Democracy is inconceivable without organization
A few words will suffice to demonstrate this proposition.
A class which unfurls in the face of society the banner of certain definite claims,
and which aspires to the realization of a complex of ideal aims deriving from the
economic functions which that class fulfils, needs an organization. Be the claims
economic or be they political, organization appears the only means for the creation
of a collective will. Organization, based as it is upon the principle of least effort, that
is to say, upon the greatest possible economy of energy, is the weapon of the weak
in their struggle with the strong.
The chances of success in any struggle will depend upon the degree to which this
struggle is carried out upon a basis of solidarity between individuals whose interests
are identical. In objecting, therefore, to the theories of the individualist anarchists
that nothing could please the employers better than the dispersion and disaggregation
of the forces of the workers, the socialists, the most fanatical of all the partisans of
the idea of organization, enunciate an argument which harmonizes well with the
results of scientific study of the nature of parties.
We live in a time in which the idea of cooperation has become so firmly established
that even millionaires perceive the necessity of common action. It is easy to
understand, then, that organization has become a vital principle of the working class,
for in default of it their success is a priori impossible. The refusal of the worker to
participate in the collective life of his class cannot fail to entail disastrous consequences.
In respect of culture and of economic, physical, and physiological
conditions, the proletarian is the weakest element of our society. In fact, the isolated
member of the working classes is defenseless in the hands of those who are
economically stronger. It is only by combination to form a structural aggregate that
the proletarians can acquire the faculty of political resistance and attain to a social
dignity. The importance and the influence of the working class are directly
proportional to its numerical strength. But for the representation of that numerical
strength organization and coordination are indispensable. The principle of organization is an absolutely essential condition for the political struggle of the
Yet this politically necessary principle of organization, while it overcomes that
disorganization of forces which would be favorable to the adversary, brings other
dangers in its train. We escape Scylla only to dash ourselves on Charybdis.
Organization is, in fact, the source from which the conservative currents flow over
the plain of democracy, occasioning there disastrous floods and rendering the plain
Robert Michels, in Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, 1911.