of the current administration, has stated, “In secular terms, the reaction of Tibetans to the liberalisation of the 80s is hard to understand. Another form of analysis is necessary.” And he concludes, “Even if all the other religions were about to become extinct, Tibetan beliefs would be preserved, probably, till Doom’s Day.” This explanation is the same as that of the followers of Dalai Lama, “Communism failed in Tibet and has never been up to competing with the rich spiritual Buddhist message”.[4]

{module Propaganda 30 anos – MORAL}There may be a simpler and more material explanation: the devolution of the land to the former owners, the maintenance of the peasants in their poverty and the continuity of Chinese occupation prepared the powders for the monks to make the explosion. Just to have an idea of oppression exerted by China: 60% of Tibetan peasants are half illiterate, Chinese is the official language at schools up to the high school level and university included and over 70% of the vacancies are covered by Chinese.

Also the dominating class has lost foothold with the restoration, for capitalist development favoured bureaucracy and the new Chinese bourgeois in the first place and they became the owners of most of the business in the capital city. In the region of Bharkor Market, for example, out of 4 000 shops, 400 belong to Tibetans. That is the reason for which among the targets of popular fury we can find the downtown business premises and their Chinese owners.[5] [6]

For the right to self-determination          

Before Restoration, Tibet suffered national oppression exerted by a deformed Workers’ State.. Even though it was not a sovereign country, Chinese presence there was not aimed at exploiting peasants – this was left up to the landowners., who took advantage of the class alliance with the CP of China, expressed in the formula “one country, two systems”.

With the restoration, the occupation was exerted by a bourgeois State and formula became “one country, one system”: the capitalist system. Tibetan dominating class was driven out of their businesses by the Chinese bourgeoisie who started exploiting the new proletariat of the white collar sector. Apart from being oppressed, now Tibet has become colonised, with a puppet administration and under military occupation.

Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan owners an spokesman for imperialist interests, never allowed the struggle for independence to trespass the frontiers of class and exerted a rigid control over the toiling masses by transforming a political struggle into a “religious struggle”.

The role of a revolutionary party in this case is what Lenin proposed in 1914 in relation to the struggle for the independence of Poland from Russia, “acknowledging the equality of rights and the equal right to a national state, he values the alliance of the proletarians of all nations above everything else, assessing every national demand, every national separation” from the point of view of workers’ class struggle”.[7]The independence of Tibet is a right of its people to self-determination, in spite of their counterrevolutionary leadership, who wishes independence so as to cling on to the arm of American imperialism. Revolutionaries must defend this right, and at the same time struggle to separate the peasantry and the proletariat from their exploiters – Chinese or Tibetan – building an independent movement in close alliance with the Chinese working class for a new socialist revolution in China and in Tibet..   

[1]Deaths reported in Tibet protests,, 15/03/2008

[2]Chinaconsists of 55 nationalities apart from the ethnical majority Han, which comprises 94% of the population.

[3]Wang Lixiong, Reflections on Tibet, New Left Review, March- April 2oo2

[4]Tibetwas divided into 5 regions: Central Tibet, autonomous region and Sicuani. Quinghai, Gansu and YUnman. The total population is of 4.7 million, but about 1 million are considered in exile.

[5]Lobsang Sangay, Chinain Tibet: forty years of liberation or occupation? Harvard, Asia Quarterly, V.·. Nr 3, 1999

[6]I.V. Lenin, On the right of the nations to self-determination. Chose works, V.1, Ed. Alfa-Omega, page 523


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