Most people who hear the words The Pirate Party tend to react to the first part, Pirate. Positive, negative, or with that kind of mellow but friendly curiosity that invites further conversation; being a pirate makes other people react.
Fewer people react to the latter part, party. This is strange, as there are a thousand built-in assumptions behind that single word. Such as the fundamental belief in the ability to still effect change within the de facto existing parliamentary framework, that happens to exist in this our tangible political contemporary point in time. Which, in turn, brings a thousand other assumptions.
Like, for example, that the results of the next election matter.
This is a translation of an article originally in Swedish. The original is here.
Parties do lots of things that other activist movements don’t. It’s the recruitment and sieving of local candidates for elections, it’s party leader debates, it’s quibbles with departments, political scandals, the reading of obscure reports, the writing of even more such, the periodic overfocusing on utterly small-scale issues of prestige, the obsessive detailed studying of the magic of poll numbers, more or less well-considered press releases, and forty-eleven other things. Most of these things can be summarized as people sitting down to discuss until at least one person falls asleep, and that change happens later as a highly indirect result.
There is nothing revolutionary about founding a political party. Founding a political party is among the most conservative things you can do, since you suddenly begin to do lots of things that preserve the current order.
No matter how politically radical you are. This is built into the concept of a political party.
When it comes to the Pirate Party, specifically, this creates numerous interesting effects. People forget the party word, and just think pirate — or, rather, just think “immediate revolution without any kind of pardon against the inertia of the status quo”. And a worryingly large part of the routine criticism against the party — all parties suffer from routine criticism — is about this particular radicalism. Even the tie-breaker parliamentary strategy, this fundamental bolting-on to the de facto current parliamentary situation, has been accused of being a brutal frontal assault on our democracy.
This becomes stranger still when you consider that the party exists as a kind of last line of defense against the necessity of revolution. An intraparliamentary attempt to update policies to the here and now, through the traditional methods and channels available. A soft but tenacious reminder that there are limits to how long a surveillance state can go, before people revolt by themselves, with no more advanced ideology than the demand to be left alone at least once in their life.
Make no mistake. The Pirate Party is the opposite of revolutionary. It’s in its nature.
And yet, there’s still a point in time when revolution happens. Either through conscious effort, or through the impersonal events of social processes – sooner or later, the dam breaks. We know from studying sociology and history, that when circumstances become too grim or absurd, people stop accepting the social order. In large matters and small. That’s how people work, after all.
The policies being conducted today are well on their way to taking us to this point. Increased surveillance, increased criminalization of everyday behavior, increased brutality even against law-abiding citizens – and a mounting stigmatization of those who, for whatever imaginable reason, don’t live up to the less than clear definition of normality. And yet still unsafe conditions for those who actually do fulfill it. The everyday life becomes objectively more difficult for everybody, but at the same time, the individual is always to blame for wanton incursions of disease, crime, or (for that matter) the police into their life.
Tougher measures, after all, do mean tougher measures.
The exact point of revolution is easier to pinpoint in retrospect than in prediction, of course. The awareness of the existence of a point where people simply stop caring about every law and rule is not the same thing as being able to pinpoint, with mathematical precision, exactly when this will happen. Yet less predictable is the key everyday factor that triggers this tear-up of the social contract, the factor that causes the clenched fist in the pocket to rise skyward.
The extreme example, of course, is – as always – the United States, which just approved laws that give the government the mandate to arrest anybody, for what reason ever, and detain them for any amount of time. Which, in practice, erases the border between law-abiding and criminal — you can be locked up at any time anyway, and the reward for following the law to its very last letter is closer to zero than anything else. The only way to ensure peace from the state and government will be to commit violence against it. And the punishment for committing violence against the state is the same punishment as for not doing so.
There is a line in the sand where tougher laws turn into lack of laws. Where the worst crime is to become a suspect.
Under such conditions, there is no room for political parties. Especially not opposition parties and troublemaking parties, which disrupt the order by using words like “democracy”, “freedoms” and “rights”. Not just because they trivially can be suspected of any everyday crime, and be punished in proportion to the suspicion; but also because the very foundation for activities in the form of a political party, the citizenship, has been abolished.
Under such conditions, not even a thousand Pirate Parties will help. But there are some forty around the world as of right now, each of which is doing their best to make sure that fateful day is postponed for yet another day. That it shall be possible to use the democratic institutions that still exist, if only for a few moments. Before they’ve done their utmost to abolish themselves.
And in streets and squares across the world, thousands of occupiers of democracy are standing strong, against the human and natural cold alike. One desolate day at a time.
You’re more than welcome to join. We can still make it. There’s time.