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Australasian Spartacist No. 201

Winter 2008

Defend Chinese Deformed Workers State!

Counterrevolutionary Riots in Tibet

The following article on the counterrevolutionary riots in Tibet during March is adapted from Workers Vanguard No. 911 (28 March 2008), newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S. These events have since been overshadowed by the devastating 12 May earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

“An orgy of anti-Chinese rioting.” That’s how the Economist online (14 March), which had the only official foreign correspondent in Lhasa, described the protests in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Launched on 10 March to commemorate the anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule—an uprising inspired, armed and financed by the CIA—the protests were led by Buddhist lamas and were echoed by coordinated actions in China’s Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan provinces, where there are substantial Tibetan populations. There was also a march in India from the centre of the Dalai Lama’s “government in exile.” Shouting “Long live Tibet” and “Long live the Dalai Lama,” rioters led by monks, often at the head of teenage gangs, rampaged in Lhasa’s old Tibetan quarter, burning and destroying shops run by ethnic Chinese and killing at least 13 people. Among those attacked were also ethnic Chinese Hui, a Muslim minority in the region. The Economist (22 March) reported that “shops owned by Tibetans were marked as such with traditional white scarves…. They were spared destruction.”

The protests in Tibet were reactionary, anti-Communist and counterrevolutionary. As Trotskyists (i.e., genuine Marxists), we of the International Communist League fight for the unconditional military defence of the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state against imperialist attack and capitalist counterrevolution—as we do for the other remaining deformed workers states of North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. The 1949 Revolution that overthrew capitalist rule in China has resulted in enormous gains for that country’s working and peasant masses, including for the people of Tibet, which, until the victory of Chinese forces there in 1959, was ruled by a pro-slavery “Lamaocracy.” The “Free Tibet” cause originated with the machinations of the CIA and other imperialist forces intent on restoring capitalism in China, which would once again reduce the country to semicolonial subjugation. The call to “Free Tibet” is a rallying cry for counterrevolution and would in fact mean imperialist lordship over the Tibetan masses. The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Chinese deformed workers state would be a tremendous defeat for the international proletariat, including for the Tibetan people.

Before being crushed by the People’s Liberation Army in 1959, the Lamaist theocracy in Tibet was perhaps proportionally the largest and most idle ruling stratum in human history, economically supported by peasants, growers of barley and herders of yak. At base, this meant that the back-breaking labour was mostly done by women, since both the monks and a not small portion of the male population, who emulated the monastic life after “sinning” by procreating, were employed in contemplation.

After suppressing the CIA-backed 1959 uprising, the Chinese government abolished ulag (forced peasant labour) and put an end to flogging, mutilation and amputation as forms of criminal punishment. The land, livestock and tools of the aristocrats who fled into exile were distributed to the peasants, as were the land and chattels of the monasteries that had participated in the uprising. The Chinese deformed workers state established secular education and constructed running water and electrical systems in Lhasa. As a result, the average life span of Tibetans, which had been 35 years in 1950, rose to 67 in 2001. Infant mortality, which was an astounding 43 percent in 1950, dramatically decreased to 0.661 percent in 2000. The recent opening of the Lhasa-Qinghai railway, connecting Tibet to the rest of China, has led to economic development and an improvement of living standards. These gains are testimony to the social progress resulting from the expropriation of the capitalist class and landlords and the institution of proletarian property forms that issued out of the 1949 Chinese Revolution.

Especially since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the deformed workers states of East Europe and, in particular, the destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92, China has been increasingly in the crosshairs of the imperialists. To promote counterrevolution, they combine pursuit of the economic openings offered by the Beijing Stalinist bureaucracy, through which they seek to encourage internal counterrevolution, with escalating military pressure. China, the strongest of the remaining deformed workers states, is surrounded by a whole system of U.S. military bases from South Korea to northern Australia to Central Asia. Following the signing of a reactionary treaty by the U.S. and Japan to prop up the brutal capitalist bastion of Taiwan in 2005, last year the Australian rulers concluded a military pact with Japan which targets China and North Korea. Along with North Korea, China is on the Pentagon’s hit list as a potential target of a nuclear first strike, while the U.S. program of National Missile Defense has the strategic goal of neutralising China’s modest nuclear capacities.

The imperialist rulers hope to take advantage of the upcoming Beijing 2008 Olympics to intensify their pressure on China through their support to the Dalai Lama. In a provocation that prefigured the Tibet riots, within a space of five weeks beginning last September the Dalai Lama met with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, U.S. president Bush in Washington—the first time a sitting U.S. president has met publicly with the Dalai Lama—and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. British prime minister Gordon Brown hosted the Dalai Lama in London in May and Australian federal ALP immigration minister, and then-acting prime minister, Chris Evans did likewise in June.

While the U.S. Bush administration has called on China to exercise “restraint” in Tibet, the Democrats have sought to outdo the Bush gang in belligerence toward China. After the Tibet riots broke out, Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the headquarters of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. In a 12 March statement, Pelosi condemned “the violent response by Chinese forces to peaceful protesters in Tibet.” While then Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton issued a statement declaring that “Chinese repression in Tibet continues,” Barack Obama’s statement echoed Pelosi’s in condemning “the use of violence to put down peaceful protests.” In fact, during the violent riots, China’s security forces “appear to have acted with relative restraint,” as the Economist online (16 March) reported.

In late March and April, in response to frenzied protests by the counterrevolutionary “Free Tibet” crowd in cities along the route of the Olympic torch relay, students and others from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) countermobilised, including in large demonstrations of support in Seoul, South Korea, and Nagano, Japan. In Australia, following violent anti-PRC protests against the Chinese consulates in Sydney and Melbourne, some 7,500 to 10,000 pro-PRC demonstrators mobilised for the torch relay in Canberra on 24 April, outnumbering the “Free Tibet” protesters by five to one. Joining the anti-PRC “Free Tibet” crowd were Vietnamese rightists, carrying the flag of the counterrevolutionary Saigon regime that was defeated by the heroic Vietnamese workers and peasants in 1975.

Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was quick to join the imperialist outcry over Tibet, albeit taking care not to jeopardise the capitalist rulers’ booming trade with China that currently props up the Australian economy. Taking their cue from Rudd, who cited “problems” and “abuses” of “human rights” in Tibet, the pro-capitalist Laborite trade-union misleaders, such as Unions NSW and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), have been in the forefront of the recent anti-PRC campaign. Indeed the anti-China protectionist ACTU president, Sharan Burrow, was a featured speaker at the reactionary 31 March “Global Day of Action” in Melbourne organised by the Australian Tibet Council around the demand “Stand Up for Tibet.” A leading figure in support of the counterrevolutionary mobilisations has been anti-communist Greens leader, senator Bob Brown, who organised a plane to skywrite “Free Tibet” over Parliament House during the Canberra torch relay. In a website statement the same day, under a heading in the vile traditions of White Australia capitalist reaction, “Australia’s flag swamped,” the xenophobic Brown railed against pro-PRC protesters declaring that “Canberra, just like Lhasa, was dominated by Communist China’s red flag” (, 24 April).

For their part, the fake “socialists” are marching in lockstep behind their imperialist rulers’ attempts to foment counterrevolution in China, just as they supported the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR, a world-historic defeat for the international proletariat that has brought devastation and misery to the peoples of the former Soviet Union. In this country, those in the forefront of targeting China are the anti-communists of Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and Solidarity, a recent merger of three small reformist groups. This is hardly surprising. The political origins of both these groups go back to the late Tony Cliff and his followers in Britain who were rightly expelled from the Fourth International in 1950 for refusing to defend the Soviet Union, China and North Korea against imperialist attack during the Korean War (see article on page 3).

Continuing in this reactionary tradition, Solidarity backs the imperialist-inspired counterrevolutionary Tibetan riots and protests declaring “Tibet rises up against occupation” (Solidarity, April 2008). Similarly SAlt, which labels China an exploitative society “essentially no different from the West,” vituperates in the April issue of Socialist Alternative: “In reality, Chinese control has meant decades of subjugation for the Tibetans.” During the 1980s, the International Socialist Organisation, now part of Solidarity and from which SAlt emerged in the mid-1990s, sided with the imperialists in support of the Cold War II anti-Soviet crusade over Afghanistan. Railing against the Soviet Union, whose army moved into Afghanistan in 1979 at the urgent request of the left-nationalist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government, the Cliffites cheered the CIA-armed Afghan Islamic fundamentalist mujahedin cutthroats who launched a reactionary jihad against the PDPA’s attempts at minimal democratic measures such as land reform, the elimination of the bride price and teaching young girls to read! In contrast we Trotskyists hailed the Red Army in Afghanistan noting this was a genuinely progressive act posing the possibility of extending the social gains of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which overthrew capitalist rule, to the hideously oppressed women of Afghanistan. We denounced Gorbachev’s withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989 as a historic betrayal that paved the way to the capitalist counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union itself.

The deeply reformist Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) argue that China is already capitalist in order to more easily justify marching in lockstep with the imperialists’ drive to foment counterrevolution there. As long-time active promoters of counterrevolutionary forces, including the “Free Tibet” crowd, today the DSP fulsomely praise “the growing global movement in solidarity with Tibet’s struggle for self-determination” (Green Left Weekly, 23 April).

Meanwhile, the reformists of the Committee for a Workers’ International, which publishes China Worker and is associated with the Socialist Party in Australia, have declared themselves to be for Tibet’s “right to independence.” They saluted the supposed “radical layers” among Tibetan youth as against the “conciliatory approach” of the Dalai Lama, while admitting that “national independence on a capitalist basis can in no way solve the problems of the impoverished masses” (China Worker, 18 March). Enemies of the Chinese deformed workers state, these opponents of the revolutionary internationalist workers movement are willing to consign the Tibetan masses to the return of the lamaocracy. The pseudo-Marxists’ calls for Tibetan “independence” stand to the right of even the Dalai Lama, who admitted in 2005: “As the material development of China moves forward we gain materially, like the railway. If we were a separate country it would be very difficult and we would not benefit” (South China Morning Post, 14 March).

Patterned after the Soviet Union after the usurpation of political power from the working class by the Stalinist bureaucracy, the Chinese workers state was deformed from its inception. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of Mao Zedong that carried out the 1949 Revolution was not a party based on the working class, but rather the peasantry. From the start, the CCP regime suppressed independent action by the working class, excluding it from political power. Representing a nationalist bureaucratic caste resting atop the collectivised economy, the Beijing Stalinist regime preached the profoundly anti-Marxist notion that socialism—a classless, egalitarian society based on material abundance—could be built in a single country. In practice, “socialism in one country” meant accommodation to world imperialism and opposition to the perspective of workers revolution internationally.

In their futile pursuit of “peaceful coexistence” with world imperialism, the Stalinist misrulers themselves undermine the defence of the Chinese workers state. The official statements from Beijing condemning the riots in Tibet have laid the blame solely on the Dalai Lama; left unsaid is the role of the imperialists. But as a New York Times (22 March) op-ed article by one Patrick French, a former director of the “Free Tibet Campaign” in London, stated, “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.” This “Free Tibet” supporter went on to underline that “the European and American pro-Tibet organizations are the tail that wags the dog of the Tibetan government-in-exile.” He also noted that “after scouring the archives in Dharamsala” he found “that there was no evidence” to support the claim raised by his and other “Free Tibet” groups that 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed since the Chinese entered Tibet in 1950.

At the same time, Chinese Stalinism has meant nationalism and Han chauvinism. During the misnamed “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” that began in the mid 1960s, in which Mao mobilised millions of student youth to buttress his position in an intra-bureaucratic factional feud, Mao subjected the Tibetans to fierce Great Han chauvinism. Tibetan language and native dress were proscribed. Much of what had been at the core of Tibetan culture was simply smashed up and destroyed, although with the beneficial side effect of driving monks into actual labour.

After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping lifted the strictures against Tibetan language, attire and hairstyles. At the same time, monasteries were rebuilt and refurbished, and idle monks returned in droves and numbered 40,000 to 50,000 by the late 1990s. Meanwhile, the “market reforms” initiated under Deng have increased Han privilege in the area. The real gains won by the Tibetan masses from the 1949 Chinese Revolution stand alongside continuing inequalities.

Over 92 percent of China’s population is Han. It is vital for the Chinese proletariat to combat the Han chauvinism of the Stalinist bureaucracy and oppose all discrimination against Tibetans, the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang and other national and ethnic minorities. What is needed is a fight to sweep away Stalinist bureaucratic rule in China and replace it with a regime based on workers democracy, expressed through workers and peasants councils and rooted in Marxist internationalism. This would be a workers political revolution, not a social one. It would be based on defending the Chinese workers state and fighting for international socialist revolution. Key to realising this perspective is the forging of a Trotskyist party in China. The fate of the Tibetan people is inextricably bound up with the struggle for proletarian political revolution in China and socialist revolution in the capitalist countries—from the Indian subcontinent to Japan, Australia, the U.S. and other imperialist centres.

Back in 1959, in the aftermath of the failed Tibetan uprising, James Robertson, one of the founding leaders of our international tendency and national chairman of the Spartacist League/U.S., wrote a leaflet that was printed in Young Socialist (June 1959), newspaper of the Young Socialist Clubs, forerunner of the youth group of the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Robertson was a former member of a Shachtmanite organisation that had a “third campist” (i.e., non-defencist) position toward the Soviet Union. An ardent communist, he was won to Trotskyism and joined the SWP. This leaflet, titled “The Tibetan Brigade: Crocodile Tears Stain the Monkscloth” and issued by the Eugene V. Debs Club of Berkeley, was his first statement of Trotskyist Soviet defencism. In it he asserted:

“The real choice for Tibet if Chinese control were thrown off is not independent nationhood but abject dependence on American arms, money and advisors….

“The victory of the Chinese Communist government is clearly the progressive choice in the present contest. However, to recognize this is not to whitewash that regime. But even in its distorted way it is part of great and positive changes on the Asian mainland, changes that eventually will be the Maoists’ own undoing. Through these very achievements the regime will be overthrown by the mass of people anxious to rule their own destinies without the intervention of a privileged elite. That is the future; the Tibetan monk-rulers are the past.”

Australasian Spartacist No. 201

ASP 201

Winter 2008


Partisan Defence Committee International Campaign

Protests Demand: Free Mumia Now!


Defend Chinese Deformed Workers State!

Counterrevolutionary Riots in Tibet


The Inedible in Defence of the Unspeakable



Socialist Alternative: Cheerleaders for Capitalist Counterrevolution

Defend China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba!


Melbourne Rally Demands:

“Freedom For Mumia!”

Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!


Partisan Defence Committee Protest Letter

Cops, Anti-Sex Bigots Target Bill Henson


“There Can Be No Justice in the Capitalist Courts!”

SYC Speaker at Sydney United-Front Rally

(Young Spartacus pages)


Spartacist Speaker at Melbourne Rally For Mumia

“For a Workers Republic of Australia, Part of a Socialist Asia!”

Break with Laborism! Build a Revolutionary Workers Party!


Opportunist Left and the Chávez Referendum

Break with Bourgeois Populism! For Workers Revolution!


U.S. Hands Off!


Drop the Charges Against Lex Wotton!

(Partisan Defence Committee statement)