Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

By Robert Michels; Cedar Paul et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Accessory Qualities Requisite to Leadership

IN THE opening days of the labor movement, the foundation of leadership consisted mainly, if not exclusively, in oratorical skill. It is impossible for the crowd to escape the æsthetic and emotional influence of words. The fineness of the oratory exercises a suggestive influence whereby the crowd is completely subordinated to the will of the orator. Now the essential characteristic of democracy is found in the readiness with which it succumbs to the magic of words, written as well as spoken. In a democratic regime, the born leaders are orators and journalists. It suffices to mention Gambetta and Clemenceau in France; Gladstone and Lloyd George in England; Crispi and Luzzatti in Italy. In states under democratic rule it is a general belief that oratorical power is the only thing which renders a man competent for the direction of public affairs. The same maxim applies even more definitely to the control of the great democratic parties. The influence of the spoken word has been obvious above all in the country in which a democratic regime first came into existence. This was pointed out in 1826 by an acute Italian observer: "The English people, so prudent in the use of its time, experiences, in listening to a public speaker, the same pleasure which it enjoys at the theater when the works of the most celebrated dramatists are being played."1 A quarter of a century later, Carlyle wrote: "No British man can attain to be a statesman or chief of workers till he has first proved himself a chief of talkers."2 In France, Ernest-Charles, making a statistical study of the professions of the deputies, showed that, as far as the young, impetuous, lively, and progressive parties are concerned, almost all the parliamentary representatives are journalists and able speakers.3 This applies not only to the socialists, but also to the national

____________________
1
Giuseppe Pecchio, Un' Elezione di Membri del Parlamento in Inghilterra, Lugano, 1826, p. 109.
2
Thomas Carlyle, Latter Day Pamphlets, No. V, Stump-Orator, Thomas Carlyle's Works, The Standard Edition, Chapman and Hall, London, 1906, vol. iii, p. 167.
3
J. Ernest-Charles, Les Lettrés du Parlement, "La Revue," 1901, vol. xxxix, p. 361.

-98-

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