Thursday, March 10, 2011

As the Dalai Lama relinquishes his political powers, we look at his ecosocialist credentials


The Dalai Lama’s departure will be formalized at a meeting of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile next week. Speaking from India, the Dalai Lama said while he will remain as the spiritual leader; Tibet’s political leadership should be elected. China views this as a strategic ploy, see video below.

A response they have had several years to prepare, as the Dalai Lama has been alluding to political retirement for some time. In essence this move may be a step to help 'future-proof' the Tibetan independence movement, (the Dalai Lama is now 76) but will likely not affect his influence. The independence movement will need to remain strong in the event of the Dalai Lama's death as China will attempt to enforce a new spiritual leader in his place.

Wikileaks (Dec 2010) demonstrated  that the Dalai Lama has had communications with US diplomats indicating a shift of focus of the Free Tibet movement away from Tibet's political future onto climate change. 

"The political agenda should be sidelined for five to 10 years and the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau. Melting glaciers, deforestation and increasingly polluted water from mining projects were problems that 'cannot wait'. This is not to say the plan is to neglect the Tibetan people rather I new approach to place pressure"

Combine this with his views on Capitalism and Socialism it would be fair to say that the Dalai Lama is positively ecosocialism flavoured. Well of course he is! Interestingly Marx very much respected Buddhism as Walt Sheasby reports in 2004:

Having received a two-volume biography of Buddha in the mail Marx referred to it as "An Important Work"

Below is the transcript of an interview with the Dalai Lama who refers to himself as 'half buddhist half marxist' The video adds further detail on his views on Capitalism Socialism and Marx.

Q: You have often stated that you would like to achieve a synthesis between Buddhism and Marxism. What is the appeal of Marxism for you?

A: Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes--that is, the majority--as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. I just recently read an article in a paper where His Holiness the Pope also pointed out some positive aspects of Marxism.

As for the failure of the Marxist regimes, first of all I do not consider the former USSR, or China, or even Vietnam, to have been true Marxist regimes, for they were far more concerned with their narrow national interests than with the Workers' International; this is why there were conflicts, for example, between China and the USSR, or between China and Vietnam. If those three regimes had truly been based upon Marxist principles, those conflicts would never have occurred.

I think the major flaw of the Marxist regimes is that they have placed too much emphasis on the need to destroy the ruling class, on class struggle, and this causes them to encourage hatred and to neglect compassion. Although their initial aim might have been to serve the cause of the majority, when they try to implement it all their energy is deflected into destructive activities. Once the revolution is over and the ruling class is destroyed, there is not much left to offer the people; at this point the entire country is impoverished and unfortunately it is almost as if the initial aim were to become poor. I think that this is due to the lack of human solidarity and compassion. The principal disadvantage of such a regime is the insistence placed on hatred to the detriment of compassion.

The failure of the regime in the former Soviet Union was, for me, not the failure of Marxism but the failure of totalitarianism. For this reason I still think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.

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