Pirate parties: genuine Pan-European movements
Mar 6, 2013
Pirate Parties: The Rise of Pan-European Movements Focused on Digital Freedom and Democracy
From society's viewpoint, there is no such thing as "Europe". This has been the great challenge for pro-European Union politicians. The continent is too divided into races, languages, and creeds to establish a strong unifying element among the approximately 800 million inhabitants ranging from Great Britain to the Ural Mountains or the Bosporus Strait. The British, unsurprisingly, call the rest of the continent's inhabitants "the Europeans". But in European politics, a recent phenomenon is gaining strength: the rise of parties primarily concerned with freedom of expression and net neutrality - the Pirate Parties.
History records several other movements that spread across Europe - the liberal revolution, industrialization, fascism, and communism - but there is no record of a movement that arose without a central leadership, without aspirations to take power, and devoid of non-negotiable ideological content. Non-negotiable for the "Pirates" platforms are digital freedom issues guaranteed by a series of European Union treaties and laws such as Freedom of Expression (Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union), the Right to Privacy (Article 7), and the Right to Personal Data Protection (Article 8). Demands such as reforms in patent and copyright laws are also common claims among the parties in various countries.
The movement already extends through 13 European countries and three others on different continents (New Zealand, Canada, and Israel), with more or less embryonic movements in another 24 (among them, Brazil), organized by an 'international central' that resembles the ways of the Communist International (which still has a mummified branch operating in Brazil out of curiosity). But it is in the European Parliament that the representativeness of the "Pirates" achieved greater operationality, putting their demands on the official agenda and actively acting in the clearest cases of individual freedoms expropriation such as the persecution and capture of Julian Assange, the attack on the Swedish site The Pirate Bay and its continuous server changes, and the attempts to enact laws that contradict the rights acquired in the Charter of the European Union.
The "Pirates" lack better organization and formatting that removes from the group a student rebellion air - one that disappears when the fight is in the real world. Even with electoral mobilization, these parties need to present themselves to society as viable and inclusive proposals, avoiding falling into the stigmas of irresponsibility, immaturity, and naivety. One way to go is the Italian M5S, led by the humorist-activist Beppe Grillo. As the left exhausted itself as a model, these new civil rights and environmental defense movements emerge as an option for a desperate voter.
And are the proposals serious? Undoubtedly. The digitalization of various aspects of society's life brought great benefits and great risks. Proposals for laws like SOPA and Acta have a strongly authoritarian slant and with a distorted reading could perfectly pave the way for state intrusions into individuals' lives. Fighting for web neutrality, privacy guarantee, freedom of expression, and government transparency is essential and rarely such proposals find support from lobbyists and large corporations.
Perhaps it is not a reason for so much celebration, because politics, usually, is not for decent people. But there is more than one sign of something really new starting in Europe (this spreading to other continents). Digital expansion has had such growth in size and significance this century that it has become vital to the foundations of any democracy - especially with the acceleration of the dismantling of the media as a participant in democratic life. The guarantee of civil rights in itself and their reflections in the accommodation they have in digital life is indispensable for the very existence of society. Even with low representation in Parliaments, the 'Pirate' ideology tends to gain space with the voter who can no longer stand traditional politics.