Central Committee

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With respect to political parties, the term "central committee" typically refers to a body of members with at least theoretically very high authority, with respect to party affairs in some geographic area. The term is used by parties with a wide range of ideologies, and in many different countries. Within the United States, the term is defined in the election laws of some states to have a specific meaning, with such committees being selected in a prescribed way, having specific powers, and having specific relationships to other components of the party's structure.

In general, the concept of a "central committee" applies only to a specific party and to a specific geographic area, and they are named accordingly. However, not all parties use this term in the same way, and other terms are also often used for similar committees. Parties also in many cases have more than one "level" of governing committee, even for a given geographic area, with a smaller or larger membership, meeting more or less frequently, and which of these is called the "central" committee can vary from case to case.

Geographic Scope

National Level

The literal term "central committee" is mostly used at the national level by communist/socialist parties, and those are most widely known in the case of parties which have effective control of a country. Such committees are at least theoretically elected by the general party membership through relatively infrequent "congresses", and theoretically constitute the highest governing body of the party between such congresses. For example, in principle the highest authority of the Chinese Communist Party is the body titled "Central Committee of the Community Party of China" (??????????).

In the United States, most parties use the term "National Committee" for the body that manages the affairs of the party between biennial or quadrennial national "conventions". This is true for the Libertarian Party, in which the Libertarian National Committee plays that role, and also for both the Democratic and Republican parties. However, the LP's National Committee is relatively small (fewer than 20 members), and so operates as an actual deliberative body and makes decisions more directly (rather than through subcommittees) to a much greater degree than the Democratic National Committee (about 450 members), the Republican National Committee (about 150 members), or the CCP's national-level central committee (about 200 members).

State Level

In some states election law defines a specific role for a "state central committee". Some Libertarian Party state affiliates use this term, either to be in conformance with such laws or by analogy to the structure used in other states. However, the specific role of this "committee", and its relationship to other kinds of standing committees and to the state convention varies considerably from state to state. In some states it refers to the main committee that actually makes most decisions between conventions, while in other states the "Executive Committee" or "Board of Directors" plays that role and the term "state central committee" may refer to something else or not be used at all.

Local Level

In some states "county central committee" refers to the body of members who manage party business at the county level, and this terminology may be used by Libertarian Party county organizations -- but again, in some places other terms are used, or the "central committee" may be one of multiple levels. In some states there may also be "central committees" for other subdivisions of the state, such as municipalities or legislative districts. The way that central committee members are chosen also varies from place to place. So to understand their role in the LP requires an understanding of the party structure more generally in a particular place, as defined by state and/or county bylaws and in some cases state election law.

Examples of Usage in LP State Affiliates

The following affiliates use the term "State Central Committee" to refer to the main standing committee at the state level:

  • Indiana
  • Ohio

In California, "central committee member" is the general term for voting member. At the county level there are typically meetings of the "county central committee" multiple times per year, though in larger counties many decisions are made by a smaller "executive committee" consisting of the officers and sometimes additional members. The "state central committee" does not operate as an actual committee except in the sense that the annual state convention can be considered to be a convention "of state central committee members".

Note: In some states the governing bodies have names that are similar to these but don't contain the word "central". For example, the function performed in some states by the "State Central Committee" (but in others by an "Executive Committee" or "Board of Directors") might be performed by a body called simply the "State Committee".