Tibet from the blogosphere

Reflecting on the violence in Tibet, the blogosphere has become a key source of information as citiz

Since the eruption of violence in Tibet's capital city, Lhasa, the Chinese government has attempted to stem the flow of information limiting the access of mainstream media outlets.

As with the Burma uprising last year, the international audience's eyes have turned to the blogosphere for news.

The Free Tibet blog had anticipated the protests commemorating the Tibet Uprising of 1959 when more than 80,000 Tibetans died trying to end Chinese rule.

As far back as 8 March they were urging supporters to protest in London in solidarity. Now we know that the protests led to a number of deaths.

But with the Communist Chinese government limiting the flow of information and ordering foreign journalists to leave certain provinces of Tibet, supposedly for their own safety, accurate information and first-hand accounts of the violence have been difficult to obtain.

Without the appropriate news outlets to disperse information, the blogosphere has reacted by presenting information of varied accuracies based on citizen reporting.

Information online has included discrepancies over the number of deaths because while the Dalai Lama claims the death toll is 80, the Chinese media says it is 13.

Many major news sources, including the New York Times have issued requests calling for citizen journalists and readers in Tibet to help "report on events there by sending us eyewitness accounts in photographs, video or text" so that any information can be given to the international audience.

The BBC's eyewitness reports submitted by anonymous Tibetans describe the violence as well. One report described how the television reports in Tibet announce that the situation is under control but the Tibetan said "what really worries me is that I can't see a single Westerner or foreign journalist. That is of concern." Another Tibetan echoed the state of confusion writing that "there are all kinds of rumours going around but it is difficult to know what to believe."

While online reports have aroused international audiences to protest in their own countries, the Chinese government blocked YouTube, CNN as well as other international news media, and broadcasts by the Dalai Lama who has threatened to step down from his position if Tibetans continue the violence.

Inevitably this has stemmed the flow of information to the people of China and Tibet leaving them in the dark about what is happening in their own country. Meanwhile bloggers in China who write about the Tibetan situation are fervently in favour of keeping Tibet part of China.

As the status of the 2008 Olympics comes under scrutiny, celebrity activists including Richard Gere have called for the cancellation of the games. Gere, who is the International Campaign for Tibet chairman has said it would be "unconscionable" to attend the Olympic Games if the Tibet situation is not resolved.

Some blog forums are drawing parallels between the Berlin Olympics of 1936 and the current situation. Other articles are pointing out that although the United States has said it will not bar athletes from attending the 2008 Olympics the US boycotted the 1980 Moscow games. Through the blogosphere the issue has truly reached an international front but cannot be truly international until it is accessible to people within China and Tibet as well.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times