Organisation, Groups, Features and Structures of Political Parties
Definition of Political Party
The term – Political Party is an organized group of people who have the same ideology, or who otherwise have the same political positions, and who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected and thereby implement their agenda.
In simple terms, a political party is an Association of like-minded individuals who seek to contest election and control the personnel and policy of government.
Organisation of Political Parties
Political parties usually adopt different methods to achieve political power. It is this strategies or methods that provide parties with their organisation.
Thus, the type of party organisation depends on the kind of methods they employ to realise their objectives. This implies that political parties create certain structures in order to capture political power.
For example, a party which desires to win a country-wide election will have an elaborate structure which is different from that of a party which is localised or operates underground. Similarly, an urban based party will be different from one organising guerrilla warfare from the rural areas.
Parties which have been outlawed by government may take on a clandestine and conspiratorial character which affects the party’s style and view of society.
A famous French political scientist, Maurice Duveger therefore classified party organisation unto four different groups using membership as the designation criterion.
Types & Structures of Political Parties
The four types of political parties are the caucus, the branch, the cell and the militia.
#1 – The Caucus
The Caucus course has the following features:
- It has a small membership.
- The caucus gives preference to quality rather than quantity in its membership. It takes the form of an elite party.
- The caucus is often resistant to opening its membership to everyone.
- The party organisation has no permanent structure involving the generality of the people. In other words, the party is run by notables.
- The caucus party is active only during election periods but disappeared from the scene after elections.
- The expansion of the franchise has unavoidably led to the decline of the caucus party. For example, the British Labour Party and the French Radical Party were caucus parties up till 1918.
#2- The Branch
The main features of the Branch party are as follows:
- The branch party organisation was invented by European socialist parties after the extension of the franchise to the working class.
- It is a mass party which attempt to enroll maximum membership.
- It has office in the various geographical areas or constituencies of the country.
- The branch parties political activities are continuous and not restricted only to election periods.
- There is a national executive committee, which is elected by the congress.
- The branch is the most common form of party organisation today.
- The branch has a centralised party organ which coordinates its activities. There is a central organ (the Congress) which is the highest decision-making organ of the party.
#3 – The Cell
The Cell party organisation has the following features:
- The cell was invented by revolutionary socialist parties.
- The cell consists of groups based in a place of work. That is, membership is restricted to the workplace. Cell parties are in the offices, factories, schools, etc. But they are not open to everybody.
- The cell organisation unites the members within one workplace.
- Since the cell is workplace based, it follows that there is a regular contact among members and this strengthens political and party solidarity.
- There is continuous political activity in the cell and this includes political education and agitation.
- The cell sometimes cuts across workplace organisations as in the case of trade unions whose members came from different organisations.
- The cell organisation is essentially secretive and conspiratorial. meetings are rarely called and members are seldom called together as a group. Since members are in daily contact with one another, it is quiet easy to pass information and coordinate action.
- Unlike many party organisations, the cell was invented for action at the workplace and not to fight election. It is usually engaged in political education, propaganda, discipline and clandestine action.
- The units at each level of a cell do not communicate with each other except through the next higher level, which also acts in the same way. As such, the members cannot be contaminated or infiltrated.
- The basic principle guiding relationship between the different levels is known as – democratic centralism. This is a mode of organisation, which allows the rank-and-file to contribute to decision-making and the execution of policies and programmes under the direction of the centre.
#4 – The Militia
The Militia has the following characteristics:
- It is a party organisation, which takes on the hierarchical structure of the army.
- The militia is similar to the cell organisation and revolutionary socialist parties usually adopt this party organisation.
- The militia is usually the armed unit of political parties.
- No political party is exclusively militia in organisation.
- Examples of millitia party are Hitler’s Storm Troopers and Mussolini fascist militia.