Luca Fumagalli

The Party System, written in 1911 by Cecil Chesterton, journalist and brother of the much better known GKC, and by Hilaire Belloc, the famous Catholic polemicist, is a prophetic book.

Far from being a sterile examination with predictable judgments, the book addresses the problems arising from the degeneration of the representative system of the major European democracies and, in particular, of Great Britain. An ongoing problem that was well known already at the beginning of the twentieth century. For example, in Italy the priest Luigi Sturzo also identified the party system, together with statism and the squandering of state money, as one of the «three beasts of democracy».

Belloc and Chesterton, by nature inclined not to be satisfied with trivial or superficial answers, try to identify the fundamental problems linked to the model of representative democracy, starting from the fact that, at a certain point in history, parties have stood between the citizens and institutions.

Initially born as spontaneous aggregations around charismatic leaders, the parties have turned over time into the main problem of politics. The system they created, in fact, constitutes what the authors call «a colossal scam».

In fact, without any mandate constraint, parliamentarians can disregard the electoral promises. Likewise, the House of Commons demonstrates a questionable compactness and solidarity between the two main parties when there is an attempt to approve a truly revolutionary reform. The party system is therefore a way to prevent any change.

The reflection on public financing of parties is also interesting. Although it is an opportunity to allow even the poorest to have political weight, it nevertheless proves to be an instrument of unfair competition when it allows large coalitions to crush any free citizen who intends, on his own initiative, to propose a new alternative political project.

These are just some of the examples that the reader can discover by reading the pages of The Party System. The book is a useful guide to understanding the roots of the evils that still run through politics today.