Will Dalai Lama’s Embrace Of Marxism Help Where Hollywood Failed?

The current Dalai Lama (left), as a young adult, meets with Mao Zedong (right) at the National Peoples Congress in 1954. Five years later the Dalai Lama would flee. A meeting between the two offices has not occurred since. (AP Photo)

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.”

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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.


7 thoughts on “Will Dalai Lama’s Embrace Of Marxism Help Where Hollywood Failed?

  1. Pingback: News about IT Support for London Business issue #17 | IT Support London

  2. There are different ways to look at the label “marxist”, and we are not exactly sure which way the Dalai Lama, or his translator, is using the word, unless there were more details in the statement than are discussed here.

    Lenin for example was a marxist, and a hard liner who believed not only in violent revolution but also the dictatorship of the proletariat (until some ill defined time in the future when society/proletariat could run itself cooperatively, i.e. utopia). Other contemporaries of Lenin’s believed in anarchical organizations, or small soviets being the only needed form of ‘govt’. (Lenin executed them, on his way to utopia).

    Then there are those who see human
    existence in the framework of economic struggle for existence and the goods of production (dialectic materialism). Such ideologues may be marxist in their view of history and politics, but believe only in gradual achievement of those goals – gentle & incremental social justice through democratic means. (ref modern europe).

    Between and beyond these two poles of differentiation the magnetic field of marxism is one field of thought: his historical and social theories of capital beng the basis for human material existence and struggle.

    These definitions and differences, and the usefulness of the political lens of marxism, are totally and always lost on american audiences at large. They have been “educated” without any mention of marxism, as if education after 1850 could proceed without studying marxism (or darwinism). Americans have been, and are woefully undereducated about governance, humanism, politics and government (and almost every other subject having directly to bear on human life and welfare).

    The fascist opposition (also using marxist theory to deny justice) rules with cultural memes, which they have become extremely adept at inventing, harvesting (wild versions)& cultivating, and propagating. Such propaganda is, by design, blunt, simple, monolithic, with heavy cultural reverberations and emotional appeal to base, learned behaviors and beliefs. They weave these cables into a support system for their movement. Then like magic the workers hate unions, support big business (even monopolies), ignore social injustice, dont’ care that their elected government ignores them, and generally act like stupid sheep.

    This too, is marxism (dialectic materialism), yet those who suffer under its whip are (excuse me) too stupid to understand the events, even though they feel the whip. They are stupid because the ruling class wanted them to be that way.

    The first step to waking up must be for everyone in American to Turn Off Their TVs. It is the main conduit of control messsages from corporatists, and minds can’t open under its influence. Next would be eduational reform….It’s a long struggle…

    Oh well, preaching to the choir again.

  3. Pingback: The Gurdjieff Con » Dalai Lama: I am a marxist

  4. Methokny continues with the comment, very pertinent :

    Apologies the guy who said it was a NYTimes guy, not from Washington. But another point is, he makes it sound like the Dalai Lama went around and opened up this Hollywood channel and started recruiting stars to take up Tibets cause. He can’t help it if these stars want to speak up for Tibetan’s? He’s been in talks with Washington for the longest time. The U.S govt from Nixon and Kennedy’s time has failed Tibet and Tibetans and for this guy to say that he should turn his focus on Washington shows the depth of his understanding the cause.

  5. Friend methokny further replied to my comment on my Facebook account: I am cross posting here for the benefit of other readers interested in the Tibetan issue:

    But who cares about what the Chinese think? You can try and care about everything you think might help change China’s attitude but it won’t. I don’t think R.Gere’s involvement or any of Hollywoods involvement has harmed Tibet’s cause. To the contrary, I think that it has raised the profile of Tibet’s cause and culture. I agree some merely do it for associating themselves but thanks to them, it has become more known. I don’t know how much other Hollywood stars or rock stars have done for Tibet other than voice their opinions and sing for them, but Richard Gere has done an immense amount through funding refugee schools and building infrastructure in Dharamsala. I don’t know how many film stars or rock stars around the world ever get involved in social causes the way American’s do. I think its an example that Bollywood can learn from.

    and Washington? Well, Bush atleast gave HH the congressional gold medal and invited him to the white house (Big Statement) and so has every sitting president, but what did Obama do? Had a secret meeting, no press, no pictures and then sends a fellow Nobel Laureate and one of the most eminent and respected leaders in the world through the back door, having to step over garbage bags etc.??

    Mind boggling.
    Washington has not moved China an inch and to blame Hollywood for their failures (aren’t they the ones who make the policies and get govt’s around the world to do things – not hollywood). They pay rent to China through their own failed policies so I think that statement by that guy was totally out of line.

  6. Its a thoughtful comment. I agree with you on the point that Marxism is a good ideology but practiced badly. Regarding R.Gere, the problem raised is that the presence of international figures piss of the chinese govt. and they treat it with suspicion.

    It is a lesson for every social movement. Celebrities can hijack movements. More people know about R. Gere’s involvement with the cause that the Tibetan govt, in exile. There is the problem.

  7. There is nothing wrong with saying he is a Marxist. I think the ideals are great but there is no practicing marxist individual or govt that has lived up to those ideals just as democratic govts haven’t either.

    The principles of Marxism are great and so if Dalai Lama says he is one, there is none who might be more Marxist than him.

    On embracing Hollywood, frankly I think Richard Gere has done more for this cause not only through his foundation but by giving the Tibetan cause a higher profile than this Washington based guy.

    There are MANY westerners who want to embrace Tibets cause and each one thinks he is more of an expert than the other. But just because R.Gere’s only fault is that he is from Hollywood and shouldn’t be clumped with the other attention seekers.
    He understands the Tibetan cause way better than any of these Washinton bimbos and he has been involved in it way longer than they have.

    Great piece!

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