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Fifty Years Ago: Turmoil in Tibet

The rebellion in Tibet, its draconian suppression, and the escape of the Dalai Lama, have exploded like a star-shell to illuminate a world in the Iron Curtain’s dark shadow. Events in Tibet have been compared with the recent suppression in Hungary and while there is a resemblance, both revolts and the backgrounds have been reported everywhere befogged with misunderstanding or misrepresentation by people who do not seem to have a clue as to what the factors are that make society tick.(…)

Most of the 4,500,000 Tibetans actually live within the confines of China in the areas bordering on Tibet. Only about 1,000,000 live in Tibet proper, under political allegiance to Lhasa. Their social classification is roughly: 50,000 nobles and merchants, 150,000 monks, 800,000 serfs. About one-seventh of the population is in the monasteries—more than one man in four. Those who are not in the church have mostly swallowed the religious bait, hook, line and sinker, and live in subjection to the nobles. They live, imprisoned by the ties of these religious convictions. (…)

The trouble in Tibet is a revolt of the feudal rulers against the imposed rule of State-Capitalist China—these are the transgressors in Tibet. Whichever side wins, the underprivileged on either side will still continue to be exploited, even though serfs become wage-slaves. Tibet compares with Hungary in that, once again, it is a quarrel between ruling-cliques and is not worth the shedding of one drop of workers’ blood on either side.

(From article by F, Offord, Socialist Standard, May 1959)