This week, the Dalai Lama told a Manhattan gathering that he is a “Marxist”, half-a-century after he fled his homeland of Tibet, following occupation by Chinese Communists.
“Still I am a Marxist,” the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said in New York, where he arrived with an entourage of robed monks and a heavy security detail to give a series of paid public lectures.
Marxism has “moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits”, the Dalai Lama, 74, said, reported ABC News.
But taking a middle path, the world’s most famous Buddhist monk did not forget to credit the Chinese version of capitalism.
Capitalism “brought a lot of positive to China. Millions of people’s living standards improved”, he said.
But will his love affair with Marx help the cause of thousands of Tibetan refugees expecting to go back home one day?
After his exile, the Dalai Lama has followed a policy of traveling to capitals of Western European countries and to the United States to garner support for the cause. Hollywood stars like Richard Gere are his followers. But tinsel town’s sympathy has only proved counterproductive, Historian Patrick French who wrote Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land said at the first Indo-Bhutan literary festival in Thimphu on Wednesday.
“They (Tibetan refugees) thought popular pressure could sway the Chinese,” he said.
In a 2008 March op-ed in the New York Times Patrick French wrote:
The International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, is now a more powerful and effective force on global opinion than the Dalai Lama’s outfit in northern India. The European and American pro-Tibet organizations are the tail that wags the dog of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
These groups hate criticism almost as much as the Chinese government does. Some use questionable information. For example, the Free Tibet Campaign in London (of which I am a former director) and other groups have long claimed that 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese since they invaded in 1950. However, after scouring the archives in Dharamsala while researching my book on Tibet, I found that there was no evidence to support that figure. The question that Nancy Pelosi and celebrity advocates like Richard Gere ought to answer is this: Have the actions of the Western pro-Tibet lobby over the last 20 years brought a single benefit to the Tibetans who live inside Tibet, and if not, why continue with a failed strategy?
Patrick French said the Dalai Lama “should have closed down the Hollywood strategy a decade ago and focused on back-channel diplomacy with Beijing.”
An ethnic Tibetan friend tells me that it would not be a good idea for the Dalai Lama to call himself a Marxist. “He may be trying to say that he has no ideological clash with the Chinese government, but people may not understand it.”
The Dalai Lama’s love affair with Marxism is not a new thing. For the September 27, 1999, issue of the Time magazine, he wrote:
Tibet at that time was very, very backward. The ruling class did not seem to care, and there was much inequality. Marxism talked about an equal and just distribution of wealth. I was very much in favor of this. Then there was the concept of self-creation. Marxism talked about self-reliance, without depending on a creator or a God. That was very attractive. I had tried to do some things for my people, but I did not have enough time. I still think that if a genuine communist movement had come to Tibet, there would have been much benefit to the people.
Instead, the Chinese communists brought Tibet a so-called “liberation.” These people were not implementing true Marxist policy. If they had been, national boundaries would not be important to them. They would have worried about helping humanity. Instead, the Chinese communists carried out aggression and suppression in Tibet. Whenever there was opposition, it was simply crushed. They started destroying monasteries and killing and arresting lamas.
The Dalai Lama’s Buddhist position of accepting the goodness in everything has not really worked well in dealing with the Chinese. Apart from enthralling a handful of hip, new-agey Marxists in the West, his comments cannot be expected to help the Tibetans unless he starts talking of raw, real politics.