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Bertrand Russell on Party Politics

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Wherever party politics exist, the appeal of a politician is primarily to a section, while his opponents appeal to an opposite section. His success depends on turning his section into a majority. A measure which appeals to all sections equally will presumably be common ground between the parties, and will therefore be useless to the party politician. Consequently he concentrates attention upon those measures which are disliked by the section which forms the nucleus of his opponents’ supporters. Moreover a measure, however admirable, is useless to the politician unless he can give reasons for it which will appear convincing to the average man when set forth in a platform speech. We have thus two conditions which must be fulfilled by the measures on which party politicians lay stress: (1) they must seem to favour a section of the nation; (2) the arguments for them must be of the utmost simplicity.

Bertrand Russell, presidential address to the Students’ Union of the London School of Economics and Political Science, October 10th, 1923.


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