Congatulations, Sweden's Pirate Party! In the wake of the verdict in the Pirate Bay trial, the Pirate Party has surged to over 25 000 members, and is now the fourth biggest political party in Sweden by member numbers. There's a very real possibility that it will get into the European Parliament in the upcoming elections.
But then what? How is the Pirate Party planning to deal with life in real politics? I've written before about how the pirate movement in general seems to have an ideology that's stuck in '68. But the three-issue Pirate Party is one step worse in that it doesn't seem to have much of an ideology at all. So listen up Pirates. Unless you want to have huge problems later it's better to get cracking and work out all those kinks that will fuck you up. And I'm saying that for your own sake.
So you've got three issues. But you really need to eventually work them into a political framework, and politics is ultimately about the distribution of power. If you're going to have a real political stance, you need to figure out (as one writer famously put it) "who gets what, when and how."
For example, my own political party, the Feminist Initiative, would pretty much agree on all three central issues with the Pirate Party. Even the leadership says so. But we agree because (in addition to the who, where, when and how) we've got a definite why explaining what makes these issues so important. And this why is all to do with the distribution of power. The strong patents on medicine, for instance, hit extremely hard at groups who are already marginalised, most harshly at poor women in the third world. Since feminism is all about broad and intersectional justice in the distribution of power, we're able to formulate a political stance where the issues are strongly integrated into a bigger picture.
Such an overall picture hones arguments and helps explain what makes something wrong in the first place. For instance, that central file sharing issue can be construed in a feminist theoretical framework as being all about access to knowledge, which as Bourdieu and others has shown amounts to a great deal of power. Marginalised groups have systematically been excluded from knowledge, whether it's literally like with women a hundred years ago, barred from university education, or economically like with rural girls in the third world who are often denied the possibility of going to school. Totalitarian regimes, afraid to lose their own grip on power, have used censorship to keep marginalised groups away from knowledge. And this is exactly why it's such a vital issue - access to knowledge and information for all gives marginalised groups power, not restricted by money or social networks.
But this is not the only possible reading of the issues. It's perfectly possible to have populist, libertarian, anarchist, idunnowhatever perspectives and come to the same conclusion. And unless you're willing to deal, once you're in parliament, with people who've rushed to your party from all sorts of places on the political map, you should start thinking about where you belong now. There's plenty of examples, like Sweden's New Democracy or Holland's List Pim Fortuyn (no comparisons otherwise) where parties have surged into power and then turned out to have nothing to hold them together.
Perhaps you're wondering why you should take the advice of a political party that nearly split into two even before its first attempt at contesting elections. But that would be precisely the point. We've had an extremely tough birth, but now we're strongly united, our organisations have started to form and we're doing decently in the election campaign too. If F! gets elected, the chances of us breaking out in vicious infighting is extremely slim. I wish I could say the same thing about the Pirate Party.
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