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Fred On Tibet And Other Things.

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Sadly, Fred Halliday passed away.

Now I am not really into obituaries (writing them that is) but Fred made an informed contribution to debate on international topics for decades, whilst you might not always agree with his sentiments in all aspects one could not deny that he was a thoughtful and considered individual.

Looking through the long list of his articles at Open Democracy I came across this one on Tibet, Palestine and the politics of failure.

Fred makes some very lucid points concerning Tibet:

Lhasa in the world

For all the differences of region and political context, a comparable process was taking place at that time over Tibet, where aspirations to independence were crushed as the forces of the victorious Chinese revolution of 1949 subordinated and incorporated the territory into the "People's Republic of China".

Here, much of the energetic debate about Tibet's "historical status" – whether (as Tibetan nationalists and their supporters claim) it was an independent state before China occupied it in 1950-51 or whether it is (in Chinese nationalist terminology) an "inalienable part" of historic China – is based on a dubious premise. For "history" and its associations is not the unarguable source of judgment that both sides see it as.

Even if Tibet had been an integral part of China for centuries, this would not gainsay its contemporary right – as a territory with a clearly distinct language and culture, and with several decades of de facto and modern sovereignty before 1950 – from claiming independence. After all, Ireland was long ruled by England, Norway by Sweden, and Finland, Ukraine and the Baltic countries by Russia, without this contradicting their right to independence in the 20th century.

It is not essential to this line of argument, but worth saying anyway, that even on historical grounds the Tibetans have as good or better case for independence as these other lands (see Donald S Lopez Jr, "How to think about Tibet", 31 March 2008). Chinese armies have certainly occupied Tibet on various occasions in past centuries, as English armies occupied much of France. But from the mid-18th century, Tibet was in practice independent under its Dalai Lama rulers based in their capital, Lhasa. The few European travellers who reached this "forbidden city" in the 1840s (such as the French travelling priests, Père Huc and Père Gabet), the Chinese presence was purely formal, the two ambans (Beijing officials) posted there having no more power than, say, a British high commissioner has in independent Australia or India.”

Update 1: This is a good article on Fred from the World People’s Blog.

Update 2: Norm on Fred.

Update 3: One Big Unhappy Family at the New York Review of Books.

Update 4: Not forgetting The Jihadism of Fools By Fred Halliday:

“OVER the last few years, and especially since the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, there have been indications across the world of a growing convergence between the forces of Islamist militancy, on the one hand, and the “anti-imperialist” left on the other. Leaving aside widespread, if usually unarticulated, sympathy for the attacks of September 11, 2001, justified on the grounds that “the Americans deserved it,” we have seen since 2003 an overt coincidence of policies, with considerable support for the Iraqi “resistance,” which includes strong Islamist elements, and, more recently and even more explicitly, support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the Middle East itself, and on parts of the European far left, an overt alliance with Islamists has been established, going back at least to the mass demonstrations in early 2003 that preceded the Iraq War, but also including a convergence of slogans on Palestine—supporting suicide bombings and denying the legitimacy of the Israeli state. Last year, for example, radical Basque demonstrators were preceded by a militant waving a Hezbollah flag. Moreover, since most of those who oppose the U.S. action in Iraq of 2003 also opposed the war in Afghanistan in 2001, this leads, whether clearly recognized or not, to support for the anti-Western Taliban, armed groups now active across that country.

At the same time, some far left-wing politicians in Europe have sought, on issues of “anti-imperialism” and of social exclusion within the West, to find common cause with representatives of Islamist parties. An example of this is the welcome given by the British left, including the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, to the Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. More important, of course, and separate from support for Islamist guerrilla groups, has been alignment at the state level: Iran, for example, has received increasing support from Venezuela. Hugo Chávez has been to Tehran no less than five times. This partnership has been made all the easier by the shift noticeable over the past two decades whereby solidarity based, at least formally, on class or socialist grounds has been replaced by identity politics as the basis for political activism. Inchoately perhaps, a new international united front is being created. ”

Update 5: Jeff Weintraub take on the above.

Update 6: Fred on the Taliban.

Update 7: Jeff Weintraub and Norm remind us of an interview with Fred on Internationalism and universal rights.

Written by modernityblog

27/04/2010 at 02:01

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