Tibet is situated on the Qingzang (Qinghai-Tibet) Plateau in an area of approximately 2.5 million sq. km. It has the world's highest mountains and several large, rushing rivers. Its unique culture, celebrated monasteries and its magnificent scenery make it attractive and mysterious. Tibetans are nomads, or farmers raising barley, yak, and sheep. Today, Tibet inhabits 6 million Tibetan in addition to an undetermined number of Chinese.
The Tibetans are a Mongolies people and their religion is Lamaism (a sect of Budahism). About 10% of the population are Lamas (monks). Religion is most important in the life of Tibetans. The religion here is Lamaism, a sect of Buddhism that believes strongly in reincarnation and a torturous hell for sinners. Till 1949, Tibetans were divided into two classes - slaves and slave owners - in a feudal state, ruled by the Dalai-Lama.
The people of Tibet have suffered from a harsh history. Since the 17th century and till the last years, high preistes of the Lamaism ruled Tibet. In the past, the Chinese ruling (that came during the 18th century instead of the Mongloian governement ) existed, and the country was close to forigners. During the years 1912 - 1950 Tibet was independent and allowed Britan to establish commerce in its area. In 1951 Tibet was to the People's Republic of China. Consequently, in 1959 the Dalai-Lama , the religious and ruler of Tibet , had to flee the country , and the Chinese ÞÙàÕ ê×êÙÕ his ÞéàÔ, Panchen -Lama. In 1964 , Tibet became an Autonomous Region of China under a communist government. In the late 70's and the 80's, capitalism was restored in Tibet, but it remained a part of China. During these time the people have suffered greatly, especially by a violation of their human rights and by depriving them of their religion.
It is important to explain what is the Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution was inciated by Mao in order to supress his oppenents in China, the revisionists. This revolution, that took place between 1966 to 1968, undermined the Cultural traditions and the accepted norms, and thus was a subject to great criticism. As well as China, Tibet also suffered from the revisionists try to halt the revolution. Since the revisionists were a large faction in Tibet, the Red Guard struggled them and eventually defeated them. In short, the Cultural Revolution which aimed to suppress Mao's opponents in china, took place in Tibet as well.
Answering the research question demands the examination of the events of the specific time, the circumstances, the causes and the consequences. This will be done through three chapters:
In the first chapter, I will examine China's invasion to Tibet. The invasion is considered as a brutal and ruthless suppression of the people's right of independence. The invasion could not be stopped due to China's superior power. Hence, China is blamed of being imperialist and Han Chauvinistic.
In the second chapter, I will examine the struggle between Mao's supporters and the revisionists. The ten-year struggle was a period of continuos fight of both parties: the revisionists and the Red Guards. While the revisionists wanted to turn Tibet into their own capitalist state, the Red Guards, who represented the people, prevented them from proceeding with their plan.
In the third chapter, I will examine the revolution's achievements. The People's Communes, the shattering of the "four olds" and the dismantling of the monasteries would prove whether the revolution did harm the Tibetan people to the degree of genocide or whether it was their own actions against their former oppressors and upper classes, which is regarded as a genocide.
To conclude, I will come to the answer through the research of three periods of the Cultural Revolution. My answer will be answered after thorough examination and research. I will try to clear the confusion and state the exact nature of this revolution. The Chinese Invasion of Tibet
Many consider China's invasion to Tibet as a intrusion of the colonialist communist China. They say that China invaded Tibet in order to srengthen her position in the world and especially against USSR and the western allies. But was it really like that? Did China invade Tibet ruthlessly? In this chapter I would try to answer those questions.
The Period before the Invasion
In 1949 Mao's PLA (People's Liberation Army) has defeated all the main reactionary armies in main China. The only enemy left was the western imperialist forces. The reaction of the western world to the Cultural Revolution was very negative: French troops Ô × à Õ i n Vietnam and U.S. forces landed in Korea, all destined to end this new government of the people.
The landscapes near China's bordrs are inhabited by differnt national groups, which differ from China's majority Han people. One of those regions, Tibet, had been locally ruled by a class of serf-owners, headed by monk-abbots of large Lamaist Buddhist monasteries. During the Chinese civil war, Tibet's ruling class tried to found an "independent" state in order to prevent a revolution in their feudalist country, even if it was really under a British rule. A map of Tibet
Maoist revolutionaries were determined to bring the revolution to Tibet. They wished to secure China's borders from any invasion and to liberate the millions of oppressed Tibetan serfs. There was no doubt that China's army could easily defeat the Tibetan army, but they knew that they must earn the people's trust because no revolution can succeed without their support.
Only one problem faced the revolutionaries: the region of Tibet was completely isolated during the Chinese revolution, and consequently had no force to carry out the liberation. There were no Tibetan communists or rebel underground. The masses of Tibet had never heard of the revolution, instead they had been taught that their misery and poverty were caused by their own sinfulness.
According to Mao Tsetung, a true revolution must rely on the masses. This principle, called "Mass Line", advocates that the revolution depends on the people's needs, wishes and the action they take. Objectively the masses need a change, but subjectively they aren't conscious of the need, nor willing to make the change. Mao called for patience. He said that China should wait till the masses would become conscious of the need and would be willing to carry it out.
A Peaceful Breakthrough
In October 1950 the PLA advanced into southwest China. At Chamdo, they defeated an army sent by the Tibetan ruling class and stopped. Then, they send a message to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.
The deal they were offered was this: Tibet would be reattached to the Chinese republic, and for the time being the regime of Tibetan serf-owners could continue to rule as a local government. China would not abolish the feudal relations or offend the Lamaist religion until the people supported such changes. The PLA would safeguard the borders from imperialist intervention, and foreign agents would be expelled from Lhasa.
The Tibetan serf-owners signed this special "17-point agreement" and on October 26, 1951, the people's Liberation Army peacefully marched in Lhasa, greeted by the local inhabitants.
Both sides knew that struggle would eventually brake out. How long could the aristocrats and monasteries continue to enslave their serfs, while everyone could not see Han peasants who had liberated themselves from similar conditions?
The most powerful serf-owners families started to plan an armed uprising. The Dalai Lama's brother traveled abroad to contact the CIA in order to get arms and political recognition. Monasteries organized secret meetings and spread wild rumors among the masses. For example, Han revolutionaries were accused by the monks of fueling their trucks with blood of stolen Tibetan children. Moreover, long mule-trains of US arms headed from India to key Tibetan monasteries. The CIA set up combat training centers for its agents in addition to dropping weapons into Tibet.
In conclusion, it is clear that China had mainly wished to secure the borders from imperialist invasion and reveal to the Tibetan people the truth about their status. They didn't plan to conquer Tibet or to impose Communism on its inhabitants. Their intentions were good. It was intended to give the people the needed time to adjust to the revolutionary ideas till they themselves would carry them out.
The Great Struggle of the Revolution
The revolution was in fact a ten-year struggle. The upper classes, which were the target of the Maoist revolution, portray the Cultural Revolution as a senseless nightmare of fanaticism and destruction. Even today, the current ruling government provides unreliable anti-revolutionary accounts regarding the revolution. In addition, the revolutionary activists in Tibet haven't found a way to make their own story heard. Many of them are undoubtedly in prison or dead. It is important to clear the confusion and explain what has happened.
The Struggle between Mao's Line and the Revisionist Line
In august 1966 Mao Testung called on the masses of people to rise up against the government. The struggle rage he unleashed was the rage across China for the next ten years. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was on.
The radical message of the Red Guards found an eager audience. A core group of youth from serf and slave backgrounds now knew how to read and had learned basic Maoist principles about the revolution. Immediately, students of Lhasa High School and the nearby Tibet Teacher's Training School formed their own Red Guard organizations. They were in no mood to wait for orders. They debated how to push the revolution forward and took action immediately.
Many don't know that a conflict had existed between Mao and the revisionist faction in the Communist Party of China. This faction called for building a "modern" China, but really wanted to abolish feudalism and establish a national state. Of course, they wanted to halt the revolutionary changes. Mao understood that their imitation of capitalist methods would leave the masses of people powerless. Mao labeled such forces "revisionists" and "phony communists."
Mao's line called for a continuing revolutionary process conducted step by step, a process that fundamentally relied on, and organized the masses of Tibetan people themselves. Thus, he urged for building a revolutionary organization in Tibet during the 1950s.
Consequently, by the 1960s, a great alliance of Tibet's serfs and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had shattered the heart of the old oppressive society. Their targets were revolutionary: liberating the masses from serfdom and slavery, seizing lands from the ruling class and forbidding old oppressive practices. This was an application of Mao's line.
But, this wasn't enough. Mao believed that a land reform alone won't liberate the masses of people, but that a systematic development of a new collective organization in the countryside would bring the revolution. In his opinion, this organization should pull the peasants' resources in various ways, such as digging irrigation, building roads and creating peasant militias and schools. In short, Mao called for a socialist collectivization, which is the basis for a flowering of a new liberating Tibetan culture, in contrary to the old oppressing Tibetan culture, which was based mainly on religion.
But the powerful revisionist forces didn't want Tibet to continue the socialist revolutionary way. They were against socialist measures, including both collective land ownership and an autonomous industrial base. Instead, they wanted to develop "efficient" systems for exploiting Tibet's wealth, so the region could quickly contribute to the "modern" China they envisioned. The revisionists wanted to eliminate the aspects of Tibetan feudalism that held back increased production. Instead, they intended to use the feudal organizations and ideology as instruments for establishing a new revisionist order.
In conclusion, the revisionist line for Tibet was essentially a plan for a new oppressive order in which the revisionists (in alliance with the old oppressors) relied on military means to exploit Tibet. This "capitalist road" was sharply opposed to Mao's line in every way.
The Struggle between the Revisionists and the Red Guard
In 1966 the revisionists in Tibet had enough power to seize power over Tibet. They controlled the army and had powerful connections in Peking. The top Tibetan revisionist was PLA General Zhang Guohua, who had arrived in 1950 and saw Tibet as his private "kingdom."
The Revisionists Forces
Zhang's forces planned to ride out Mao's new campaign. They used the tactic of "waving the red flag to oppose the red flag." When the Cultural Revolution was announced, they organized their own official "Cultural Revolution Group." They literally "painted Lhasa red" - announcing that every house should fly the red flag and display a Mao poster. Loudspeakers broadcast revolutionary songs and streets were given new names. In response to these moves and ostensibly enthusiasm for the revolution, Tibet's authorities announced that "there are not two lines here in Tibet". To their opinion, the reactionary forces were the bands of CIA-backed feudalists. Thus, the armed struggle by the PLA against those forces was still needed.
The revisionists wanted the Cultural Revolution in Tibet to be confined to orderly production, efficient and quiet study, and army actions. They sent squads to every factory and school to assure that the growing Red Guard movement did not get out of their control. Powerful forces in Peking tried to drive the Red Guard out of Tibet. They even gave the Red Guards a going-away dinner party. But the Red Guards refused to leave.
The Red Guards
The Cultural Revolution had stuck Tibet like a thunderbolt. Red Guards formed everywhere and rocked the houses. Some Red Guard organizations immediately seized the Jokhang shrine in Lhasa--declaring war on those who tolerated continued feudal oppression and superstition. Additionally, many buildings were taken over by Red Guards. Consequently, shocked authorities declared these acts illegal and "counter-revolutionary".
The Red Guards didn't let go of the ruling party. They demanded to know why senior Party officials kept putting forward serf-owners and top lamas, like the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Ngawang Jigme Ngabo, as "leaders of the Tibetan people". Furthermore, Red Guards revealed that Deng Xiaoping, a revisionist party member, even suggested recruiting Tibet's upper strata lamas, which used to be the masses' oppressors as Communist Party members.
But, the revisionist line couldn't continue in its course. Hundreds of Red Guard groups united to form the Revolutionary Rebels. Large numbers of young Tibetans joined the Revolutionary Rebels from the beginning and many more Tibetan older cadres joined the struggle enthusiastically. They were based on the masses: the new generation of Tibetan activists and students, Han truck drivers, ordinary soldiers, lower-level cadre, and Red Guards who arrived from other parts of China.
Tibetans were involved in both sides of this revolution. Some, recruited and trained by the revisionists, hoped to become a new elite, called by Maoists the "bourgeois Royalists." Others, especially among the ex-slave and ex-serf youth, were eager to push the revolution forward toward socialism.
From 1967, the Revolutionary Rebels have succeeded in gaining control of Tibet. In January, when Maoist organizations seized power in Shanghai, Tibet's Revolutionary Rebels declared that they too would seize power from Zhang, "the overlord of Tibet". In February, worker-rebels at the Linchih Woolen Textile complex took over their factory--it was the first power seizure of Tibet's Cultural Revolution. Revolutionary Rebels seized the "Tibet Daily" newspaper and part of the capital. These were brave and dangerous moves.
The revisionists responded as expected. Fearing arrest, Zhang plotted a counterattack and then fled Lhasa. Loyal police units started a conservative "Red Guard" group, called the Great Alliance. It included upper-level party officials and Tibetan aristocrat-cadre. Within weeks, army units suppressed the Revolutionary Rebels with the backing of the Great Alliance. This coup was driven back when Mao Tsetung told the army to "support the masses of the left."
Finally, the Cultural Revolution took a different path. In September 1968, a new government, the Tibetan Revolutionary Committee, was established united around Mao's line. Once this new revolutionary power was consolidated, the Cultural Revolution entered a new phase.
In conclusion, it is clear that the ten first years were a struggle between the people's forces and the revisionists. While the revisionists wanted to build their own capitalist state, the Red Guard called for the liberation of the masses. Fortunately, the Red Guard has won and in 1968 the Tibetan people has taken it its first step towards a new order.
The Achievements of the Revolution
Now that the Red Guards were in power, it was time to set out the revolution. The People's Communes represented the most productive and revolutionary change. The revolution even took place in the minds of the people, when the "four olds" were shattered and replaced by the "four news". Eventually, the feudal fortresses were dismantled and a new society emerged in Tibet.
One of the major points in the liberation of Tibet's people is the revolutionization of land ownership and production. The land reform of the early 1960s created a new oppression as rich and poor reappeared. The serfs weren't organized enough to face the feudal restoration.
However, with the victory of Mao's line in 1969, new farms started to be organized throughout Tibet's countryside. These were called People's Communes. In each commune the land was worked collectively by hundreds of peasants. By 1970 about 666 communes were operating in 34% of the region. These changes required patient political work and fierce class struggle. Moreover, People's dictatorship was exercised over the oppressors (serf-owners and top lamas), who had to work now too.
The achievements of the People's communes were uncountable. The collective labor brought irrigation and drinking water to 80% of the farmlands. Food production in Tibet doubled. Furthermore, it was possible to organize rural schools, mass education and rural theaters. Women received their rights and old people were taken care of. Thousand of doctors were trained among the serfs, and consequently 80% of Tibet's hospital beds were in rural areas. In addition, the peasant's political power increased greatly and commune members were trained and armed by the PLA. These militias hunted the Dalai Lama's CIA-trained contra-bands and were a proof of the support for the revolution among the Tibetan masses. Moreover, the new socialist industrial base helped the masses in producing electricity, serving agricultural needs, manufacturing good and improving the food quality.
Revolution in the Thinking of the People
The main goal of the Cultural Revolution was to shatter the "four olds": old ideas, old customs, old culture and old habits. Before the revolution, many matters were considered taboos, such as iron plows, tanning hides, canning milk, surgery, antibiotics and metal working. Women were forbidden to discuss certain subjects. The revisionists used the religious superstitions as an instrument to hold back the revolution.
However, new ways were discovered to help the people to liberate themselves. The spread of Communist ideology played a key role in the revolution of the mind. Red Books were distributed and made the quotations of Chairman Mao popular, as well as revolutionary songs. Moreover, sacred animals were now hunted and "iron brigades" broke plowing taboos.
The fight against the Lamas Dismantling the Feudal Fortresses of the Lamas
Many consider the dismantling of the monasteries a "mindless destruction" and "cultural genocide". But this view ignores the true class nature of these monasteries. The monasteries, which were the target of the Cultural Revolution, were emptied and physically dismantled. These fortresses were armed and controlled the peasants for centuries. During the revolution they provoked fear that the old will return and conspired behind monastery walls. Dismantling them was anything but "mindless". These were political acts to liberate the people. Most of this dismantling was done by Tibetan serfs, who were led by revolutionary activists. The ex-serfs entered the holy monasteries for the first time and revealed all the wealth stolen over centuries. Some building materials were taken in order to build houses and roads. Later in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution a few Lamaist monasteries were restored in order to serve as religious shrines and national museums. But they should never again be used as feudal fortresses.
The fight against the Four Olds Difficult Struggles over the Four Olds and the Four News
One of the challenges the Cultural Revolution faced was: what practices were reactionary feudal culture and what practices were Tibetan national culture? Should people wear the old braided hairstyles of serfdom? Could people bless each other when they meet? The "four olds" were criticized, and the revolution brought with it the "four news": new ideas, new customs, new culture and new habits.
Thanks to Mao's line the Tibetan culture has flourished. Although Han chauvinism (anti-Tibetan prejudices among the majority Han people) has remained a problem, the Tibetan culture had succeeded to blossom. For example, a single Tibetan dialect was promoted, Tibetan typewriters were developed, films were dubbed into Tibetan, millions of books were published in Tibetan. Furthermore, Tibetan festivals were transformed to celebrate the people's new triumphs, such as their People's Communes and their rich harvests. In addition, new revolutionary leaders were developed among the Tibetans. By 1975, half of the tope leaders were native Tibetans, and half of the Tibetan cadre consisted of women.
A statement said by a young revolutionary son of a slave-herdsman named Jedi is the most appropriate to sum up the revolution's benefits: "Where would I be, what would we the people of Tibet be like, if Chairman Mao and the Revolution had not come to us?"
The Last Great Battles
The revolution had brought many achievements to the people of Tibet. There were no more serfs and owners. The life of the people improved. Disease declined. The population increased. The numbing isolation of old Tibet was broken. Literacy and basic scientific knowledge spread among the people. These achievements functioned, in addition to improving peoples' life, as a barrier for the revisionists plan to turn the Tibetan people into slaves of a capitalist China.
But the struggle between Maoism and revisionism was not over. In 1971 a high-level military coup was defeated in Peking. In consequences, Ren Rong, a leader of the "Feburary Adverse Current" emerged as the new leader of Tibet. A cold, rightist chill crept over Tibet.
A new campaign was launched in order to bring back the "four basic freedoms" (to practice religion, to trade, to lend money with interest, to hire laborers and servants). Upper classes started to reappear all over Tibet. The Dalai Lama was negotiated to bring him back as a prominent figurehead.
The revolutionary forces responded quickly. They regrouped and in 1972 launched a new campaign criticizing "bourgeois extravagance, capitalistic profit and economic waste". Consequently, the intrigue with the Dalai Lama was halted and in 1974 a national campaign was launched against capitalist restoration. They warned from the "capitalist roaders who were still on the capitalist road".
But unfortunately, the revisionists won this tense struggle. In October 1976, shortly after Mao's death, the revisionist right staged a coup in Peking. They arrested many of Mao's supporters and began a countrywide purge of revolutionaries. The program of the revisionists came to full effect in the late 1970s, after Mao's enemy's, Deng Xiaoping, rise to power. This led to the military suppression of the Tibetan people in the 1980s, the restoration of monastic rights, the exploitation of Tibet for mineral wealth and lumber, and the use of commercialized "Tibetan culture". All these capitalist steps were possible thanks to the defeat of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and Mao's line. Conclusion
In my research I have drawn the conclusion, that the Cultural Revolution in Tibet was not genocide, but a people's revolution. The people were the ones who led the revolution and have come up with their great achievements. It is clear that this revolution did not harm or suppressed the Tibetan people's rights. On the contrary, it liberated them for the oppression of the feudalist ruling.
The Chinese invasion to Tibet was done peacefully and fairly. Although China had the power to crash Tibet and conquer it, they didn't. Instead they approached the local government with an agreement. They have done nothing to urge the revolution. They have waited patiently and gave the people the knowledge in order to liberate themselves and revolt against their government.
The harsh struggle between the revisionists and the Red Guards was all the fault of the revisionist side. The revolution, which gathered a large audience of supporters, faced the revisionist forces. They intended China to be their own state, which would provide slaves to capitalist China. Fortunately, their plan was tackled and the Maoists succeeded to reach power.
The achievements of the revolution are the most significant proof for the success and the true nature of the revolution. The People's Communes improved peoples' life. The education provided a basis for more hospitals, theters and cinemas, books and even native leaders. Thanks to Mao's line, the Tibetan culture has prospered during the years of the revolution. In addition, the monasteries were dismantled and abolished and lost their power over the people.
In conclusion, the Cultural Revolution was clearly not genocide, but a people's revolution. The people, who conducted this revolution, had earned their basic rights and left the period of suppression and exploitation. Indeed, the revisionists and oppressors who refused to work were forced to live under the new order, but only the people themselves coerced this order. The Cultural Revolution provided a new equal socialist order in Tibet.
I would like to point our a few personal notes about this paper. I would like to express my experiences and relevant issues of my project.
I have learned much during the process of researching. The site I have visited and the pages I read were more than educative. I found it very interesting, especially since I heard some subjective facts from the western perspective. It's been "refreshing" to hear the other side of the coin, meaning the communist point of view of the Cultural Revolution. Furthermore, I earned much respect among my comrades, which found my paper illuminative.
In addition, this project is relevant even today because of Hollywood's two new movies. One movie is "Seven Years in Tibet" featuring Brad Pitt. The movie portrays the experiences of a western boy, who was caught as a war criminal, while he was travelling to climb the Himalayas. It shows how the hero is mentally change thanks to his relationship with the Dalai-Lama. This movie is clearly an "advertising" for Tibet and its religion, while the monks were the ones who oppressed the people using their religion. Another movie is "Red Corner" featuring Richard Gere. This movie portrays the violation of human rights done by communist China. The American citizen is accused of murder in a corrupt justice system. He has to overcome the obstacles with the help of a Chinese attornet in order to free himself. These two movies have at least one thing in common: they both portray the communists as the "bad guys" and the ones that should be blamed for all the misfortunes and injustices.
Thus, it is important to see these experiences through "communist eyes". As citizens of the western world, we are objects of anti-communist propaganda. Therefore, I wanted to counter these movies, and show the facts from a different perspective. I am not trying to be presumptuous regarding the objectivity of this paper. It is not objective, since no side is objective. I preferred to research through the communist sites and data-sources in order to rebel and oppose the conventions and false facts we're object to by the western propaganda.
To conclude, it was the utmost pleasure to work on this project. I have learned much from the communist sites on the Internet, and even earned a status among my comrades on the net. This project is based on "communists" facts and not as usual western facts. It is not objective, since there is no objective data-source. It's purpose was to counter the conventions, especially in regard to the two new Hollywood movies.