Meeting report: Celebration of the 1959 defeat of the serf owners in Tibet

In March 1959 the victorious socialist forces proclaimed the end of serfdom in Tibet, bringing to an end a long history of feudal backwardness and imperialist meddling in this autonomous region of China. To commemorate this red letter day of the revolutionary calendar, members of the Hands Off China campaign held a meeting on 5th April in Bristol’s Malcolm X Centre.

The speaker reminded his audience of the 1904 invasion of Tibet by Britain and the subsequent transformation of Tibet’s serf army into a fifth column for meddling in China’s affairs. Despite the training and weaponry provided by Britain, this army proved no match for the patriotic forces of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, as the speaker went on to explain, it was the ability of the PLA to win the illiterate and downtrodden Tibetan masses over to the path of liberation which laid the foundations for the victory for the revolution in 1959. When the Dalai Lama tore up the agreement on peaceful reform to which he had earlier signed his name, inspiring the doomed military coup which precipitated the final rout of the serf-owners, feudalism signed its own death warrant. Released from centuries of slavery and serfdom, the labouring people of Tibet set off on the road to socialism, shoulder to shoulder with the other fifty five nationalities which together form the People’s Republic of China.

In response to some critical comments made in the ensuing frank and lively discussion, Hands Off China campaign activists explained why it was important for British people to support China. One explained that, by showing solidarity with socialist China when she was under attack by false propaganda, workers in Britain would strengthen their own struggles against imperialism at home. Another explained the importance of unifying many nationalities in a common struggle for progress by reference to his own homeland, Iran. A third, a Chinese student who wore his Young Communist League badge to the occasion, was able to supply much useful information about the efforts being made to transfer prosperity from the developed east of China to the less developed West, and helped dispel many of the myths about the pretended “national oppression” suffered by the Tibetan minority within China.

The chair concluded the meeting by thanking everyone for their participation and suggesting that a useful follow-up meeting could focus on the twentieth anniversary of the failed provocation against Chinese socialism in 1989, falsely branded the “Tienanmen Square Massacre” by those same forces of reaction which egged it on in the first place. These “big lies” put about by our own ruling class need to be challenged by workers in Britain.

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