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Abdu’l-Baha’s ‘socialism’

Posted by Sen on June 11, 2009

wheatfieldI was led to this subject by one of the friends, who commented that the House of Justice’s revenues include mines, and its expenditures the care of the poor, both governmental matters, so it is not unreasonable for Habib Taherzadeh to say, in his translation of Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of Ishraqat, that “matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 27)

In a blog posting on the translation issue in the eighth Ishraqat, I’ve pointed out that there is no word for ‘state’ in the text, and that Shoghi Effendi’s translation is “Administrative affairs should be referred to the House of Justice,” a translation which is in line with the Bahai teachings on Church and State generally. But what about the mines? minesymbolMy friend’s reasoning is plausible: if national mineral resources fell in the province of the House of Justice, that would indicate that the House of Justice had a governmental function.

In God Passes By, page 214, Shoghi Effendi says that in the Kitab-e Aqdas, Baha’u’llah “ordains the institution of the ‘House of Justice,’ defines its functions, [and] fixes its revenues.” Yet nowhere do I see there anything about revenue from mines, or responsibility for them. What I do see is, as Shoghi Effendi also points out, is that Baha’u’llah “disclaims any intention of laying hands on their (the Kings’) kingdoms.” I assume that includes the mines in the kingdoms. Yet when I searched in the Bahai secondary literature I found a number of Bahai authors saying that the revenues of the House of Justice include one third of the yield from mines.

Harper2000Tracing this idea back towards the source, the earliest instance I have found is an article by Orrol Harper in Star of the West Volume 15:7 (October 1924) entitled “A bird’s eye view of the world in the year 2000.” It begins: “I am going to ask you to put on with me the wings of imagination and fly over the world in about the year 2000. …” Harper gives an imaginative tour of a pastoral paradise which is the world in the year 2000, and finds:

Each settlement is marked by two outstanding structures. One of these buildings is plainly a wonderful public school, expressing in complete detail the dreams of the early century educators. The other structure, bearing the name “House of Justice,” especially piques our curiosity. We are told that this “House of Justice” is in reality a central storehouse, established for the benefit of every member of the community. ..

This is followed by a summary of what is recognisably a letter from Abdu’l-Baha to Mrs Parsons, dated October 4, 1912 – a tablet which is not about the House of Justice or its dependencies, but rather about a democratic local government and the village treasury. This tablet was partly translated and partly paraphrased in an article by George Latimer in Star of the West vol. 7 no. 15, page 146, then it was partially translated in Bahai Scriptures page 453, with one interpolation (the last sentence). Most recently, one section has been translated in Lights of Guidance. There is also a more extensive, but unauthenticated, talk on the same subject, given by Abdu’l-Baha to the Socialist Club in Montreal, but I will begin with the Tablet.

This is an authentic Bahai text: the Persian original is published (without a section of the introduction) in the series Ma’ideh-ye Asmaanii, and in full in another series of Abdu’l-Baha’s writings, Khataabaat-e Hazrat-e ‘Abdu’l-Baha. It reads (in my translation):

DublinParsons
To the Handmaid of God Mrs. Parsons, in Dublin:
may the glory of the All-glorious rest upon her.

O my spiritual daughter,
I am travelling by train to San Francisco. I fell to thinking of your character, and of the face of the little master, Jeffrey, and so I have immediately taken up the pen to write to you. Be assured that my greatest happiness is when I see that you, beloved daughter, are in motion and striving, are renowned for love’s madness, are enamoured of the divine beauty, are attracted to the sweet fragrances of the Abha paradise and aglow with the love of God. May you burn and melt as a candle does, while giving light to all. This is my wish for you.

It is especially the question of an economy based on the new teachings that presents you with intellectual difficulties. One thing was said, another was reported. Therefore I will outline the basics of this question for you, so that it is clear and manifest that this economic question cannot be completely resolved except on the basis of these teachings. In fact, a resolution is impossible and unattainable.

The basis is as follows: this economic question must commence with the farmer and ultimately be extended to other trades, for the number of farmers is at least twice the number engaged in all the other trades. Therefore the right approach is to begin with the farmers: the farmer is the first actor in the life of society. In brief, in every village a Board (anjoman) should be established among the mature persons [`uqalaa’] of that village. That village should be under the control of that Board.

Likewise a public treasury [makhzin] should be founded and a notary appointed. At the time of the harvest, with the approval of that board, a determined percentage of all harvests should be appropriated for the treasury. This treasury has seven revenues: tithes, taxes on animals, wealth without inheritors, anything found which has no owner, a third of any buried treasure that is found, a third of minerals, and donations.

In essence, it has seven expenditures:
– first, general reasonable expenses such as the expenditure of the treasury and the administration of public health;
– second, payment of government tithes;
– third, the payment of taxes on animals to the government;
– fourth, support for orphans;
– fifth, support for those living with disability;
– sixth, support for the school,
– seventh, subsidising the needful livelihood of the poor.

The first revenue is the ‘tithe,’ which should be assessed as follows. For example, there is a certain person whose revenue is five hundred dollars and his necessary expenses are five hundred dollars: no tithes will be collected from him. Another’s expenses being five hundred and his income one thousand dollars: a ‘tithe’ will be taken from him, for he has more than the bare necessities; if he gives one tenth his livelihood will not be disturbed. Another’s expenses are one thousand dollars, and his income is five thousand dollars: he will be assessed at 15 percent, because he has a generous surplus. Another has necessary expenses of one thousand dollars, but his revenues are ten thousand dollars: he will be assessed at 20 percent because his surplus is even greater. The necessary expenses of another person are four or five thousand dollars, and his revenues are one hundred thousand: one fourth will be required from him. There is another whose income is two hundred, but his essential needs, merely to survive, are five hundred dollars: he has not lacked in diligence and energy, rather his planting has not been blessed. This person should be helped from the treasury, so that he may not remain in poverty, but may live at ease.

In every village, a fixed proportion from this treasury should be set aside in accordance with the number of orphans, for their daily needs. A portion should be set aside for the disabled of the village. A portion should be set aside from this treasury for the unemployed who are poor. A portion should be set aside from this treasury to support education. A portion should be set aside from this treasury for the health of the people of the village. If any surplus remains, it should be sent to the public coffers of the nation, for public expenses.

When such a system is established, every individual in society will live in the utmost comfort and happiness, but also, gradations of rank will be preserved. There will be no disturbance of these gradations, for gradations are among the unavoidable requirements of social life.

The body politic is like an army. In an army, the Marshall, the General, colonel, captain, lieutenant, and private are needed. It is impossible for all to be of one kind: the preservation of gradations is necessary, but every individual in the army should live in the utmost ease and repose. Likewise a city needs the governor, judge, the merchant, the wealthy man, the tradesmen and farmers. Undoubtedly these gradations should be preserved, otherwise public order would be disturbed.

Please express my great love and affection to Mr. Parsons. We have never forgotten him. If possible, print this letter in one of the books, for others are propounding this system in their own names.

Give praise to his Holiness, the Incomparable, the Glorious. And the Glory of the all-Glorious rest upon you. ‘Abdu’l-Baha Abbas

wheatThe Board and the House

My friend was clearly quite wrong: far from showing that the House of Justice has the responsibilities of civil government, this tablet shows yet again that the separation of church and state is the basic assumption in Abdu’l-Baha’s social thinking. He describes a Board, an anjoman, which has control of the affairs of the village. This is not the House of Justice, and since Abdu’l-Baha could not have wished for a conflict of authority, clearly he did not envisage the House of Justice having civil authority. The Board and treasury is the democratic core of a locally-based social welfare system and local government.

We know that the Board and the House of Justice are different institutions, in the first place, because the name is different. It is not credible to suppose, with all that Abdu’l-Baha has written about the House of Justice under that name, that he should use a different term in the tablet to Mrs Parsons (and the talk to the Socialists I will present below). The Treasury he describes is founded under the jurisdiction of a village Board drawn from the mature persons in the village, and responsible for civic affairs. The House of Justice, in contrast, is elected by the “friends” (the Bahais) alone, and consists of Bahais alone, and its responsibilities are “to direct the activities of the friends, guard vigilantly the Cause of God, and control and supervise the affairs of the [Bahai] Movement in general.” (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, 39-40)

The revenues of the treasury that Abdu’l-Baha describes consist primarily of a progressive and compulsory income tax, plus one third of the revenues from mines, animal taxes (which today might be called road taxes or tolls) and other matters. The revenues of the House of Justice are stipulated in the Aqdas and do not include any progressive tax, animal tax, mine revenues, or the like. It is as plain as day that, in Abdu’l-Baha’s mind, they are different institutions.

Nevertheless, there is one apparent overlap between the two: one of the revenues of the treasury that Abdu’l-Baha envisions is “wealth without inheritors.” If a Bahai should die entirely without heirs (which is virtually impossible, since the teacher is one of the heirs), his or her estate reverts to the House of Justice. More importantly, when some categories of heirs are absent, part of their share goes to the House of Justice. That means that a Bahai can never in fact have no heirs, if there is a House of Justice. The House of Justice is our heir of last resort, so to speak.

Note 42 to the English translation of the Aqdas states:

In a Tablet enumerating the revenues of the local treasury, Abdu’l-Baha includes those inheritances for which there are no heirs, thus indicating that the House of Justice referred to in these passages of the Aqdas relating to inheritance is the local one.

But this reasoning would only hold if the local treasury was answerable to the local House of Justice. As we have seen above, the treasury answers to a civil body, the anjoman or village Board, so what Abdu’l-Baha says about the disposition of wealth without inheritors in civil law does not tell us what he would have said about the separate question of which level of the House of Justice should receive the portions of a Bahai’s estate that revert to the House of Justice because there are no heirs in a particular category.

wheatAbdu’l-Baha’s socialism

The first characteristic of Abdu’l-Baha’s ‘socialism’ is that it is a civil matter, not a religious one. Second, it is by implication a democratic socialism, although the method for the formation of the village Board is not specified. However in his Resaleh-ye Madaniyyeh Abdu’l-Baha says

In the present writer’s view it would be preferable if the selection of the nonpermanent members of provincial councils should be dependent on the consent or choice of the people. For the chosen members will, as a result, be conscientious in questions of justice and equity, lest their reputations should suffer and they fall into disfavour with the public.

(My translation: Marzieh Gail mistranslates a key term, see The Secret of Divine Civilization, 24)

Third, it is a social welfare system, not a communist system. He describes a free economy, with progressive taxation used to reduce the extremes of wealth and poverty, at least to the extent of guaranteeing the minimum requirements of existence to the poor, care for the disabled and orphans, and public funding for education and public health.

Fourth, it is locally based. The Netherlands once had such a system, in which local rather than national governments set policies and had budget responsibility for social welfare and education. Over time, the local element has been weakened and the national element strengthened, in part because of geographical mobility. If the local authority is responsible for support for the unemployed, the aged and disabled, each local authority becomes reluctant to accept newcomers in these categories. In the Netherlands, local authorities until quite recently had laws that limited who was allowed to become a resident within their borders to those with economic ties to the area. This was unjust, since it limited the movement not only of the unemployed seeking work, but also of students, the aged and disabled people, and those intending to set up their own businesses – anyone who did not have a job in the town. It was also economically undesirable. The economy benefits from both the movement of those who can work to places where there is work to be found, and the movement of those who cannot work to places where there are vacant homes and cheap rents. When the national government decided for these reasons that local governments could no longer be allowed to control local ‘immigration,’ the local governments in turn demanded that the national government accept more of the burden – and therefore policy-making responsibility – for social welfare. This seems to me unavoidable: in a mobile society, an entirely locally-based and locally-controlled social welfare system such as Abdu’l-Baha describes, cannot work.

Fifth, it is agriculturally based. The relevance of this has been somewhat diminished since farmers are no longer the largest single occupational group, and we are able to move large quantities of food around the globe quite cheaply. But food remains among our most basic needs, and the security of the food supply is a more popular cause than, for example, preventing the collapse of large banks. So his advice still makes sense, for countries such as Egypt and India that do not yet have a social welfare system: begin with income security for the agricultural producers, and move outward from there, so strengthening the foundation of the economy and the economies of the agricultural service towns, while reducing the drift toward the big cities.

wheatAbdu’l-Baha’s talk to the Socialists

When he was in Montreal in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha gave a talk to the Socialist Club there, which is reported in Star of the West 13:9 (1922) page 227. There are no Persian notes for this talk, so it represents what an anonymous note-taker understood of what the interpreter said that Abdu’l-Baha was saying. Moreover the first published report comes 10 years after the original talk, and does not indicate who the interpreter was on that occasion, or whether the notes were taken by shorthand, or the history of the text in the intervening 10 years. So it is far from reliable. Nevertheless, since it is relevant to Abdu’l-Baha’s socialism and has not been included in The Promulgation of Universal Peace or the most commonly used electronic editions of Abdu’l-Baha’s talks in English, I present this report below in full so that it is at least available to search engines. At one point, one word which I have marked is virtually unreadable.

The report begins at page 227:

The following, hitherto unpublished, address of Abdul Baha was given in Montreal, Canada in 1912. It reveals the prophetic quality of his solution of the question of economic right and justice “Earth,” he said, “can be made a paradise.” We add to this address a short compilation of his words on economics and on its spiritual foundation.

It seems as though all creatures can exist singly and alone. For example, a tree can exist solitary and alone on a given prairie or in a valley or on the mountainside. An animal upon a mountain or a bird soaring in the air might live a solitary life. They are not in need of cooperation or solidarity. Such animated beings enjoy the greatest comfort and happiness in their respective solitary lives.

On the contrary, man cannot live singly and alone. He is in need of continuous cooperation and mutual help. For example, a man living alone in the wilderness will eventually starve. He can never, singly and alone, provide himself with all the necessities of existence. Therefore, he is in need of cooperation and reciprocity.

The mystery of this phenomenon, the cause thereof is this, that mankind has been created from one single origin, has branched off from one family. Thus in reality all mankind represents one family. God has not created any difference. He has created all as one that thus this family might live in perfect happiness and well-being.

Regarding reciprocity and [connection ?]: each member of the body politic should live in the utmost comfort and welfare because each individual member of humanity is a member of the body politic and if one member of the members be in distress or be afflicted with some disease all the other members mast necessarily suffer. For example, a member of the human organism is the eye. If the eye should be affected that affliction would affect the whole nervous system. Hence, if a member of the body politic becomes afflicted, in reality, from the standpoint of sympathetic connection, all will share that affliction since this (one afflicted) is a member of the group of members, a part of the whole. Is it possible for one member or part to be in distress and the other members to be at ease? It is impossible! Hence God has desired that in the body politic of humanity each one shall enjoy perfect welfare and comfort.

Although the body politic is one family yet because of lack of harmonious relations some members are comfortable and some in direst misery, some members are satisfied and some are hungry

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some members are clothed in most costly garments and some families are in need of food and shelter. Why? Because this family lacks the necessary reciprocity and symmetry. This household is not well arranged. This household is not living under a perfect law. All the laws which are legislated do not ensure happiness. They do not provide comfort. Therefore a law must be given to this family by means of which all the members of this family will enjoy equal well-being and happiness.

Is it possible for one member of a family to be subjected to the utmost misery and to abject poverty and for the rest of the family to be comfortable? It is impossible unless those members of the family be senseless, atrophied, inhospitable, unkind. Then they would say, “Though these members do belong to our family – let them alone. Let us look after ourselves. Let them die. So long as I am comfortable, I am honored, I am happy – this my brother – let him die. If he be in misery let him remain in misery, so long as I am comfortable. If he is hungry let him remain so; I am satisfied. If he is without clothes, so long as I am clothed, let him remain as he is. If he is shelterless, homeless, so long as I have a home, let him remain in the wilderness.”

Such utter indifference in the human family is due to lack of control, to lack of a working law, to lack of kindness in its midst. If kindness had been shown to the members of this family surely all the members thereof would have enjoyed comfort and happiness.

His Holiness Baha ‘Ullah has given instructions regarding every one of the questions confronting humanity. He has given teachings and instructions with regard to every one of the problems with which man struggles. Among them are (the teachings) concerning the question of economies that all the members of the body politic may enjoy through the working out of this solution the greatest happiness, welfare and comfort without any harm or injury attacking the general order of things. Thereby no difference or dissension will occur. No sedition or contention will take place.

The solution is this:

First and foremost is the principle that to all the members of the body politic shall be given the greatest achievements of the world of humanity. Each one shall have the utmost welfare and well being. To solve this problem we must begin with the farmer; there will we lay a foundation for system and order because the peasant class and the agricultural class exceed other classes in the importance of their service. In every village there must he established a general storehouse which will have a number of revenues.

The first revenue will be that of the tenths or tithes.

The second revenue (will be derived) from the animals.

The third revenue, from the minerals, that is to say, every mine prospected or discovered, a third thereof will go to this vast storehouse.

The fourth is this: whosoever dies without leaving any heirs all his heritage will go to the general storehouse.

Fifth, if any treasures shall be found on the land they should be devoted to this storehouse.

All these revenues will be assembled in this storehouse.

As to the first, the tenths or tithes: we will consider a farmer, one of the peasants. We will look into his income. We will find out, for instance, what is his annual revenue and also what are his expenditures. Now. if his income be equal to his expenditures, from such a farmer nothing whatever will be taken. That is, he will not be subjected to taxation of any sort, needing as he does all his income. Another farmer may have expenses running up to one thousand dollars we will say, and his income is two thousand dollars. From such an one a tenth will be required, because he has a surplus. But if his income be ten thousand dollars and his expenses one thousand dollars or his income twenty thousand dollars, he will have to pay as taxes, one fourth. If his income be one hundred thousand dollars and his expenses five thousand, one third will he have to pay because he has still a surplus, since his expenses are five thousand

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and his income one hundred thousand. If he pays, say, thirty-five thousand dollars, in addition to the expenditure of five thousand he still has sixty thousand left. But if his expenses be ten thousand and his income two hundred thousand then he must give an even half because ninety thousand will be in that ease the sum remaining. Such a scale as this will determine allotment of taxes. All the income from such revenues will go to this general storehouse.

Then there must be considered such emergencies as follows: a certain farmer whose expenses run up to ten thousand dollars and whose income is only five thousand, he will receive necessary expenses from this storehouse. Five thousand dollars will he alloted to him so he will not be in need.

Then the orphans will be looked after all of whose expenses will be taken care of. The cripples in the village – all their expenses will be looked after. The poor in the village – their necessary expenses will be defrayed. And other members who for valid reasons are incapacitated – the blind, the old, the deaf – their comfort must be looked after. In the village no one will remain in need or in want. All will live in the utmost comfort and welfare. Yet no scism [sic] will assail the general order of the body politic.

Hence the expenses or expenditures of the general storehouse are now made clear and its activities made manifest. The income of this general storehouse has been shown. Certain trustees will be elected by the people in a given village to look after these transactions. The farmers will be taken care of and if after all these expenses are defrayed any surplus is found in the storehouse it must be transferred to the National Treasury.

This system is all thus ordered so that in the village the very poor will be comfortable, the orphans will live happily and well; in a word, no one will be left destitute. All the individual members of the body politic will thus live comfortably and well.

For larger cities, naturally, there will be a system on a larger scale. Were I to go into that solution the details thereof would be very lengthy.

The result of this (system) will be that each individual member of the body politic will live most comfortably and happily under obligation to no one. Nevertheless there will be preservation of degrees because in the world of humanity there must needs be degrees. The body politic may well be likened to an army. In this army there must be a general, there must be a sergeant, there must be a marshal, there must be the infantry; but all must enjoy the greatest comfort and welfare.

God is not partial and is no respecter of persons. He has made provision for all. The harvest comes forth for everyone. The rain showers upon everybody and the heat of the sun is destined to warm everyone. The verdure of the earth is for everyone. Therefore there should be for all humanity the utmost happiness, the utmost comfort, the utmost well-being.

But if conditions are such that some are happy and comfortable and some in misery; some are accumulating exorbitant wealth and others are in dire want – under such a system it is impossible for man to be happy and impossible for him to win the good pleasure of God. God is kind to all. The good pleasure of God consists in the welfare of all the individual members of mankind.

A Persian king was one night in his palace, living in the greatest luxury and comfort. Through excessive joy and gladness he addressed a certain man, saying: ”Of all my life this is the happiest moment. Praise be to God, from every point prosperity appears and fortune smiles! My treasury is full and the army is well taken care of. My palaces are many; my land unlimited; my family is well off; my honor and sovereignty are great. What more could I want!”

The poor man at the gate of his palace spoke out, saying: “O kind king! Assuming that you are from every point of view so happy, free from every worry and sadness – do you not worry for us? You say that on your own account you have no worries – but do you never worry about the poor in your land? Is it becoming or meet that you should

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be so well off and we in such dire want and need? In view of our needs and troubles how can you rest in your palace, how can you even say that you are free from worries and sorrows? As a ruler you must not be so egoistic as to think of yourself alone but you must think of those who are your subjects. When we are comfortable then you will be comfortable; when we are in misery how can you, as a king, be in happiness?”

The purport is this that we are all inhabiting one globe of earth. In reality we are one family and each one of us is a member of this family. We must all be in the greatest happiness and comfort, under a just rule and regulation which is according to the good pleasure of God, thus causing us to be happy, for this life is fleeting.

If man were to care for himself only he would be nothing but an animal for only the animals are thus egoistic. If you bring a thousand sheep to a well to kill nine hundred and ninety-nine the one remaining sheep would go on grazing, not thinking of the others and worrying not at all about the lost, never bothering that its own kind had passed away, or had perished or been killed.. To look after one’s self only is therefore an animal propensity. It is the animal propensity to live solitary and alone. It is the animal proclivity to look after one’s own comfort. But man was created to be a man – to be fair, to be just, to be merciful, to be kind to all his species, never to be willing that he himself be well off while others are in misery and distress – this is an attribute of the animal and not of man. Nay, rather, man should be willing to accept hardships for himself in order that others may enjoy wealth; he should enjoy trouble for himself that others may enjoy happiness and well-being. This is the attribute of man. This is becoming of man. Otherwise man is not man – he is less than the animal.

The man who thinks only of himself and is thoughtless of others is undoubtedly inferior to the animal because the animal is not possessed of the reasoning faculty. The animal is excused; but in man there is reason, the faculty of justice, the faculty of mercifulness. Possessing all these faculties he must not leave them unused. He who is so hard-hearted as to think only of his own comfort, such an one will not be called man.

Man is he who forgets his own interests for the sake of others. His own comfort he forfeits for the well-being of all. Nay, rather, his own life must he be willing to forfeit for the life of mankind. Such a man is the honor of the world of humanity. Such a man is the glory of the world of mankind. Such a man is the one who wins eternal bliss. Such a man is near to the threshold of God. Such a man is the very manifestation of eternal happiness. Otherwise men are like animals, exhibiting the same proclivities and propensities as the world of animals. What distinction is there? What prerogatives, what perfections? None whatever! Animals are better even – thinking only of themselves and negligent of the needs of others.

Consider how the greatest men in the world – whether among prophets or philosophers – all have forfeited their own comfort, have sacrificed their own pleasure for the well being of humanity. They have sacrificed their own lives for the body politic. They have sacrificed their own wealth for that of the general welfare. They have forfeited their own honor for the honor of mankind. Therefore it becomes evident that this is the highest attainment for the world of humanity.

We ask God to endow human souls with justice so that they may be fair, and may strive to provide for the comfort of all, that each member of humanity may pass his life in the utmost comfort and welfare. Then this material world will become the very paradise of the Kingdom, this elemental earth will be in a heavenly state and all the servants of God will live in the utmost joy, happiness and gladness. We must all strive and concentrate all our thoughts in order that such happiness may accrue to the world of humanity.

~~ Sen McGlinn ~~
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33 Responses to “Abdu’l-Baha’s ‘socialism’”

  1. Randy said

    This early Baha’i belief in the ultimate establishment of the Houses of Justice as the government of the world underlay some of the initial dissatisfaction with the actions taken by Shoghi Effendi when he became Guardian and began his work to establish a Baha’i Administrative Order which clearly had nothing to do with the actual government. This was Ruth White’s main source of disagreement with the actions of Shoghi Effendi and the cause of her opposition to him, for example.

    Cheers, Randy

  2. Sen said

    Could you clarify on what Ruth White thought? Was she unhappy because Shoghi Effendi’s “machinery of Bahai Administration” was NOT an alternative government, or because she thought (mistakenly) that it was one?

  3. Matt said

    I never heard that take on Ruth White’s opposition before. I had thought it was for the opposite reasons, that she felt Shoghi Effendi was the “pope” of the Baha’i Faith, and was turning the universalist and liberal faith into an authoritarian organization. Some of the administration-oriented Baha’is were also believers in theocracy, so some people may have confused the two beliefs into one and concluded that Shoghi Effendi teaches this.

    Still, I don’t think the Baha’i writings explicitly forbid theocratic tendencies, if not a full blown theocracy. Didn’t the Universal House of Justice write a letter about theocracy in the Baha’i Faith, and concluded that there may be ‘elements’ of theocracy, but that there is no way to see into the future of what a future “Bahai State” would like?

  4. Woofus said

    What about tariffs, sales taxes, and corporate taxes (or will there be any corporations then?) Property taxes are already included in the form of huququllah, but with too many loopholes IMHO.

    On “sin taxes,” don’t adulterers get fined 19 miqthals of gold, “to be doubled with each successive offense” (however defined)? Mathematically speaking, in one month one energetic couple might become liable for more gold than exists in the solar system!

    One of the biggest head-scratchers for me is the concept of “expenses” or “expenditures.” Suppose you have a kid, and I have a yacht. My expenses being higher, should I get tax relief? You can see where this is going–obviously, what is needed is some sort of criteria for determining what is a legitimate expense, and how much of an expense it should be. For example, how big a house am I entitled to? What make of car should I drive (if any)? Can I expect to eat steak every day?

    (That’s the problem with huququllah, by the way–you get to deduct “debts” which means, with a little forethought, you could make sure you stayed exempt every year. It could never work as anything other than a voluntary system.)

  5. Sen said

    What Abdu’l-Baha is describing here is part of the civil tax system, which is quite separate to the Bahai funds, Huququllah, fines paid to the House of Justice, inheritance going to the House of Justice, and so forth. The first is a way of funding public services and social welfare, the second is the way the Bahai community’s internal needs and its charity and development work are funded.

    My reading of what Abdu’l-Baha is saying about the civil government’s revenues is that he is describing the kind of progressive taxation which was already in place in some countries, but Persian lacks the vocabulary for it, so he uses the word “tithes” and then uses examples to show he means an income tax in which the percentage of tax rises with rising income: progressive taxation. He also does not not have an easy term for “profit.” Naturally Persian has a word for the difference between the buying price and the selling price, but the “profit” of a business that was taxed in a western system at that time takes into account all the expenditures necessary to produce the revenues, ie it includes overheads. Naturally businesses want to minimise taxation, so naturally governments make rules about what can be counted as expenditures necessary to produce the revenues. You are not allowed to deduct the costs of an expansion from current revenues, to reduce your profit this year for example. What remains after deducting the “necessary expenses” is profit, and taxable. That does not exclude the possibility of a per person tax exemption (first $5000 tax exempt for example, plus $1000 per child), but I don’t think Abdu’l-Baha is refering to such personal “necessary expenses” here – I think he means the expenses necessary to produce the revenues of a business.

    On the huququllah, you are right, it can only work as a voluntary system: that is precisely the point. It is voluntarily surrendering part of your indulgences and luxuries, knowing the money will go to a Good Cause, that is supposed to be good for your soul. We wouldn’t want such a system for a state tax, because state taxes have to be compulsory and defined by rules that apply equally to all – the state would end up having to decide how often you really need steak, so it can tax the extras. It would be impractical and an intolerable interference in people’s lives.

    One way of calculating how much you owe for huququllah is to take your increase in capital for the year and add to it an estimate of your unnecessary spending in the year. How much less would you have spent, if you had lived in a sober and frugal way? Just thinking about the question is salutory.

    ~~ Sen

  6. lapistuner said

    Sen asked:

    “Could you clarify on what Ruth White thought? Was she unhappy because Shoghi Effendi’s “machinery of Bahai Administration” was NOT an alternative government, or because she thought (mistakenly) that it was one?”

    I can’t claim to be an expert on Ruth White. She seemed to believe that Baha’i itself would never be organized but that rather the world, politically, would organize itself into the Houses of Justice forseen by Baha’u’llah. She was a universalist, and not the only one to leave Baha’i after the beginning of Shoghi Effendi’s Guardianship (Howard Colby Ives left as well).

    I don’t think she saw the Baha’i Administration as being a nascent World Gov’t (but she may have), but rather saw it as being an attempt to organize the religion itself as one of many competing religions, thus de-universalizing it to some extent.

    So her primary concern seems to have been that aspect of what Shoghi Effendi did, instituting what is more akin to a nascent form of priesthood than a nascent government.

    Cheers, Randy

  7. Sen said

    I don’t know enough about Ruth White to comment, but this morning I came across Mirza Ahmad Sohrab’s analysis of The Will and Testament of Abdul Baha,

    http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/diglib/books/P-T/S/sohrab/wtab.htm

    (thanks to Steve Cooney for pointing me to this)

    On page 83 he says that the House of Justice is a political and
    democratic institution similar to Congress, composed of representantives of humanity. He says in as many words that the UHJ is the world parliament. He has confused the House of Justice (elected by the Friends, its members not representing constitutiencies) with the World legislature, whose members are national representatives and trustees for all mankind. Having put the UHJ in the wrong box, in the category of civil government box, he then says that the HoJ cannot have any religious jurisdiction! Religious jurisdiction in the Bahai community is precisely what the UHJ was created for. But since he thinks the House of Justice is a civil government, the conclusion is understandbale, if mistaken.

    I was not aware that this confusion (originating in two footnotes to the first edition of Some Answered Questions) had persisted so long. This may explain a letter written on behalf of the Guardian in 1934:

    “As regards the International Executive referred to by the Guardian in his ‘Goal of a New World Order’ it should be noted that this statement refers by no means to the Bahá’í Commonwealth of the future, but simply to that world government which will herald the advent and lead to the final establishment of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh.
    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 320)

    It looks as if, in 1934, people still had not distinguished between the institutions of the Bahai Commonwealth and those of the world government. Certainly Sohrab had not, but I guess he was not listening attentively to what Shoghi Effendi was explaining ! (Sohrab was an opponent of the Bahai administration of his day, in America).

  8. Robert K. Walker said

    Dear Sen,

    Way back in the sixties, I recall Ali Nakhjavani pointing out an encounter in which the Guardian acknowledged that the translation “administrative,” in Bahá’í World Faith, was a mistake, and that the proper translation would be “affairs of state.” So I wasn’t surprised when it came out that way in the new translation.

    Robert

  9. Sen said

    If so, it comes done to pilgrim’s notes again: someone thinks they remember Shoghi Effendi saying something. But that’s supposing that your memory of what Ali Nakhjavani said is correct.

    Thou has written concerning the pilgrims and pilgrims’ note. Any narrative that is not authenticated by a Text should not be trusted. Narratives, even if true, cause confusion. For the people of Baha, the Text, and only the Text, is authentic.”

    (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: from a previously untranslated tablet)
    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 438)

  10. Carrie said

    Lapistuner, could you please source your claim that Howard Colby Ives left the Faith when Shoghi Effendi became Guardian?

  11. Sen said

    I’ve checked myself through the resources available to me, and I’ve found no indication that Ives left the Bahai Faith at all. Thanks for spotting that Carrie, and providing the link to Ives’ biography.

  12. Sen said

    [Comment posted on behalf of Ahang Rabbani]

    Dr. Mu’ayyad (Khatirat Habib, vol 1) quotes remarks by Abdu’l-Baha, which are related to Mrs. Parsons’ tablet:

    We went a bit further and saw that about two or three hundred desolate and poor people had congregated, waiting for the arrival of the Master. He said:

    Once divine teachings are diffused, even outwardly there will not be any poor or needy left [in the world]. Presently there are groups organized in America and Europe called Socialists. They say, “Why are there so many people in need of daily bread when there are certain other men with such immense fortunes that they cannot even count them? The sweat of the brow of our working class has brought about this wealth. This is product of the labor of the wretched workers. Why should we allow someone to use a business scheme and accumulate an enormous estate as a result of the suffering of so many destitute workers? All must be equal.”

    It is impossible for all to be equal. If there is no worker and proprietor, and all possess wealth, then the world will fall into complete chaos. Then no one will work as builder, carpenter or butcher. There is a story told by Muslims. They say that once His Holiness Moses was praying, “O Lord, why hast Thou not bestowed riches and wealth on everyone? I supplicate Thee to grant affluence and abundance to all.” His prayer was immediately fulfilled. That night, Moses needed some repairs on His home. He sent after a builder, but the builder refused to come and said, “I no longer need to work.” The carpenter and the bricklayer replied similarly. His Holiness Moses was perplexed about what to do. A revelation descended, “Moses, divine wisdom decreed that there be differences in peoplés rank; otherwise, the world́s equilibrium would be perturbed.”

    Society is like an army: It requires generals; commanders; a cavalry; soldiers; captains; privates; and many other levels. It cannot function when all are equal and the same. The best arrangement allows but a scant few to remain poor and needy, as each person must live comfortably within his rank, without allowing all fortunes to be accumulated in the hands of only a few. For instance, let every village establish a commonwealth and a council composed of a number of trustworthy men of the village for its administration. Divide the incoming wealth into seven parts and, similarly, the expenses into seven:…

    (the further content parallels the Parsons’ tablet so closely that it is possible that Mu’ayyad may have fused the words Abdu’l-Baha spoke, above, with the tablet).

  13. Why is it translated “tithes”? Didn’t the translator know that it means a “tenth” or 10%? Generally, in America flat taxers are the most common to use the term.

    Also, voluntary taxation has a wikipedia page.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_taxation

    It’s theoretically viable for a state to have such a policy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-tax_revenue

    Taxation isn’t the only revenue source, as in if a country wanted no taxes (voluntary or involuntary), they could rely only on other sources of revenue.

    Side Note: Sounds more closer to green politics than socialism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_politics

    Greens are social democrats with ten core tenets, among them is decentralization. This differs from more traditional socialists and social democrats who favor centralization.

  14. Sen said

    I am the translator. It is translated “tithes” because this is exactly what the Persian text says.

  15. Which is 10% statuatorily flat, but with exemptions and imputations that make it effectively progressive.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_tax
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_tax
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_rate

  16. Fubar said

    Abdul-baha was not from a capitalist society, what expertise could he have in anything beyond simple agrarian economics?

    I see no theory of consciousness present that would explain how this kind of “spiritual capitalism” could develop in the real world (as a paradigm shift). Bahaism rests on a foundation of mythic-conformist beliefs that are largely incompatible with the theories of economic rational self-interest common to the modernist thinkers or the competition/cooperation dynamics described by evolutionary theory. It would be hard to think of a worse group of people to be in charge of economies than religious people with traditionalist beliefs that are in opposition to liberty. The opportunity for abuse and corruption are immense whenever religion, politics and money are mixed in any way.

    Science provides, generally, a far better explanation of most of human nature and social organization than does religion.

    http://tuvalu.santafe.edu/~bowles/Holocene.pdf

    http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/Richerson/GruterFESSRNversion.pdf

    Conference paper for Gruter Institute project Free Enterprise Values in Action, Paul Zack
    and Oliver Goodenough, directors. March 15, 2005.

    excerpts:
    Abstract
    Free enterprise economic systems evolved in the modern period as culturally transmitted
    values related to honesty, hard work, and education achievement emerged. One
    evolutionary puzzle is why most economies for the past 5,000 years have had a limited
    role for free enterprise given the spectacular success of modern free economies. Another
    is why if humans became biologically modern 50,000 years ago did it take until 11,000
    years ago for agriculture, the economic foundation of states, to begin. Why didn’t free
    enterprise evolve long ago and far away?

    Challenging the emphasis of selfish rationality in conventional economic theory is the
    main theme of this book. Neither the neo-classical assumption of selfishness nor the
    assumption of rationality is an innocent simplification. Cultural evolutionary models are
    based upon a model of a human decision-maker that exercises effort to select cultural
    variants in an attempt to increase her genetic fitness. If we make this decision-maker
    omnisciently rational and selfish, we end up mating neo-classical economics to basic
    evolutionary theory, giving an in-principle complete theory of human behavior, as Jack
    Hirshleifer (1977) and Paul Samuelson (1985) have noted. However, if we introduce the
    simple realistic consideration that rationality is imperfect because information is costly to
    acquire (Simon 1959) we immediately spawn a great deal of evolutionary complexity.

    [evolution is explained as shaping human development, not “god”/revelation]

    Linked from : http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/Richerson/recent%20cultutral%20new.htm

  17. Sen said

    While social science attempts the rather difficult task of explaining human behaviour, religion and other cultural systems attempt to influence it. I am fairly sure that, if I wish to become less selfish, the life and teachings of Abdu’l-Baha will be a better text book than Adam Smith. On the other hand, I would not turn to Abdu’l-Baha or the Bahai teachings for economic theory.

    Abdu’l-Baha was a rather successful agricultural entrepreneur prior to WW1 (see Abdu’l-Baha’s British Knighthood, which refers briefly to the sources of his wealth and mentions further sources). I have heard that he also ran a water-powered mill, but I don’t have the sources of that story at hand. He was a very capable manager, as well as a religious thinker and leader.

  18. To be speicific, what makes you think Abdul-Baha didn’t support a communistic system? There’s nothing I have read that explicitly defends free-markets or denounces command style economies.

    Side Note: Communism is the use of socialism as a means rather than an end in and of itself. Socialism without adjective is the same socialism as practiced by the Communists. Market socialism and social democracy are other types, but not called just socialism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_socialism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

    You can compare and contrast the 3.

  19. Sen said

    Interesting question. Chapter 78 of Some Answered Questions speaks of strikes and the rights of capital-owners and labour.

    It appears in the translation to refer to capitalists moderating their greed. However this is a Westernisation, even an Americanisation, of what the Persian text says. For example, what is translated as “the capitalist succumbs under a formidable burden …” refers in the Persian text just to “wealthy person” (صاحب ثروت ), and what is translated as “… honors, commerce, industry are in the hands of some industrialists” in the Persian says only, “in the hands of a few people.” What is translated as “in the capitalists’ being moderate in the acquisition of their profits…” refers in the Persian just to “wealthy people” (اهل ثروت ).

    Despite the westernisation of the terms used, I think the chapter shows that Abdu’l-Baha would not have favoured a communist system: he seems to be arguing against the rhetoric of full economic equality for all, even while he is critical of the greed of the few. Nor is he arguing simply for philanthropy from the rich: rather he advocates that the moderation of wealth, profit sharing, and provision for the weak and elderly should be set out in laws, and administered by the government.

  20. The vague term “wealthy people” really doesn’t inform us of the basis of their wealth.

    Under Communism, Communists themselves become wealthy by special privileges. The motto “Everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than others.” is an apt desrciption of the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea, etc.

    I read in an article in the Economist about the Soviet system.

    Under communism, the lack of private property was compensated by power and status. A party boss did not own a factory personally (he could not even buy a flat) but his position in the party gave him access to the collective property of the state, including elite housing and special food parcels. The word “special” was a favorite one in the Soviet system, as in “special meeting”, “special departments”, and “special regime”.

    The Soviet system collapsed when top officials decided to “monetise” their privileges and turn them into property. The word “special” was also commericalized, to become eksklusivny (exclusive) and elitny (elite). It was used to market almost anything, from a house to a haircut. A black Merecedes with a blue flashing light, ploughing its way through pedestrians, became the ultimate manifestation of power and money.

    So based on the fact that wealthy people still exist even under communistic systems, really makes it vague who the text is talking about. It doesn’t say if the means of production is private or national. “In the hands of a few” could mean capitalists or communist bureacrats. His criticism of greed could be a criticism of greedy bureacrats endangering the system as well as capitalist having windfall profits. Communism ultimately doesn’t change the pyramid of wealth, but only on what basis is the stratification based on. Even under communism, greedy people will still be able to find a way to get wealthy, even thought it requires radically different means to do so than under capitalism. The ambiguity is preserved in the Persian of criticism of wealthy people regardless of system, rather than the Westernized text that assumes that all people are absolutely equal (and poor) under Communism which after the Cold War ended and we found out about how actual Soviet society worked turned out to be propoganda.

  21. While he does enumerate several socialist provisions, he never explicitly states that it will be a mixed economy with the socialism limited to just those provisions.

    He also never specifies who owns the means of production, ie private owners or the government.

    Strikes and the rights of capital owners. This issue is complicated by the fact that both the public sector (and nationalized systems) tend to crack down on strikes more than the private sector.

    Under socialism, the government controls salaries to bring about equality of outcome with minimum and maximum wages. This gets circumvented by bonuses, perks, privileges, etc.

    He never explicitly mentions whether or not he is for:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_Economy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_ownership
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_economics

    While he explicitly mentions the socialist elements, he never explicitly mention any capitalist elements to be present. He does mention wealthy people, but that doesn’t technically imply the existence of any capitalist elements (or a free market) at all. Look at Communist countries for example, they have wealthy people, but they’re high-ranking government officials and bureaucrats and their relatives.

    Socialism means state ownership of the means of production. This leads to problems for strikes, because they would be striking against the government. I’m not sure of other countries, but in America public sector employees don’t have the right to strike.

    While the translator translated the text probably during the Cold War era and we didn’t have all that much knowledge about how communism and socialism worked. Anyone familiar with how socialism and communism work in the real world will tell you that the ambiguous language is a criticism of wealthy people regardless of system.

    He describes a free economy? While he doesn’t explicitly describe a communistic system, he never explicitly describes what economic freedoms anyone will have.

  22. Sen said

    The translation of Some Answered Questions is from 1908 and reflects the issues of the time: however the questions had been posed just a few years earlier, by Western Bahais, so the translation is at least not far from what would have been in the minds of the questioners. Socialism at that time was a theory, much debated: the Russian revolution had not yet happened, there was no actual example of state socialism.

  23. While it is true that it was an upractised theory. It’s not the whole truth in that people had no examples of what to think about socialism. Socialists at various time and places had made platforms and manifestos with regards to what socialism is.

    Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto had ten planks:
    # Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
    # A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
    # Abolition of all right of inheritance.
    # Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
    # Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
    # Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
    # Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
    # Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
    # Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.
    # Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form and combination of education with industrial production.

    It’s weird that while we have records of Abdul-Baha and socialists. He never makes mention of any manifesto or platform despite socialist manifesto and platofrms being numerous at that time.

  24. Sen said

    It is evident that Abdu’l-Baha was linguistically gifted and read the Arabic and probably some European newspapers. However it was not his usual practice to identify particular parties and platforms, especially not those he disagreed with. A study of the proto-fascism that was being expounded in Europe before and after World War I makes me think I detect critiques of it, in some of Abdu’l-Baha’s talks. But he does not use the word, or say whose ideas it is that he disagrees with. Similarly I see critiques of Marxism in some of his talks, but I could be wrong.

  25. Stephen Kent Gray said

    Sen, did he ever refer to the Revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune attempts at socialism?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions_of_1848
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Commune

    Also, are you saying that you think social democracy or even social liberalism would be better translations? Your descriptions seem to be more them than actual socialism.

    Also, even under Communism, you have a top 20% like you have a top 1% under Capitalism. This seems even Communists didn’t even believe in full equality.

    He never gives a clear picture of exactly where he is on the Political Compass. If he is in the middle where in the middle where -10 represents absolute socialism and 10 represents absolute liberalism?

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/analysis2
    http://www.politicalcompass.org/composers

  26. Sen said

    Yes, there is mention of the Paris commune, in Secret of Divine Civilization:

    In 1870, at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, it was reported that, in attack and defence, 600,000 were killed, shattered and defeated. How many families lost their principal support; how many a city was flourishing in the evening, yet by dawn its wonders were turned into horrors. How many a child was orphaned, without a nurse, how many an aged father and mother had to see the fruit of their lives, still in their youth, rolling lifeless in dust and blood. How many women were left without a husband or protector.
    Then there were the details of burning down the libraries and magnificent buildings of France, and setting fire to a military hospital, along with all the sick and wounded soldiers; the terrible events and desolating conduct of the people of the Commune; the astonishing cases when opposing factions fought and killed one another in Paris; the disputes and hostility between Catholic religious leaders and the German government; and the civil strife and dissension, the destruction of towns and lands, and bloodshed between the partisans of the Republic and of Don Carlos in Spain.

    Abdu’l-Baha is progressive, advocating the participation of the masses in politics through representative government, but he is profoundly anti-revolutionary. He wants security for the weak, but not equality in all things. Worker participation, not the expropriation of the means of production.

    There is a possible allusion to the events of the Paris Commune in the Aqdas:

    122: ..We find some men desiring liberty, and priding themselves therein. Such men are in the depths of ignorance.
    123: Liberty must, in the end, lead to sedition, whose flames none can quench. Thus warneth you He Who is
    the Reckoner, the All-Knowing. Know ye that the embodiment of liberty and its symbol is the animal. That which beseemeth man is submission unto such restraints as will protect him from his own ignorance,
    and guard him against the harm of the mischief-maker. Liberty causeth man to overstep the bounds of
    propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station. It debaseth him to the level of extreme depravity and wickedness.
    124: Regard men as a flock of sheep that need a shepherd for their protection. This, verily, is the truth,
    the certain truth. We approve of liberty in certain circumstances, and refuse to sanction it in others. We,
    verily, are the All-Knowing.

    Udo Schaeffer notes, in Bahai Ethics vol. 1, p 321:

    “the theoreticians of anarchism — Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, Nechayev, Kropotkin and others — were contemporaries of Bahá’u’lláh. Their idea of an anarchic society had a peculiar fascination for many intellectuals.[45] In Russia, France, Spain, Italy and Germany numerous anarchist groups were formed, which proceeded to carry out their goal of shattering the existing order through assassinations. Around the time that the Kitab-i-Aqdas was revealed the Paris {commune} had deteriorated to a state of anarchy, the horrors of which evoked repugnance everywhere. This, then, is the zeitgeist clearly reflected in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

  27. Stephen Kent Gray said

    This is interesting. Were there any foresights into the future Revolutions of 1989?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopian_socialism

    The scientific socialism of Marx and Engels is the mainstream of all socialism now, but there used to be a utopian socialism as well. Henri de Saint Simon, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen and others are examples of the latter.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions_of_1989
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_socialist_states

    Also, are there any instances of him talking to social democrats and liberal democrats?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_democracy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

    Also, you specified Arabic newspapers. Are you referring to Arab socialism and what eventually became Baathism in Iraq and Syria?

  28. Sen said

    Arabic newspapers are simply newspapers in Arabic. There were many, especially in Egypt and Lebanon, which were available to Abdu’l-Baha.

    Among the many progressive thinkers he met, some could be called social democrats, but one has to recognise that real thinkers are not so easily captured by categories. Jane Addams is an example: her concerns are broader than social democracy. Other prominent progressives who met or corresponded with Abdu’l-Baha include du Bois, Andrew Carnegie, Phoebe Hurst, Thomas Eddison, Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Mrs. Evelyn Wotherspoon Wainwright, and I assume many more, since I have just picked some random progressive “names” of the period and checked to see if they met Abdu’l-Baha.

  29. Stephen Kent Gray said

    Sen, did he make mention of some the views he disagreed with?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressivism

    Scientific racism, eugenics, and imperialism were all supported by some Progressives back then.

    Progressive stances have evolved over time. In the late 19th century, for example, certain progressives argued for scientific racism on the grounds that it had a scientific basis. Imperialism was a controversial issue within progressivism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the United States where some progressives supported American imperialism while others opposed it. In response to World War I, progressive American President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points established the concept of national self-determination and criticized imperialist competition and colonial injustices; these views were supported by anti-imperialists in areas of the world that were resisting imperial rule. During the period of acceptance of economic Keynesianism, there was acceptance of a large role for state intervention in the economy, however with the rise of neoliberalism and challenges to state interventionist policies, centre-left progressive movements responded by creating the Third Way that emphasized a major role for the market economy. In the aftermath of the arising of the Great Recession, economic policies established or influenced by neoliberalism have faced scrutiny and criticism in mainstream politics. There have been social democrats who have called for the social democratic movement to move past Third Way. Prominent progressive conservative elements in the British Conservative Party have criticized neoliberalism.

  30. Sen said

    Abdu’l-Baha seldom if ever names the contemporary philosophers and ideologues whom he is refuting. Nor do I think for a moment that he drew his ideas from those who were called progressive political thinkers in his day. I did find it striking that many of those in Wikipedia’s list of prominenti in the progressive movement met or corresponded with Abdu’l-Baha.

  31. Hooshang S. Afshar said

    Sen, what is Persian word for tithe?

  32. Sen said

    Hi Hooshang, in this tablet Abdu’l-Baha uses the Arabic “tenth” :
    عشریه

  33. Thanks very much, Sen. It is, as you clearly explain here, impossible to divorce the Baha’i Faith from its socialist tendencies. In Makátíb, vol. 3, p. 441, we find the following remark from Abdu’l-Baha:

    شجرۀ سوسياليست يک رائحه‌ای از اوراقِ اين شجرۀ مبارکه دارد

    My provisional translation: “The tree of socialism possesseth a fragrance that wafteth from the leaves of this blessed Tree [the Bahá’í Faith].”

    (“Wafteth” is absent in the original, but I had to add it in the translation for it to make sense.)

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