Re-reading, recently, Baha’u’llah’s ‘Epistle to the Son of the Wolf’, several broad themes emerge. One: Baha’u’llah’s iteration of His own station and role, in which He provides assurance that he cannot dissimilate (a survival strategy in Islam that became a political technique). Two: Baha’u’llah describes clear socio-political ideas for the progress of the nations, but relegates the idea to the individual’s pursuit, whether ruler or commoner. Three: Baha’u’llah persistently and repeatedly directs the readers attention that social, political and material progress is only achievable through love, devotion and fear of God, and an attitude of service to humanity. Further, Baha’u’llah’s son, Abdu’l-Baha, in ‘The Secret of Divine Civilisation’ encourages the establishment of instrumentalities for human happiness that is defined as the best endeavour individuals, communities and nations can apply to civilisation and justice.
Baha’u’llah seems to be indicating that political techniques commonly undermine the case of progress. He explains, repeatedly, in His writings, that progress can only truly occur by a movement towards a better humanity in which the individual’s acquisition of knowledge for, and personal commitment to, that betterment, is primary. He did hope and encouraged that leaders would take up this notion to the best of their political will, but cautioned against people who took up His mission from becoming embroiled in the political technique.
Political techniques: I use the term as a cover all of techniques used purely for the acquisition of power. The include: Dishonesty (misconstruing truth, hiding information, evading questions); character assassination (backbiting, libel, slander); and manipulation of support (bribing, auctioning, blackmail inc emotional, distortion of information). It can be seen in what is euphemistically called ‘spin’; all political advertising; at the heart of all significant conflicts in the world; and behind the dissuasion for an educated populace by some power mongers eg within Iran, Afghanistan, Burma, North Korea, and many African nations. Dissimilation as a political tool is an extreme example, for it implies that, if you are not a member of a particular family, clan, mosque, members of such have no qualms lying to you to get you on side, only to turn their backs on any agreement at any time. Interestingly, I think it had one of its greatest developments among the Highlanders of New Guinea who would entice a member of another clan to dine with them, and that person soon became the meal.
Party politics is the major system for the derivation of power and the right to govern, in modern democracies. While Baha’u’llah praised the parliamentary system in general, Abdu’l-Baha (leader of the Baha’i Faith 1892-1921) and Shoghi Effendi (leader of the Baah’i Faith 1921-1957) increasingly detailed principles of a system in which the political techniques were abolished from the framework of governance, implying the eventual demise of the partisan approach. Per force of those same principles, Baha’is cannot be members of political parties nor use political techniques as an organisation. To wit, Baha’is or the Baha’i Faith shall not seek to wrest power. Nonetheless it would be true to say that the Baha’i Faith shall be, and, in being, has and will have a far greater capacity and influence in the world than its numbers belie, and that, indeed, is the lesson of Baha’u’llah’s mission.