Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ram has fellow travellers

The Hindu's N. Ram is not alone in his China-apologism over Tibet. Here is an astonishing article, by one Floyd Rudmin, pointing out that, a month before the Tibet clashes, there was a bomb blast by the Basque separatist organisation, ETA, in Bilbao. The article points out numerous parallels between the Basque and the Tibetan people: both are cultural minorities, who have survived for centuries in isolated mountainous regions, but are threatened by larger countries who claim their land. He concludes,

This year, merely one month apart, separatists attacked government buildings and police forces in both capital cities. The Tibetan separatists also attacked civilians, killing some, even burning them alive. The Basque separatists gave a forewarning so that civilian casualties would be avoided.

Nevertheless, the world wide response to these two events has been very different. After the attack in Lhasa, the response has been massive, with many street demonstrations denouncing China and supporting the separatists. The French President, the British Prime Minister, and the UN Secretary General have announced they will boycott China. Following the attack in Bilbao, there has been no response. Nothing. Perfectly nothing. No street demonstrations in Paris, London, or San Francisco. No one announcing a boycott of Spain.

There is one difference between these two very similar events that might explain this very great difference in the world wide response: The United States government has been covertly backing the Tibetan separatists for fifty years...

Yes, that is one difference. Here, for Mr Rudmin's edification, are a few others.

  • China under Mao marched into Tibet in the 1950s. The Basque country was already under Spain for decades before Franco came to power. Franco did brutally suppress them, as he did all dissent in Spain.
  • Franco, like Mao, died in the mid-1970s, but Franco's regime died with him. Spain has been a democracy for about 30 years. China continues to be a brutal dictatorship where free speech and dissent are stifled.
  • The Basque country, like Catalonia, is given a great deal of autonomy under today's Spanish system. China has ruled out any such arrangement for Tibet.
  • ETA has little mass support among the Basque people, and fewer than 40% of the Basque people in Spain's Basque region support independence, according to a 2007 poll. If you want to know more in person, go there and find out. It is a free country and there are no travel or media restrictions. It is impossible to tell what Tibetans in Tibet want, since China won't let us ask them. While Ram may be contented with a guided party tour accompanied by official translators, not everyone is satisfied by such things.

Oh yes: ETA's official ideology is "Marxist-Leninist". That's why they must be the good guys.


Space Bar said...

He's not the only one. Here's a letter from Zizek (scroll down) that Ram should be very happy with.

And blog posts such as this one...
By the way, did you see The Hindu report N. Ram's speech or whatever in China, about how Tibet is now prosperous with hard working farmers benefiting from Chinese policies and therefore it is doing very well on Human Rights issues?

km said...

OK, I must say that I am a little surprised that Counterpunch carried that article. I mean, they are the very image of the stinkin' hippie liberal stereotype and AFAIK, most of them "support" the Free Tibet movement.

Too bad Cockburn chose to post that shoddy little piece.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

sb - well, Zizek's letter makes a certain amount of sense, which Ram's fails to do. Zizek doesn't seem convinced about Chinese intentions or the desirability of an undemocratic but capitalist future a la China. The other post you link to could have been written by Ram.

Yes, my namesake colleague blogged about the Hindu article -- otherwise I wouldn't have seen it. Ram is known, among other things, for shameless self-promotion in his paper (apparently his mugshot has appeared in print on more occasions than all previous editors combined): running a Xinhua article about himself is par for the course.

km - I find Counterpunch (and Cockburn) a mixed bag generally. Some good, some dreadful. (Did you follow the Cockburn-Monbiot fight on global warming? It seems to me Cockburn was refusing to address any of Monbiot's points: he probably couldn't.)

km said...

I had not followed that "delightful" exchange. He's making some really bold pseudo-scientific claims in the "precipiating" essay.

Think I lost interest in reading Cockburn's cock-and-bull after 9/11.