IDEOLOGY vs.

PRACTICE A Comparative Essay on Dominant Parties of UK and France: Conformity of Party Organization to its Ideology by Cris Virgil M. Pescadero In every society, body of ideas exists to provide basis for the different phenomena in the economic, social, and political aspects of human living. These bodies of ideas are called ideologies. Ideologies range from beliefs, values, religions, even opinions. On the political aspect, ideologies are classified into left and right—the left being the promoter of change, the right on the contrary as the retainers of the status quo. Political parties as organizations that seek to mobilize voters for common interests and goals embrace an ideology that serves as the means on attaining a goal, or in many instances, the ideology serves as the goal itself. These political parties also follow a structure for a supervision of different members within the system. Political organization of parties varies from one party to the other. Political organization is the means through which parties offer a structure for directing and conditioning the behaviour of individual citizens (Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007). As political parties embrace different ideologies and follow different party organization, it is of the essence to recognize the conformity of a party's political organization to its ideology. Ideology versus practice is the theme that is to be presented in this paper. Dominant political parties of France and UK are the subjects of comparison. These include the Labour and Conservative Parties of United Kingdom and the Socialist Party and Union for the Presidential Majority in France. Differing ideologies and differing party organizations in these parties will provide basis as to the conformity of party's practice on party organization to the ideology it is following.

On UK's Political Parties: Labour and Conservative

Mistakenly regarded to as a two-party system, the British party system is rather a multiparty system than a two-party system. What makes it appear as a two-party system is the dominance of the two parties that ruled over UK's political sphere: the Labour and the Conservative.

The Labour Party of UK owed its foundation from the enfranchisement of the manual workers in 1867 (Pelling 1965: 1). The trade unions supported the party's success in elections as they constitute 96% of the party's total number of votes. (Sodaro 2001: 364). The Labour Party has

been the major party in the left wing of the British political system, but it has moved closer to the centre of the political spectrum.

The term Labourism implies an ideology which articulates the felt interest of labour, or the working class (Leach 1991: 134). The Labour Party is a class party, and it embraces the socialist ideology. The Labour ought to promote the interests of the working class —raised standard in living and protection of trade rights.

The Labour Party's main power groupings are (1) the leader and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP); (2) the National Executive Committee (NEC); and (3) the Annual Conference, with behind these the constituency Labour parties and the affiliated trade unions, socialist societies, and cooperative organizations (Microsoft Encarta Premium 2005). The leader and the deputy leader are elected by an electoral college made up of different members of trade unions and workers.

Conservatives themselves deny that theirs is an ideology, and they contend that theirs is a state of mind (Leach 1991: 88). Conservative is a major political party which evolved as a successor of the Tory Party. Conservatives follow the pragmatic theme of addressing a dilemma. Flexibility is a major characteristic of the Conservative, and this makes it problematic for analysts to provide basis as to the ideology that the Conservatives follow. Conservatives follow the (1) defence of the state and monarchical institutions, (2) traditions, (3) preservation of the society and (4) safeguarding of the individual (Microsoft Encarta Premium 2005).

Conservatives follow a hierarchical organization, the top of which is the party leader. The parliamentary party, an element of the Conservative party, sits both in the Houses of the Parliament. Another element is the National Union, of which is assigned on the selection of parliamentary candidates. The Central Office serves as the guiding element of the Conservative Party, as its duties are composed of running the different processes inside the political party. (Microsoft Encarta Premium 2005).

On France's Political Parties: Socialist and Union for a Popular Movement

There exist a massive number of political parties in France. This gives the electorate a wide range of electoral choices. These parties form the spectrum of ideologies—from left (communists and socialists) to right (Gaullists and Republicans). Other mini-parties also exist on

the extremes of the spectrum although they hardly get any seat in the national assembly (Roskin 1982: 98).

The Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste or PS) and the U nion for a Popular Movement (Union pour movement populaire, or UMP) are the major parties in the French political system. During the elections of May 1997, the Socialist and the RPR got more than 70% of the total voter's turnout (Meny & Knapp 1998: 49), leaving the other parties a small share in the number of seats for the parliament. These dominant parties, however, are fragmented into smaller parties, as the behaviour of the French political parties "assembled, disbanded, and reconstituted under new names with bewildering frequency" (Sodaro 2001: 419).

The main party on the left side of political spectrum is the Socialist Party. The French Socialist Party was founded on the early 20th century. Despite being termed as "socialist," the French Socialist Party pursued a rather moderate socialist program and further accommodated attitudes toward private ownership as opposed to the supposedly anti-business and statecentred socialism. Since 1970, its membership is mainly of French middle-class. However, despite following the principles of socialism, the Socialist Party has drawn a significant number of members from the private sector (Sodaro 2001: 425).

The Socialist party strives to establish a section in every part of town or village, termed as commune. On a larger scale, such as cities, the section is relatively bigger. These sections are then organized to a federation, of which can send representatives to the administrative congress. The federation has its officers who can elect delegates to the national congress, and further the national congress elects the executive committee. The executive committee is then charged of designating the general secretary, the most important party leader. (Neumann 1968: 250)

The executive committee is the most important decision-making body of the French Socialist. They organize factory groups for persuasion of more workers. The French Socialists promote social welfare and civil rights for the population as a whole, but the party was never a worker's party or a party for the poor.

The Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour movement populaire, or UMP) is the main party of the right side of the political spectrum. The former Rally for the Republic (Reasseblement pour la republique, or RPR), this party is also called the Neo-Gaullists for their

attachment and pursuance of the Gaullist principles: conservatism in social matters and traditional policies on the socialists and capitalists.

UMP leaders assumed pragmatic and practical solutions on problems. The UPM sought to unite the centre right, including the liberals, Christian democrats, independents, and would embrace the French moderate right wing. The organization is formed from the small alliances in the centre wing of the French politics. Supporters of the neo-Gaullist parties come from the middle classes, businesspeople and practicing Catholics. The total number of members is 160,000 (Sodaro 2001: 423).

On the Conformity of Party Organization to Ideology

UK's Conservative and Labour Party's party organization falls in line with the ideology that the party is following. Conservative Party's government-like organization conforms to their ideology of retaining the state institution. Practice on ideology makes it easier for them promote the ideology that they are following. Labour Party, like the Conservative, follows the trend of their organization with its ideology. The participation of the working class in the selection process for the future leaders in the Labour Party makes it possible for the party upholds the ideology that they follow. As the Labour Party embraced the principles of raising the living standards of the workers, participation in party organization by the working class is followed to further promote the party's ideology.

France's Socialist Party further emphasized its ideology through its party organization. The establishment of commune as sections in different towns and villages highlighted its ideology as promoter of public ownership and common social welfare. UMP also accentuated its value on pragmatism as its party organization focused the alliances, more especially on the Conservatives— Catholics, middleclass and the businesspeople.

In general, the dominant parties of France and UK highlighted its ideologies through practicing it in its party organizations. UK and France's political parties does not only use ideology to attract people, but these dominant parties of the said countries point up its ideologies by practicing what its ideologies promote and uphold.

References: Leach, Robert. British Political Ideologies (Herstforshire, Great Britain: Philip Allan, 1991). Meny, Yves and Knapp, Andrew. Government and Politics in Western Europe: Britain, France, Italy, Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). 3rd Edition.

Neumann, Robert. European Government (United States of America: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1968). 4th Edition.

Pelling, Henry. A Short History of the Labour (175 Fifth Avenue, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965). 2nd Edition.

Roskin, Michael. Countries and Concepts: An Introduction to Comparative Politics (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1982)

Sodaro, Michael. Comparative Politics: A Global Introduction (New York: McGraw Hill, Inc., 2001). 2nd Edition.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful