Characteristics of the political party

From the definitions given above, and the conditions under which parties grow up, we can derive such essential features which every political party possesses. They are as under:

Agreement on fundamental views and ideas.

A political party is a voluntary association of like-minded people. Men differ in their opinions. This is partly due to the differences of personal experience, emotions, temperament, character and knowledge and partly due to the love of combat and the desire for victory. Family traditions and social status of an individual very much affect his thoughts and opinions. “Every boy or girl”, said a political writer, “that is born into this world alive, is either a little Liberal or a little Conservative or else a little Socialist.” Parties exist because men disagree.

Laski says: “Parties are born of the natural contrast between those who cling to the old and those who embrace the new. Temperamental differences or imitative tendencies of men might give rise to parties” Men are also gregarious by nature, — birds of the same feather flock together. If they are to live in a political society, they adjust their differences with each other and agree on certain opinions. When like- minded persons agree on certain fundamental aims and ideals regarding political, economic and other matters, they associate or come together and thus form a party. Without this agreement on fundamental aims, purposes and principles, no political part is possible.

Organisation and leadership.

Persons holding similar opinions and principles must be organised into a political unit, if they are to achieve their aims and ideals. In politics, no tangible achievement is possible without a proper organisation. Due to this reason, Dr. Leacock said that a political party is like a joint stock company. Organisation gives coherence, unity and strength to the party. “In union there is strength.” It alone makes concerted action and achievement possible. This fact distinguishes a political party from a crowd or a mob. A political party is like a team on a large scale. It has a team spirit of cooperation and organisation. Men leam that they must line up with others in order to be effective in action. But parties differ in their organisation. Some are rigidly organised, while others are not so. In present times, however, the general tendency is towards rigid organisation, discipline and control.

The organisation and discipline of a modern party make it a vast and complex apparatus. “Parties possess”, writes Finer, “buildings and newspapers, printing presses and advertising experts, and slogans, heroes and martyrs, money and speakers, officials and prophets, feast days and fast days; like all religions, they disrupt families and produce heretics, and among their agencies of discipline and subordination are the novitiate and penance.” In short, a political party is like an army, a fighting organisation out to conquer and capture political power. “Victory,” says Dr. Finer “is the first law of politics”. Hence the need for organisation and leadership without which success in political struggle is not possible.

Constitutional Methods:

Political party is said to be a building block of democracy. Although a fighting organisation, a political party, however, does not fight like an army with bombs and bullets. On the other hand, it fights in a peaceful manner and with constitutional methods. Ballots have taken the place of bullets in modern politics and heads are counted and not broken. Compromise rather than unconditional surrender is the method of political decision. Public speeches, meetings and demonstrations, persuasion and propaganda and other means of influencing public opinion are employed by political parties to win votes in order to come to power. They appeal to the voters to vote one or the other of the parties into power. The principle of majority decides as to which of them will form the government. The ballot-box decides the fate of a political party and its claim to form the government. Revolutionary or violent methods are used by some parties. But such a situation arises only when,a people are denied opportunities for self-government and the State system allows its party system to be misused or corrupted.

Promotion of national interests:

A political party must aim at the promotion of national, not at sectarian, communal or class interests. This is its essential feature and its basic test. Burke has rightly defined a political party as “a body of men united for the purpose of promoting by their joint endeavours the national interests upon some particular principle on which they are all agreed.” This is the essential feature distinguishing a political party from a faction, a coterie, a clique or a pressure group. While the party aims at the common good of the whole nation, these groups aim at the special interests or selfish ends of a group or a class or a section of the nation.

As Dr. Herman Finer says, “Hardly a party anywhere exists only for a single narrow purpose Parties are varieties of multi-purpose associations, rising to some that have as their concern the totality of human existence.” This ideal or common good is the real unifying force of a political party. “The special cohesive element”, adds Dr. Finer, “of a political party which differentiates it from other groups and causes political parties to differ among themselves, is their dogma of the Good State, and their struggle for the power to realise its implications concretely in the institutions and behaviour of all.” It is for this or ideal of common good that there exists, in a democracy, the whole paraphernalia of party organisation and apparatus, party discipline and control, and the struggle for political power. Yet some parties fall far below this supreme ideal.

Party distinguish from faction.

A faction is a loose united group of men who unite to achieve private or sectional interests as opposed to national interests. It may be a fraction of a party or a splinter group. A coterie or a clique is a still smaller group of persons, united together for their selfish end or private gain.