On the Abolition of All Political Parties
Simone Weil (Simon Leys trans.), Black Inc., $16.99
This would seem the perfect book to read in an Australian election year.
French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil, writing in 1943, makes a case for the corrupting effect of political parties on political life and calls for their abolition.
The only legitimate reason for preserving something, Weil says, is its goodness; the criteria for goodness being truth and justice and then the public interest.
Democracy is only good if it provides a mechanism for truth and justice to prevail.
Weil says people must express their will regarding the problems of public life and not merely choose among various individuals or organisations.
And there can be no legitimate democracy while there are political parties inflaming collective passions.
Since the party’s ultimate goal is its own growth, without limit, whenever thinking individuals are dominated by a collective structure there is a reversal of the relation between ends and means.
Weil illustrates clearly how parties do not necessarily — and how necessarily they do not — best serve the public interest and justice. Their very existence precludes it.
Joining a political party in order to play an effective part in public affairs is evil, she says; an evil whose punishment is inner darkness.
When a country has political parties, sooner or later it becomes impossible to intervene effectively in public affairs without joining a party and playing the game. Those who care about the public interest must either forget their concern and turn to other things, or submit to the grind of the parties and experience worries that will supersede their original concern for the public interest.
Of further interest to the modern reader, Weil briefly touches on press guidelines, science, art, celebrity, religion and anti-religion.
This slim book also contains an essay by Nobel Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz “on the importance of Simone Weil”.