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Apostle of Peace Meets Socialists

Apostle of Peace Meets Socialists
The Montreal Gazette
September 4, 1912

Abdu’l-Bahá’s Novel Scheme for Distribution of Surplus Wealth.


Advocated Graduated Distribution of General Wealth, but Socialism Could Not Obviate Social Gradations.

Passing from the inviting atmosphere of a drawing room meeting held in a Pine avenue residence on Monday night to a socialistic and very cosmopolitan gathering held in Coronation Hall, associated with Jewish strikers, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Oriental Apostle of peace and concord, exhibited his catholicity of spirit last night, and also developed in his address something more in the shape of practical politics, as he unfolded a scheme for dealing with the superfluous wealth of a nation. His style was quite in contrast to the violent and denunciatory methods usually followed by the group for whom he lectured. He confined himself to stating that the human race was not acting as though all were members of a family, and he then expounded his father’s scheme for the distribution of surplus wealth in a village community. The crowded hall was too good an opportunity for the chairman, Mr. H. A. Goulden, to miss and he preceded the address of the visitor by a brief but vivid picture of the inequality and misery existing in big cities and the evident need that existed for this prophet to come from the East to teach the West the meaning of love and brotherhood.

How to obtain economic happiness was the theme of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s address. Speaking as usual through an interpreter, he said: All phenomena seemingly can live solitary and alone; a tree can exist alone on a mountain or in a valley, and a bird can live a solitary life in the air; these creatures are not in need of co-operation or solidarity. Man on the contrary cannot live a solitary life but is ever in need of co-operation and mutual help. If left in a wilderness he will ultimately starve, therefore he is in need of co-operation and reciprocity. The reason is that man originated as one family. For this reason each member of the race should remember that he is part of the body politic, and if anyone is afflicted, all the other members must suffer. Yet, although the body politic is one family, through lack of symmetry some members are well fed and clothed, while others exist in misery and go hungry and unsheltered. Why? Because the household is not well arranged and is under imperfect laws. Therefore a law must be given which shall ensure that each member of the human family shall enjoy happiness. Bahá’u’lláh gave instruction concerning such problems.

Outlining this scheme of his father’s, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá enumerated the following principles: That all the members of the body politic shall be apportioned a share of the utmost welfare and well-being. That the problem has to be solved first with the farmer or peasant class, which stands first in importance and number. In every village there shall be a general storehouse. This shall have various revenues, including tithes, revenue from animals, from mines and mineral resources, estates with no heirs, treasure trove. The tithes would be collected on a graduated basis; thus, a farmer having expenditure of a thousand dollars and income of two thousand would pay a tenth but if his income were ten thousand and his expenditure one thousand, he would pay two-tenths. If income and expenditure just balanced he would not be taxed. The income of the general store would be devoted to helping the needy farmer who had expenditure of ten thousand against income of five thousand, also the widow, cripple and orphan. All would live in comfort, yet, said the speaker, there would be no flaw which would affect the general body politic. Each individual would live in comfort without being under obligation to anyone. Notwithstanding there would be a conservation of degrees, because in the world of humanity there must be degrees, just as in the army.

Tonight ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will speak at a meeting to be held at 716 Pine avenue west, and tomorrow night he will address a gathering in St. James Methodist Church. He is now staying at the Windsor Hotel, where those interested will be received.