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A Broad Definition
A truly general theory of political parties cannot be built on a narrow definition of party that precludes applications to one-party systems and anti-system parties. Duverger's classic Political Parties fruitfully discussed single party systems as well as multiparty systems, and it compared paramilitary parties with competitive parties. His scope of application was so general that he did not base his study on a definition of party. In a later book, Duverger defined parties as (1) having "their primary goal the conquest of power or a share in its exercise," and (2) drawing "their support from a broad base" in contrast to pressure groups, which "represent a limited number with a particular or private interest" (1972: 1-2). The first part of his definition implied that parties can exist without contesting elections. The second part attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to distinguish parties from pressure groups--which is the critical issue in constructing a broad definition of a political party.
Sartori analyzed at length the conceptual issues in defining a party (1976: 60-64). He aimed for a "minimal definition" that treated as variables all properties that were not required of a party. Sartori defined a party as "any political group identified by an official label that presents at elections, and is capable of placing through elections (free or nonfree), candidates for public office" (p. 63). By indicating that elections need not be free, Sartori broadened the definition to include parties in party-state systems ruled by a single party. However, Sartori's definition did not admit for study those organizations that sought or obtained power outside the electoral process.
Still more broadly, a party can be defined as an organization that pursues a goal of placing its avowed representatives in government positions (Janda 1980b: 5). All organizations have multiple goals. To qualify as a party, an organization must have as one of its goals that of placing its avowed representatives in government positions. ("Government" here means in the U.S. sense of public office, not the British sense of the cabinet.) Moreover, these individuals must be avowed representatives of the party, which means in practical terms that they must be openly identified with the party name or label. If an interest groups openly runs its owns candidates, it becomes a party. In Epstein's words, "The recognizable label (which may or may not be on the ballot) is the crucial defining element" (1966:104). Finally, the term "placing" should be interpreted broadly to mean through the electoral process (when a party competes with one or more others in pursuing its goal) or by a direct administrative action (when a ruling party permits no electoral competition) or by forceful imposition (when a party seeks to subvert the system and thereby capture the government). Thus, parties can pursue, respectively, competitive, restrictive, or subversive strategies to achieve their goal.
As opposed to Sartori's definition, this broader one accommodates the Bolshevik seizure of power in the 1917 revolution (Barghoorn 1956), the Cuban Popular Socialist Party's capitalization on Castro's rise to power (Griffiths 1988), the Iraqi Ba'th Party's takeover following the 1968 coup (Farouk-Sluglett and Sluglett, 1988), and the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party's practices in restricting electoral competition (Philip 1988). Obviously, these subversive and restrictive parties are different from competitive parties and require some different theory (LaPalombara and Weiner 1966, 29-33). Nevertheless, Duverger (1963) already demonstrated that revolutionary and authoritarian parties could be analyzed productively along with competitive parties, and other research productively compared parties in all regions of the world (Janda and Gillies 1983). It remains to be seen how much overlap there is in propositions covering different types of parties.
For comparative political parties, the basic issue in defining a party is whether parties are narrowly or broadly defined. The definition determines whether general theory is limited to explaining only the behavior of purely competitive parties in democratic systems or whether it aims at a broader universe, including parties in single party systems and anti-system or subversive parties. Many American party scholars would, like Schlesinger, be satisfied with a narrow definition of party that supported a "general" theory that only applied to competitive parties. Even many European scholars would accept a definition that restricted study to party systems in western democracies (von Beyme 1983: 2), but those studying the third world would need a broader definition that supported theory about parties operating in their political systems. Even Epstein, who restricts his own study to competitive parties in western democracies admits that "there is no harm in maintaining the breadth of definition" (1975:233).
This review of literature on comparative political parties employs a broad definition of party. To skirt the vast comparative politics literature that is more interested in the nation as a unit of analysis, it slights writings on party systems in preference for those on individual parties. To structure my discussion, I rely on a conceptual framework employed in my cross-national survey of political parties (Janda 1980b). I contend that most of the important aspects of political parties, as opposed to party systems, can be embraced by ten broad