Ninth Reflection

The Ninth Reflection: Beyond Capitalism or Communism Nader Saiedi

Baha’u’llah writes: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion and the canopy of world order is upraised upon the two pillars of reward and punishment . (Third Ishraq)

The above statement, mentioned in Ishraqat, is frequently affirmed by Baha’u’llah in His various subsequent writings. In one of these writings, after quoting this statement, He mentions that these affairs pertain to the sovereigns of the age. In other words, for Baha’u’llah, this statement is intended to be a guide to political philosophy. The concise beauty of this statement hides its amazing complexity. A real social order is an order that is defined by justice and unity. This lasting order, based on unity and justice, consists of two seemingly-opposite principles. One principle is consultation and compassion, whereas the other principle is reward and punishment. In other words, there are four bases of an authentic social order: consultation, compassion, reward, and punishment. While these four factors have diverse implications about various concepts, one of their main implications is related to the choice between the two forms of political economy, namely, Capitalism and Communism. What Baha’u’llah presents is a vision which transcends both, and yet contains within itself the elements of the two opposing systems. ‘Abdu’l-Baha has frequently emphasized that one of the central teachings of Baha’u’llah is “ta’dil-i-Ma’ishat.” Unfortunately, this term has never been translated within English discussions of this same teaching. The usual translation is the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty. But the term literally means moderation and justice in sustenance or economic means. The word ta’dil, derived from ‘adl or justice, means both enforcing justice, and moderation. Economic justice, therefore, is not the forced equality of outcomes (Communism) or the forced extremes of inequality (Capitalism). Instead, it means economic freedom accompanied by moderate inequality. Such moderation and freedom is dependent on the four factors mentioned in Baha’u’llah’s statement. 1. Critique of Communism The philosophy of Communism defines itself as a philosophy of consultation and compassion, the first two elements in Baha’u’llah’s statement. According to this philosophy, economic decisions must be based on the collective consultation of the community. Therefore, individual economic decisions are replaced by collective decisions. This means that both the economic activities and the economic outcomes of the individuals are decided by society. This is possible because there is no private property in society, which in turn leads to equal income for all members of society. Marx’s support of Communism is justified by his criticism of the injustice of a Capitalist system. In Capitalism, Marx believes, those who do not work are appropriating the surplus produced by others. Marx calls this unjust appropriation exploitation. The solution to exploitation, therefore, becomes Communism. Furthermore, Marx thinks that the state is always a repressive state, an agent for the interests of the dominant class in its exploitation of the exploited class. Therefore, Marx believes, with the elimination of private property and the elimination of economic inequality, the state would “wither away,” namely, it would die automatically. A Communist state is a society in which the state does not exist.

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