Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

EIGHTH CHAPTER
SUMMARY

I

Now that we have come to the end of our enquiry into the introduction, the development, and the working of party organization in England, we are at liberty to turn round and take a general survey of the route which has been traversed.

Introduced with the intention of making the government of the historic parties more democratic, the Caucus has succeeded in this to a certain extent, especially in the destructive portion of its work. Falling upon the leadership, which it regarded as oligarchical, it dismantled it and dealt a heavy blow at the old parties which were grouped around it; it powerfully contributed to overthrow Whiggism; it pressed the last life-breath out of expiring classic Radicalism, and helped to drive back old-fashioned Toryism. But it has been less successful in the constructive part of the task which it undertook. It has not been able to provide the parties with a really democratic government; it has created the forms of it, but not the essence. The soil in which the new institution was planted was far from being everywhere favourable to its growth, and it proved little more than an exotic. The political manners and customs of English society, taken as a whole, were not at all democratic; they did not require the development of the democratic principle to its extreme consequences with the rigour applied by the promoters of the Caucus. The extension of the suffrage to the urban masses, to the degree effected by the Act of 1867, came before its time, as one of its most ardent champions, John Bright, admitted by saying that it would have been better to accomplish the reform in two stages, at an interval of twenty years. True, this fact in itself presented nothing unusual in the history of political societies; in

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