“Cast aside illusions and prepare to fight”

  by Woeser

The eighth round of Sino−Tibetan talks was, obviously, a major turning−point. Beijing harshly declared that H.H. the Dalai Lama “had absolutely no standing to negotiate with the Central Government.” The Vice−Minister for the United Front who was taking part in the negotiations declared at a press conference, without the slightest concern for etiquette, that H.H. the Dalai Lama “was concealing his evil intent” and that his message was a “deceitful lie.” He even denied that Deng Xiaoping uttered that saying thirty years ago which people have since overused, namely, “Anything can be discussed except independence.” To these developments, one upright and much−respected Tibetan retorted, “This is precisely the way of hegemony!”

After their initial shock and repugnance, many Tibetans inside the PRC have recognized that this outcome was not wholly unanticipated. When Beijing sprang this on the world, like the dagger revealed with the unrolling of the map, it was accompanied by a murderous glance; but it was only the unmasking of their true face. And like a thunderclap it put an end to the last thread of illusion that still lingered in Tibetan hearts. It’s been known for a long time that little could be expected from talks with a high−handed adversary who was lacking in good faith, but it took the eighth round, and Beijing’s callous judgment, for Tibetans to lose hope entirely. One Tibetan said, “That moment of disillusionment is perhaps a new turning−point, and it could lead to a new breakthrough.”

While witnessing the enormous change in Sino−Tibetan relations and looking back on the turmoil in our world, we can see that history repeats itself. I’m referring to an essay by the founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong, directed at America and the Kuomintang, or, as he called them, “Imperialism and its running dog.” He appealed to the Chinese people: “Cast aside illusions and prepare to fight.” I’m not exactly a fan of Mao, although the indoctrination of my formative years set him up — in my mind and countless other minds — as a god. But on this point (prescinding from the others), we can discover in his essay a practical significance. We need only reverse the roles.

Mao says, “Imperialist elements will never repent and see the light until they are exterminated… To hope to persuade the imperialists to have a change of heart and reverse course is an impossibility. The only way is to organize our forces and fight them…” Hence Mao demanded that clear−headed people “fulfill their responsibility to co−opt elements within the middle classes and centrist parties, laggards in every stratum of society, all the people who are still uncommitted . . . to use goodwill to help them, to criticize their indecisiveness, to teach them, to win them over so they will take a stand on the side of the masses, not to let imperialism draw them away: tell them to cast aside illusions and prepare to fight.”

But in our circumstances today, this ‘fight’ does not signify as it did for Mao something bloodstained and violent, an armed revolution, a class struggle. Non−violence is also a struggle, a greater and more enduring fight! For each individual, this fight starts with oneself, in the present moment, in each particular detail of living. Let us begin identifying ourselves as Tibetans, for this is our duty: any effort of daily life, however small, is still a kind of struggle. What must be clearly remembered is that the struggle is not irrational, but rational; not impulsive, but deliberate; not necessarily lofty and tragic, but reflected in practical action; bound up in the defense of the rights of every human being, the old and the young, children, men and women, clergy and laypeople: defending and protecting the rights of all human beings.

‘Casting aside illusions’ does not mean giving up our dreams. There’s a young Tibetan who says that November 4, 2008 was the most beautiful day in his life. Although he could not cast a ballot, he too wanted to celebrate Obama’s election to the American Presidency. For Obama’s victory was historic; it showed people that nothing is impossible. A dream that was once beyond belief can come true today; so why can’t our dreams of today come true tomorrow? But to reach that tomorrow will require a struggle. If you think you will get it as a favor from someone, if you think it will all come soon or easy, then those are the illusions you have to cast aside.

November 12, 2008

Woeser wrote this article for the Tibetan−language service of Radio Free Asia.

Translator’s Notes

The eighth round of Sino-Tibetan talks. The first round occurred in September 2002, after a nine−year period during which there had been no contacts between the PRC and the Tibetan Government−in−Exile.

The Vice−Minister for the United Front. The ‘united front’ was a tactic dear to Trotsky and Lenin, and it has been modified and reapplied numerous times during the history of the Communist Party. The essential idea is to form a tactical alliance with non−Communist parties while seeking to supplant them. The United Front Work Department is a substantial bureaucracy within the Communist Party of China, tasked with directing policy toward ethnic minorities, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs, as well as the vestiges of eight non−Communist parties that have been preserved as to serve as evidence of democracy in the PRC.

that Deng Xiaoping uttered that saying.  Tibetan sources have affirmed for years that Deng Xiaoping made this comment during a 1979 meeting in Beijing with Gyalo Thondup, an elder brother of the Dalai Lama. The meeting is undisputed, though what was said at it is not easy to establish. I am not aware, however, of any previous official denial from the Chinese side regarding this quotation.

The way of hegemony. Literally, ‘Hegemonism.’ A formulaic Communist term frequently applied to the foreign policy of the United States.

Like the dagger revealed with the unrolling of the map. This proverbial saying was inspired by Jing Ke’s unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the first Emperor of China, as recorded by the historian Sima Qian. It denotes the revelation of one’s true (and hostile) intentions at a late stage.