The Buddhism columnist at About.com (yes, thyere is such a thing) took exception with our post (and those of others) leaving tank treads on the Dalai Lama for admitting he’s still a Marxist. She left a comment with a link to her defense of his Lamess, but I thought I’d bump it to the front page and comment myself:
A website called IndianExpress.com put together a brief news story on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s press conference on Thursday that took some quotes out of context to distort what His Holiness actually said. And today some American right-wing and conservative Christian bloggers are using this story to smear His Holiness.
The IndianExpress story cherry-picked His Holiness’ words and re-assembled them to make it sound as if he supports the current Chinese Communist Party and the way it has governed China. Some American bloggers seized these words and used them as an excuse to hurl ugly invectives at His Holiness and anyone who supports him.
Since I was there, I can set the record straight.
She does, providing much more context and many comments critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
But she doesn’t exactly refute the point that the Dalai Lama is an avowed Marxist:
Then His Holiness said,
When I was in China, 1954 and ’55 — later part of ’54 and early part of ’55 — I was in Beijing, and also in many provinces in China. At that time, Communist Party of China — really wonderful. All those party members, were really dedicated to the service to people, particularly working class people. Relation [or religion] always there. At that time, world wide revolution, [garbled] for working class people, so strong. I was very much impressed.
So at that time, I asked some Chinese officials, I want to join Chinese communist Party. Still, I am Marxist. Some of my friends, you see, they always ask me, don’t mention that. [laughs] Because, you know, Marxist economy, I think only economy system where express concern of equal distribution, that’s moral ethics. That capitalism, only how to make profit.
So therefore, but now, 1957, what was called let a hundred flowers blossom. Different opinions, accept more open different opinions. Once these intellectual people express their feelings and criticism, then, overnight, all these people, wiped out. So the authoritarian system, any authoritarian system, including Communist authoritarian system, potential eventually made to [eliminate] opposition from their power, they erase.
But, as I mentioned earlier, now I think in China, most intelligent people, don’t accept central authoritarian system. They want more freedom. They want independence from China. They want a free Tibet.
So, for parts of two years—55 years ago—this man, by his own testimony, felt that the Chinese Communist Party was utopian. And on the basis of that brief perceived window of humanity in decades of a Great Wall of oppression and murder (like that?), he identifies with a system that in number of corpses leaves fascism (from which it differs in no appreciable way) in the dust? I don’t claim to be an expert, and Wikipedia isn’t a reliable enough source on this topic, but Mao’s China was purging perhaps millions of people before and during this supposed period of enlightenment.
The only exculpatory reading I can imagine is one of verb tenses. The DL’s command of English is good, but not perfectly nuanced. Maybe he meant: “Sure, I was a Marxist/Communist/Maoist. Who wasn’t? It wasn’t until I learned the truth of Mao’s abuse of power that I renounced him and his moral and political failings.”
But he doesn’t say that, not even close.
To be fair, however, he does say this:
Earlier in the press conference, His Holiness also had said, “China has to go along the world trend. World trend means more openness, more transparent, rule of law, democracy, inability to [not clear] — world trend. … Democracy as a system not always successful, in Africa and some other countries not always successful, but still, it’s the best system.”
However, he credited China’s embrace of market economics for breaking communism’s grip over the world’s most populous country and forcing the ruling Communist Party to “represent all sorts of classes.”
Capitalism “brought a lot of positive to China. Millions of people’s living standards improved,” he said.
The About.com columnist tries to excuse the comments about capitalism by saying they were addressed to the Deng regime, not today’s Communist Party—but she needn’t have bothered on my behalf: I agree with him. It may be an authoritarian capitalist system, but it’s still a capitalist system, communist in name only. There’s still plenty of misery in China, but it’s an immensely wealthier misery.
I can only conclude that the DL said two contradictory things: that Mao’s Marxism murdered and enslaved hundreds of millions of people; and that he still saw some good in that system.
I’m willing to admit I am wrong if anybody wants to try to prove it. The floor is yours. My argument is not with Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, but with China. As it has been for a long time now.