When the Chinese Communists marched into Tibet some 10 years ago, they didn't attempt to overturn the ossified social and political institutions characteristic of this feudal, theocratic state. A military, bureaucratic overturn of social relations without the support of the masses has all too frequently brought results contrary to those desired.
Take the example of some of the states of Eastern Europe, such as Hungary, where the Soviet army overturned the capitalist relations, without mass popular support. To this day these countries are standing invitations to capitalist counter-revolution.
The Chinese, we believe, used sound judgment in 1950, when they simply made Tibet an autonomous region within the Chinese Republic. They subsequently signed an agreement with the Tibetan government, which gave the Chinese People's Republic control over no more than the foreign policy of Tibet, and the right to maintain the Chinese Army within its borders.
And this is as it should have been. For it was patently obvious that there was no mass support at least none that we in the West knew of, for revolutionary socialist reconstruction of the country, at the time. But this rightly cautious policy of the Chinese, and their respect for national minorities within the framework of the Chinese Republic, cannot be viewed as ends in themselves regardless of all consequences.
The rebellion that took place last month, and which may still be in progress, is a grim reminder that we are not living in the epoch of isolated states, relatively self-sufficient national economies and a world system, whose economic and political bonds are relatively loose. Imperialism long ago put an end to that.
We are now living in the epoch where two social systems are in mortal combat, and where one or the other must emerge as victor. There can be no such thing under these circumstances as a "free" "independent" Tibet, removed from the arena of world struggle, and quietly pursuing its independent destiny.
From an abstract point of view it would seem that the application of the Leninist slogan of self-determination for Tibet, even up to and including the right of separation, is the correct principle to apply. But the world struggle does not permit it. If U.S. imperialism can spend millions and millions of dollars in the form of the Seventh Fleet, with its guided missiles and A-bombs to "guard" the tiny islands Quemoy and Matsu, what would the U.S. do in the case of a "free" and "independent" Tibet? Merely to pose the question is to answer it.
The correct answer to the question of Tibet we believe lies in this: that the Socialist rights of 650 million people involved in building a new social order are far greater than the bourgeois-democratic rights of an ancient, ossified, and decadent nobility disguised in the form of a theocracy, even though they may still command the greater portion of the population at this time.
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