In the book Baha’u’llah and the New Era, Baha’i author J.E. Esselmont shares the wisdom of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’ by quoting a 1912 talk he gave in Dublin, New Hampshire:
Now I want to tell you about the law of God. According to the divine law, employees should not be paid merely by wages. Nay, rather they should be partners in every work. The question of socialization is very difficult. It will not be solved by strikes for wages. All the governments of the world must be united, and organize an assembly, the members of which shall be elected from the parliaments and the noble ones of the nations. These must plan with wisdom and power, so that neither the capitalists suffer enormous losses, nor the laborers become needy. In the utmost moderation they should make the law, then announce to the public that the rights of the working people are to be effectively preserved; also the rights of the capitalists are to be protected. When such a general law is adopted, by the will of both sides, should a strike occur, all the governments of the world should collectively resist it. Otherwise the work will lead to much destruction, especially in Europe. Terrible things will take place.
One of the several causes of a universal European war will be this question. The owners of properties, mines and factories, should share their incomes with their employees, and give a fairly certain percentage of their profits to their workingmen, in order that the employees should receive, besides their wages, some of the general income of the factory, so that the employee may strive with his soul in the work.
The question of socialization has turned out to be extremely difficult. Even the word “socialization” has become a term of great controversy, for it has been equated with communism, socialists (a word adopted by people who are identified with the “left wing” political ideology and the leaders of the Nazi movement during World War II), radicals, progressives, militants, anarchists, etc. None of these more recent definitions of the word can be applied to what ‘Abdu’l-Baha’ meant during his 1912 Dublin address. Esslemont addresses this discrepancy between the current use of the word “socialization” and what ‘Abdu’l-Baha’ was conveying to his audience:
It is by friendly consultation and cooperation, by just copartnership and profit-sharing, that the interests of both capital and labor will be best served. The harsh weapons of the strike and lockout are injurious, not only to the trades immediately affected, but to the community as a whole. It is, therefore, the business of the governments to devise means for preventing recourse to such barbarous methods of settling disputes.
It is doubtful that ‘Abdu’l-‘Baha’ mean that capital (also known as corporations these days) meant giving employees stock options or shares to trade on the stock market as a means of making employees “partners in every work”. The stock market, in both the opinion and experience of the Oakland Baha’i Examiner (not the International Baha’i Community and its administration), is little more than elaborate gambling, a practice that is forbidden in the Baha’i Faith. This means true co-partnership and profit-sharing in ways that are being employed by a small number of companies in the United States and some places around the world.
While the current Occupy Oakland/Wall Street movement around the U.S. and the world has drawn attention to the desperate need for economic reformation, it has also created polarization between corporations and those who would be in favor of change. As Mr. Esselmont wrote, we are now seeing the “harsh weapons of the strike and lockout” being “injurious, not only to the trades immediately affected, but to the community as a whole.”
The Oakland Baha’i Examiner will discuss the seemingly impossible task of creating “friendly consultation and cooperation” between cooperations and labor in Oakland.