Simone Weil (1909-1943), "On the Abolition of All Political Parties" (tr. Simon Leys):
Once the growth of the party becomes a criterion of goodness, it follows inevitably that the party
will exert a collective pressure upon people's minds. This pressure is very real; it is openly
displayed; it is professed and proclaimed. It should horrify us, but we are already too much
accustomed to it.
Just imagine: if a member of the party (elected member of parliament, candidate or simple activist)
were to make a public commitment, 'Whenever I shall have to examine any political or social issue, I
swear I will absolutely forget that I am the member of a certain political group; my sole concern will be to ascertain what should be done in order to best serve the public interest and justice.'
Such words would not be welcome. His comrades and even many other people would accuse him
Political parties are a marvellous mechanism which, on the national scale, ensures that not a single
mind can attend to the effort of perceiving, in public affairs, what is good, what is just, what is true. As a result — except for a very small number of fortuitous coincidences — nothing is decided, nothing is executed, but measures that run contrary to the public interest, to justice and to truth.
If one were to entrust the organisation of public life to the devil, he could not invent a more clever device.
In fact — and with very few exceptions — when a man joins a party, he submissively adopts a mental
attitude which he will express later on with words such as, 'As a monarchist, as a Socialist, I think that ...' It is so comfortable! It amounts to having no thoughts at all. Nothing is more comfortable than not having to think.
Even in school, one can think of no better way to stimulate the minds of children than to invite them
to take sides — for or against. They are presented with a sentence from a great author and asked, 'Do
you agree, yes or no? Develop your arguments.' At examination time, the poor wretches, having only
three hours to write their dissertations, cannot, at the start, spare more than five minutes to decide whether they agree or not. And yet it would have been so easy to tell them, 'Meditate on this text, and then express the ideas that come to your mind.'
Nearly everywhere — often even when dealing with purely technical problems — instead of thinking,
one merely takes sides: for or against. Such a choice replaces the activity of the mind. This is an
intellectual leprosy; it originated in the political world and then spread through the land,
contaminating all forms of thinking.
This leprosy is killing us; it is doubtful whether it can be cured without first starting with the
abolition of all political parties.