Advantages and disadvantages of one party system
If there is a one-man rule in any place, there is no room for the formation of parties. When there is a one-man rule, there may be parties, now and then, among his advisers, but such parties can have no fixity. The stronger the ruler, the weaker will the parties be, and vice versa. Here we have parties, but no party system. But if there are more than one ruler parties are bound to occur.
Although there may be parties in the monarchy or in a state governed by the few, which is called oligarchy, such shifting alliances cannot be called parties in the proper sense of the term as we understand it now. These are groups rather than parties.
It is in the modern democracy that the party as a system has come into being. If all men could gather together in a public place, every man would be able to judge for himself and it would not be necessary to belong to any party. But modern democracies are large, and the government is carried on not directly by all the people but by certain members who are elected by them and here the party system is bound to be established.
When there are several hundred members forming the Parliament, they would create confusion if every man wanted to proceed in his own way. If every man wanted to go his own way, there would be chaos.
The first advantage of the party system is that it brings order into the sphere of politics and administration. Democracy, critics hold, is the rule of the mob, and the mob is notorious for its lack of discipline. If the members range themselves in different parties, each with its own leader, they behave like a well-organized army.
Another advantage of the party system is that it puts principles above persons. The parties have their own definite program. They are pledged to these and try to carry them out. There is no personal quarrel between one politician and another; all differences are raised to the higher plane of ideas and programs. The concentration on a plan of work rather than on personal attachments makes ordered progress possible. Just because parties stand committed to certain definite schemes which have to be worked out through graduated stages, they can carry on their work from generation to generation. The death of a leader does not mean the end of his work; the torch is carried on by his successors and with the march of years, the parties also go through a process of evolution.
This system is very useful to the electors too. They cannot know most of the candidates who seek their votes. They may know some by name or from a distance, and there is a gulf of difference between knowing a man personally and knowing him politically. If there are parties, the elector need not know who the candidate is. Is it enough for him to know what the principles of the party are? If the principles are good, the quality of the man will not matter much, and if the principles are bad, the presence of good men will not improve matters very much. Not that efficiency and character are without any importance, and parties, too, are formed by man. But in a party system, the importance of individuals is reduced to a minimum.
The party system, in spite of its popularity, is not without its disadvantage.
Its primary disadvantage is that as there are different parties, each competing with the other, there is a tendency to mutual fault-finding and to self-advertisement.
The result is that there are too much talk and too little of work. The leaders of parties are more eager to deceive the electorate with loud promises than to serve them with solid work, and often their politics consists chiefly in throwing mud at their opponents.
Another disadvantage of the party system is that it has a tendency to check the growth of personality. We care only about party labels and do not look at the qualities of men. The great man is only a party man. Although he may have a towering personality, we press him until he fits into the party frame. If he does not fit into the frame, he will be thrown out. The result is that the great man finds little scope for his talents and the party is managed by clever and unscrupulous intriguers who, in the name of discipline, check not only independent thinking but also intelligent criticism.
Even within the party leader are more or less the dictator and other members-only his agents. The countries in which this form of government is in power claim that they can carry through reforms quickly and the destruction of opposition parties have only meant the end of the meaningless talk and false propaganda.
What the future of the party system will be nobody can say. It seems that if democracy is to survive, it must make use of party government, by which is meant not the dictatorship of one party but the working of different parties through general elections. Its advantage is that it rests on free expression of opinion which no dictatorship can tolerate. Its disadvantage is that it mistakes mere talk for work. Possibly there will be a compromise between effective work and free expression of opinion. Party discipline will be stricter and the party machinery will be stronger, which will ensure the Mere emphasis on active work. On the other hand, even the dictators will be found to admit that no real progress will be possible if work is not amenable to criticism from the outside.
Also Read: Electoral Reforms