Tibet: No struggle for freedom

The rioting that started in Tibet on 14 March was quickly seized on by the imperialist media as a stick with which to beat China. There followed widely-reported protests as the Olympic torch made its passage through Europe. However, claims that what was taking place was a struggle for national liberation are wide of the mark, as THOMAS VINCENT reports.

Before the revolution: the rule of brute force and superstition
The socialist revolution which started in 1951 was a historic advance for the mass of Tibetan people.* Prior to the revolution the majority of Tibetans were held in serf slavery to the religious and secular aristocracy, and below this around 5% of the population were ‘chattel slaves’, lacking even the right to grow crops for themselves and were often starved, beaten or worked to death. The religious and secular aristocracy and the government accounted for 2% of the population, with just 626 people out a population of two to three million owning 93% of all land and wealth and 70% of yaks. Serfs worked 16 to 18 hours a day, keeping only a quarter of the food they grew, whilst the ruling classes spent their time eating, gambling, memorising religious dogma and relaxing. Poor monks were subject to menial labour and beatings from the upper abbots. To be a woman was considered proof of sins in a past life. Women were forbidden from raising their eyes above a man’s knees and husbands were permitted to slice off the end of their wife’s nose as punishment for sleeping with another man. Freedom of religion was forbidden, and women were reportedly burnt to death for practising the pre-Buddhist traditional religion of Bon. Armed gangs were employed by the aristocracy to enforce their rule, combined with groups of monks known as the ‘Iron Bars’ after the metal rods they used to beat people. Whipping a person to the point of death and then leaving them to die elsewhere was considered consistent with the Buddhist conception of ‘non-violence’.


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