This article was
published by Revolutionary
Worker on February 22, 1998 at "revcom.us/a/firstvol/tibet/tibet2.htm".
The following are the excerpts and Chinese translations:
Hard Climate, Heartless Society
At the time of the revolution, the population of Tibet was
extremely spread out. Villages, monasteries and nomad encampments
were often separated by many days of difficult travel.
Maoist revolutionaries saw there were "Three Great
Lacks" in old Tibet: lack of fuel, lack of communications,
and lack of people. The revolutionaries analyzed that these "Three
Great Lacks" were not mainly caused by the physical conditions,
but by the social system.
Dalai Lama's older brother Thubten Jigme Norbu claims that
in the lamaist
social order, "There is no class system and the
mobility from class to class makes any class prejudice impossible." But
the whole existence of this religious order was based on
a rigid and brutal class system.
Serfs were treated like despised "inferiors" -
the way Black people were treated in the Jim Crow South.
Serfs could not use the same seats, vocabulary or eating
utensils as serf owners. Even touching one of the master's
belongings could be punished by whipping. The masters and
serfs were so distant from each other that in much of Tibet
they spoke different languages.
It was the custom for a serf to kneel on all fours so his
master could step on his back to mount a horse. Tibet scholar
A. Tom Grunfeld describes how one ruling class girl routinely
had servants carry her up and down stairs just because she
was lazy. Masters often rode on their serfs' backs across
The lamaist system tried to prevent any escape. Runaway
slaves couldn't just set up free farms in the vast empty
lands. Former serfs explained to revolutionary writer Anna
Louise Strong that before liberation, "You could not
live in Tibet without a master. Anyone might pick you up
as an outlaw unless you had a legal owner."
The Dalai Lama writes, "In Tibet there was no special discrimination
But in Tibet, being born a woman was considered a punishment for "impious" (sinful)
behavior in a previous life. The word for "woman" in
old Tibet, kiemen, meant "inferior birth."
Lamaist superstition associated women with evil and sin.
It was said "among ten women you'll find nine devils."
Masters transferred serfs from one estate to another at
will, breaking up serf families forever. Rape of women serfs
was common--under the ulag system, a lord could
demand "temporary wives."
monasteries were dark fortresses of feudal exploitation
- they were armed villages of monks complete with military
warehouses and private armies.
The huge idle religious clergy grew little food - feeding
them was a big burden on the people.
Monasteries also made up countless religious taxes to rob
the people--including taxes on haircuts, on windows, on doorsteps,
taxes on newborn children or calves, taxes on babies born
with double eyelids...and so on. A quarter of Drepung's income
came from interest on money lent to the serf-peasantry.
The class relations of Tibet were reproduced inside the
monasteries: the majority of monks were slaves and servants
to the upper abbots and lived half-starved lives of menial
labor, prayer chanting and routine beatings.
After liberation, Anna Louise Strong asked a young monk,
Lobsang, if monastery life followed Buddhist
teachings about compassion. The young lama replied that
he heard plenty of talk in the scripture halls about kindness
to all living creatures, but that he personally had been
whipped at least a thousand times. "If any upper
class lama refrains from whipping you," he told
Strong, "that is already very good. I never saw an upper
lama give food to any poor lama who was hungry. They treated
the laymen who were believers just as badly or even worse."
These days, the Dalai
Lama is "packaged" internationally as a non-materialist
holy man. In fact, the Dalai Lama was the biggest serf
owner in Tibet. his family directly controlled 27 manors,
36 pastures, 6,170 field serfs and 102 house slaves.
The first time he fled to India in 1950, the Dalai Lama's
advisors sent several hundred mule-loads of gold and silver
bars ahead to secure his comfort in exile. After the second
time he fled, in 1959, Peking Review reported that
his family left lots of gold and silver behind, plus 20,331
pieces of jewelry and 14,676 pieces of clothing.
Bitter Poverty, Early Death
Stories of Lama Warriors
on Earth (2)