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August 15, 2007



Regarding Tibet, I promise to post up the Mike Ely piece later in the week for it's own feature, online back-up and our usually charming debate and discussion.

That said... let's not let a "competing narrative" tangent overwhelm the underderlying point – which we can discuss considerably more direct, tangible terms than the entirely complex unfolding of Tibetan/Chinese relations and class struggle.


Ansel, check back later.

In the meantime, you can get a headstart on the Tibet discussion by reading the best communist history of Tibet, that is booklet-sized and probably not at all what you expect.

The True Story of Maoist Revolution in Tibet by Mike Ely


The "parallel" doesn't hold because China wasn't enforcing priviledge and power... it was overthrowing it. Maybe anarchism makes you immune to distinctions of this kind, but I hope not.

r. john

The emergence of a Tibet thread is not a bad thing. but it does underscore that the usage of this "blog format" has real limitations for (what has long been) essentially a threaded discussion. JB: there need to be ways for people to create their own threads -- so things can take off on tangents, and so that a multiplicity of threads can be seen and followed.

As it stands now, when one discussion takes off, it unnecessarily "disappears" two or three other (still vital) threads.


r. john

Tibet and that experience injects a number of questions that demand real materialism for a correct resolution:

a) Marxists uphold a right of self-determination (i.e. a right to independence and self governmance) for oppressed nations -- but not for every ethnic grouping and formation. Why is that? Because, in the real world, not every grouping can be independent.

Tibet is an example: this was a highly scattered people, living in feudalism in remote valleys. It never had a coherent national market -- which is objectively a basis (and a measure) of the emergence of a potential nation-state.

The objective fact was that the world was "closing in" on water-tight feudal kingdoms like that -- and had been "closing in rapidly" globally since the mid 1850s. Tibet was one of the few parts of the world NOT YET colonized by western powers because (like other such places, including Afghanistan, or ethiopia) it was just not wealthy enough or strategic enough to bother with.

But after World War 2, such pockets were not going to survive. Tibet could not (and cannot today) function as a self-determined country -- in a very material way, it was going to be part of something larger one way or another.

If it did not remain part of China, it would be dominated by India. If it was not dominated by India, it would be ruled by Anglo-American agents.

And under any of those contingencies, the vast bulk of Tibet would remain (for a long time) essentially unruled by any of them. In that it was very similar to Afghanistan where Indian, British or Russian agents could stage palace coups against each other in Kabul, but the valleys and villages of the countryside would remain under the rule of feudal patriarchs (until a basic change of mode of production emerged).

Given this material fact, self-determination was not an option for Tibet -- for real material reasons. If it had not been incorporated into the maelstrom of the chinese revolution, it would simply have been plucked and used by one or another outside power (while the people remained in one form or another of serfdom to the decrepit lamaists.) It was, in short, not a nation (in the marxist sense) -- a phenomenon which (marxists hold) is tied to the emergence of the bourgeoisie and its national markets.

b) Within the Chinese communist party there were always two lines on how to handle tibet. One, filled by chauvinist views and dreams of modernization -- saw the Tibetan people as hopelessly backward, and basically called for seizing the region, using it, and ignoring its small population.

Mao's line was opposed to that. He saw the hope for tibet being an anti-feudal anti-lamaist revolution of its people.

This approach had to confront a very real problem: There was in 1949 no internal communist force in Tibet. There were literally no Tibetan communists. None. the decades of peasant war in te rest of china had not trickled into the watertight world of the lamaists.

You can export revolution, but one way or another someone has to be there to import it.

And so from 1949 on, the tasks the CPC set for themselves was training sections of the Tibetan literate elite to operate a modern state in Tibet, as an autonomous part of revolutionary china, while training sections of the oppressed to make and lead the masses in revolution. And while, drawing a line -- forbidding and suppressing open armed revolt and pro-imperialist covert operations (which were both truly massive through the 1950s)

It was a complex plan, and proved difficult to carry out.

And as we know, ultimately the first line won out: I.e. Tibet is now dominated by a CPC run by the revisionist forces who are crude in their distain for the masses (and not just in Tibet), and whose vision of "modernity" is not far removed from raw capitalist rape a la "Deadwood."

In that light, the last half of Mike Ely's piece is worth reading. Far too often the discussion is left at his first chapter: which is exposure of Lamaism and pre-revolutionary society -- which was one of the most awful societies known, and one declining with rapid depopulation toward collapse, through raw decadence and religious dogmatism, like a number of earlier "civilizations." But the discussion of the line struggles of the cultural revolution unravel the sharply opposing views (and possibilities) for handling a problem like Tibet in the course of the revolution.

and lets not be naive:

Tibet is unique (like all nationalities). But every great revolution (especially in large multinational states) will have to deal with the dilemma of sections of a large country that is not particularly connected to the revolution.

In Russia it was Poland and the Western Ukraine. (And after the revolution, Poland became an independent fascist state, and the western Ukraine did not.)

Several people have raised the notion of Mississippi, where large sections of the population never reconciled themselves to the outcome of the Civil War.

what about a future revolution... What should be done about Utah? Or Georgia's Cobb County? Should the revolution only prevail in places where it has a majority? and leave the countryside as a checkboard of "independent" fascist states within or along the borders of the new socialist one?


"In Russia, it was Poland and the Western Ukraine..."

And Central, largely Muslim Central Asia...


The implication of the "autonomous" line is not just that "yes", large areas of the country should remain essentially fascist fiefs, but that revolution anywhere, always and forever is intrinsically "authoritarian" and that we should reconcile ourselves to being a permanent, disloyal opposition.

It's genuinely depressing when advocated openly, which it is. It's continually startling when it's argued de facto, and allowed to just sit there among people who should full well know better.

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