Anna Louise Strong Reference Archive

When serfs stood up in Tibet

Appendix II

The Resolution on Carrying Out Democratic Reform in Tibet Adopted by the Second Plenary Session of the Preparatory Committee for the Autonomous Region of Tibet on July 17, 1959

The Second Plenary Session of the Preparatory Committee for the Autonomous Region of Tibet fully approves the reports delivered by Panchen' Erdeni, Acting Chairman of the Preparatory Committee; Chang Kuo-hua and Ngapo Ngawang-Jigme, Vice-Chairmen of the Preparatory Committee. The session unanimously maintains that the existing social system in Tibet is a reactionary, dark, cruel and barbarous feudal serf system and only by democratic reform can there be emancipation of the people and economic and cultural development in Tibet and thus the building up of the foundations for a prosperous and happy socialist Tibet. The carrying out of democratic reform in Tibet was affirmed in the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet signed by the Central People's Government and the former Tibetan local government early in 1951. This task could not be realized during the past eight years owing to the many-sided obstruction and sabotage by the former local government and the upper strata reactionary clique in Tibet in an attempt to preserve their feudal rule.

Over the last eight years, the central authorities always adopted an attitude of patient education towards the reactionary clique of the upper strata in Tibet and patiently waited for them to see reason. The reactionary clique, however, not only failed to show any sign of repentance but went to extremes by staging the armed rebellion on March 10, 1959, betraying the motherland and the people and undermining the national unity. The rapid putting down of the armed rebellion has brought them shameful defeat and also brought Tibet to a new stage of democratic reform. On the one hand, the dens of the armed rebels have already been destroyed; the reactionary clique of the upper classes has become completely isolated among the people and their traitorous, criminal activities which have brought calamities to the people are bitterly condemned by the people; and the reactionary former Tibetan local government has been dissolved. On the other, the broad masses of the working people are resolutely demanding the carrying out of democratic reform; the patriotic, progressive elements of the upper classes are actively supporting the reform; and local Tibetan cadres have grown up in large numbers. This shows the conditions are ripe for the realization of democratic reform in Tibet.

The current central tasks in Tibet are: to wipe out the remnant rebellious elements thoroughly, mobilize the masses fully and carry out the democratic reform throughout Tibet. The session maintains that the peaceful policy adopted by the central authorities for carrying out democratic reform in Tibet is entirely correct, that is, the policy of "buying out" as regards the land and other means of production owned by the estate-holders who have taken no part in the rebellion, and the method of consultation at the top and of mobilizing the masses at the base.

In accordance with the actual conditions in Tibet, the democratic reform should be carried out in two stages. The first stage consists of mobilizing the masses, and campaigning against rebellion, the ula (corvee) system and slavery and for the reduction of rents and interests. This will lay the foundations for the next stage, the redistribution of land.

The session unanimously holds that in order to fulfil the tasks mentioned above, the following policies must be carried thoroughly into effect at present:

1) In the agricultural areas, the policy of "the crop to the tillers" is to be followed as regards the land of the three kinds of estate-holders — the kashag, the monasteries and the manorial landlords — including their agents, who have taken part in the rebellion. As regards the land owned by those estate-holders (including their agents), who have taken no part in the rebellion, the rent is to be reduced, with 20 percent of the farm produce given to the landowners and the remaining 80 percent to the tillers. The nantsam must be liberated (nantsam is a manorial slave of a Tibetan feudal manorial landlord. He does unpaid forced labour for the manorial lord and his offspring also work as manorial slaves, without personal freedom — Ed.). The treatment of persons as chattel is to be abolished and the relationship changed to that of employer and employed. All debts owed by the working people to the three kinds of estate-holders before the end of 1958 are to be abolished; the interest rates for the debts assigned to the working people in 1959 by the manorial landlords who have taken no part in the rebellion are to be reduced.

2) In the livestock breeding areas, the herdsmen and the working livestock-owners must be relied on and all the forces that can be united must be united with to facilitate the protection and breeding of the livestock, wipe out the rebels and rapidly stabilize social order. Livestock-owners who have taken no part in the rebellion still retain their animals. The animals of livestock-owners who have taken part in the rebellion are to be tended by the herdsmen now tending them and the income thus accrued will belong to the herdsmen. At the same time, the policy of benefiting both livestock-owners and herdsmen is to be pursued. Exploitation by the livestock-owners is to be reduced so as to increase the income of the herdsmen. The question of debts is to be handled in the livestock breeding areas in the same way as in the agricultural areas.

3) The policy of protecting the freedom of religious belief, protecting the patriotic and law-abiding temples and monasteries and protecting the historical cultural relics must be strictly adhered to in the democratic reform as in the past. A campaign must be launched in the temples and monasteries against rebellion, feudal prerogatives and exploitation. The policy of "buying out" is to be followed in dealing with the land and other means of production of patriotic and law-abiding temples and monasteries. The livelihood of the lamas is to be arranged for by the government. Subsidies will be given where the income of the temples and monasteries is not sufficient to meet their proper spending.

To mobilize the masses fully is the key to the success of the san fan and shuang jian campaign [1] and the democratic reform. In the process of the work, the poor peasants and farm labourers must be relied on, the middle peasants must be firmly united with and all those that can be united must be united with, to deal resolute blows upon the rebels and the reactionary elements who put up resistance against the reform and to thoroughly abolish the feudal serf system. When the masses are fully aroused, peasants' (herdsmen's) associations are to be organized. During the period of the democratic reform, the peasants' (herdsmen's) associations below the district level will exercise the functions and power of government at the basic level in the countryside.

The Regulations Governing the Organization of Peasants' Associations, Simple Rules Concerning Rent and Interest Reduction, Scheme for the Readjustment of Administrative Divisions and other documents will be drawn up in accordance with the policies mentioned above and will be published separately by the Preparatory Committee.

This session is one of historic significance for Tibet. Great and strenuous tasks are lying before us. Under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Tibetan people, both lama and lay, must unite together and work hard for the building of a democratic, socialist new Tibet.

The san fan (3 anti's) are anti-rebellion, anti-ula system and anti-slavery. The shuang jian (2 reductions) are reduction of rents and reduction of interests.