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Why we should abandon political parties

By Peter Bowden - posted Friday, 15 October 2021

As a matter of principal we should vote for independents.

The idea is not new, - the original argument was based on the French revolution of 1789, as we shall see in a few minutes. But the reason today on why we should support independents is that the major parties, left and right, have lost contact with, and commitment to, the needs and beliefs of ordinary citizens.

In the United States, the most powerful country in the world, the split between the parties, Democrats and Republicans, has almost reached the point of civil war. It has become a world wide problem with people turning to street protests to voice their grievances. It is widely agreed that representative democracy is a valid form of democracy. We in Australia are not as confrontational as are the parties in the United States, but we still have several problems with our parties, the main one of which is that their concern is with being elected, not running the country effectively. The current government, a coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Party leaves much to be desired on climate change. The National Party appears to oppose any climate action. It certainly supports the continued mining of coal. Coal is the big problem in reducing climate change.


Josh Frydenberg said if Australia did not appear to be "transitioning in line with the rest of the world," it would face reduced access to capital markets.

"Reduced access to these capital markets would increase borrowing costs".

The naked ambition of those who wish to be king, or at least Prime Minister, is another problem that we have with the party system. Five prime ministers in five years is a noteworthy Australian achievement. Most of them were knifed by an ambitious party member wanting to become Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull who was later knifed by the now current Prime Minister in his book A Bigger Picture, termed this ambition "The Aphrodisiac of Power." Henry Kissinger

made the same proposition, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac". Echoing Lord Acton: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" or Max Weber : "Power is the ability to control a man against his will".

Will ending political parties end the drive for power? The answer is no, for the drive for power is endemic in the human race, or at least those of its members who get close enough to the ultimate aphrodisiac. But it will end the destabilising effect of power struggles within parties. The French revolution, discussed below, will lend historical support to this concept.

What are the other benefits of abolishing political parties, apart from a clearer policy on climate change? And less backstabbing? A major benefit will be the adoption of policies more in line with the wishes of the Australian people. Independent candidates have to respond to the wishes of their electorates.


Two examples stand out: Most Australians want the Bilolela family to be accepted and settled in Australia. There has been a national campaign to keep the family. Yet they are still in limbo. The second is the offshore refugee policy, described as one of the world's most brutal offshore detention policies. Most Australians would prefer a softening of the offshore detention. The current policies are primarily due to party political reasons

But now to the French revolution. Many of its ideas are considered fundamental principles of liberal democracy, but a French philosopher has used the history of the revolution to argue against political parties - Simone Weil.

Albert Camus, André Gide and T S Eliot recognised her as one of the greatest minds of her time. Among Weil's best-known works is On the Abolition of All Political Parties, translated here. She uses the Club des Jacobins as her main argument: "At first it merely provided an arena for free debate. Its subsequent transformation was by no means inevitable; it was only under the double pressure of war and the guillotine that it eventually turned into a totalitarian party." They and the Girondists, another party formed during the revolution were also responsible for the terror, in which 50,000 people died, many under the guillotine.

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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