We Are Winning: How Pirate Parties Are Changing The World

Among all the bad laws being passed right now, change is coming. The Pirate Party’s plan for changing the world is proceeding much, much faster than expected. While the laws on the drawing board are still asinine, we’re at a tipping point where the net repressors are about to lose their influence on lawmaking.

After the Pirate Party’s political entry in the 2006 Swedish elections, we set out on a five-step plan to make sure that the offline civil liberties would carry over into the online world, against the wishes of the old guard. Each of these five steps would traditionally be impossible, and we’re done with the first two and are approaching the fourth:

  1. Create Sweden’s largest youth wing of any party (we did), giving us credibility enough to succeed in…
  2. The European Elections, where we need to beat 4% (note: we got 7.13%), which in turn is a stepping stone to…
  3. Getting entry in the Swedish Parliament, which would start turning things around immediately. But in order to really change European policy, we need to…
  4. Take about 5% in 3-4 more key parliaments in Europe, in key countries like Germany, France, or Poland, and use the combined leverage of those heavyweight parliaments to change the view on information policy across the European Union. Once that is done…
  5. The world would have to follow, since no monopolistic repression happens if Europe doesn’t agree to it – since the EU is the world’s largest economy, larger than the US.

This was, and is, the five-step plan. But with the German Piratenpartei now polling in the double digits with multiple survey firms, the landscape has changed.

The Swedish Piratpartiet showed that success was possible in the European Elections of 2009, getting 25% of the under-30 vote and two Europarliament seats out of Sweden’s 20. That was the proof of concept. We failed to convert these votes into votes in the general elections a year later because of a very simple reason – that we didn’t have a full political platform. Answering “we have no opinion on that issue” for nine out of ten policy questions wasn’t good enough. People wouldn’t vote for parties that didn’t, not in a general election, and there was no way the Piratpartiet could expand its policies by the necessary magnitude between the 2009 and 2010 elections. This was a painful but necessary and educational experience in growth pains. (The Piratpartiet is now in full swing in expanding to a full policy platform ahead of the next elections in 2014.)

The German Piratenpartei, meanwhile, benefited hugely from the Swedish proof-of-concept in 2009 and climbed from 1% to 2% in the three months between the European and the German elections, with all the media spotlight from a new political movement making its way to front row center, and this result also rendered them substantial funding. Then, the Piratenpartei had two years to broaden their scope – from the fall of 2009 to the Berlin elections of 2011 – and pulled it off beautifully, being rewarded with parliamentary seats as a result.

So, let’s return to our five-step plan. We didn’t get into the Swedish parliament in 2010. But Sweden is not a country of any particular political significance. Exaggerating just slightly, it is a frozen country the size of a shoebox on top of the Arctic Circle. In this plan, the Swedish parliament in step three was never meant as anything more than an igniting spark.

We would still need 5% in multiple countries, if we got 5%. But if the German Piratenpartei pulls 10-15% in the national elections next year, where they indeed are in the polls, then this can be enough to fulfill step four in the plan.

Let’s back up a bit. With all the net regulation coming down the sewer pipe from the political ivory towers, it could be hard to see how we’re on the right track. The reason for that nasty stuff in the legislative sewer pipe is that the wrong guys are setting the agenda right now, and the trick is to change who sets that agenda. As long as the copyright industry keeps setting the legislative agenda, we will keep seeing more nasty sewer stuff. But the instant we set the legislative tone instead, the laws will take off in a completely different direction. We are very, very close to achieving that tipping point.

It is important to understand here that the eastern parts of Europe are not happy about the copyright monopoly construct at all, nor about its invasion of civil liberties. Poland has been exemplary at mounting opposition, and in Serbia, the Creative Commons concept is even seen as a huge step backwards as it imposes restrictions on how you can use culture and knowledge. So it boils down to a united western Europe putting pressure on eastern Europe to keep pushing a repressive agenda. Break the unity, break the agenda. The emperor really is naked.

If the German Piratenpartei manages to get 10-15% in the national elections, comes out on top in the coalition game, and becomes a supporting part of the next German administration in return for the administration absorbing its policies, then the game is over, and we won. That development would set off a chain of events:

  • With Germany’s administration having taken the pirate viewpoint, no more backroom deals for repressive net legislation would include Germany. With Germany being the politically heaviest country in Europe, that means that such backroom deals could no longer happen between other European countries and include a large enough political majority.
  • Germany would soundly block any repressive legislation in the European Council, which, together with Poland and other pro-net heavyweights, would make them impossible even if pushed by others.
  • To the contrary, deals would be made with Germany and the former eastern-Europe states that ensured freedom of speech and expression on the net, without politicians caring if the copyright industry needs to adapt or die as a result.
  • Several smaller countries (but initially not France or the UK) would adapt quickly to new circumstances, ignoring pressure from the US once Europe decides to lead its own path into the future. Politicians would do this partly out of fear of losing votes to the local Pirate Party. This further strengthens the momentum for the pirate viewpoint.
  • Having soundly tipped towards net freedom, Europe will reject any attempts at net control, and thus, the rest of the democratic world has no choice but to follow suit. Monopolies are meaningless if not respected universally, and if Europe rejects monopolies on ideas, knowledge, and culture, then the rest of the world will follow within one or two decades at the most.

Of course, it is possible that Germany’s Piratenpartei takes 10-15% but still ends up in the German political opposition. If so, things will still progress, but at a slower pace, and in four more years, we will probably see our five per cents in multiple more parliaments, delaying the plan’s progression by a mere couple of years. There are Pirate Parties pretty much everywhere now, including outside of Europe, which is crucial for long-term sustainability of the plan (as well as short-term pressure for change).

We are winning. We are changing the global rules of the game. Together, we’re hacking the system to upgrade it for a new generation. Vote Pirate.

Oh by the way, it’s Anna Troberg’s birthday today, April 9. (Anna Troberg is the party leader of the Swedish Piratpartiet.) Congrats, Anna!

(Photo: Pirate Party Belgium (yes, we’re everywhere), taken by Didier Misson.)

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. uLoop

    What do you think will happen if we do win, but ACTA gets passed in the meantime?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Many bad laws have already been passed (think censorship, think data retention, think passenger name records, et cetera). We have work to do to bring back the respect for civil liberties. But the first step is to get ourselves into a position where we can do that.

      ACTA would just be one more heap of garbage to clean out of the old yard, if it passes (which I doubt it will, with the political climate right now).

  2. Vik1ng

    “climbed from 1% to 2% in the three months between the European and the German elections”

    One of my favorite Charts 😉

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Wow. I knew in my gut that the Swedish success in the European Elections (with the tons of resulting media) had been a kickstarter for the German Pirate Party, but I had no idea it was that instrumental.

      That’s not to say it wouldn’t have happened anyway, but I’m happy to see how our successes create ripples in the water for one another and help each other out in so many ways.

      1. LennStar

        It wasn’t Sweden alone 😉
        Sweden was a much needed motivator, but the boost came from “Zensursula”, the typical “we censor the net to prevent child porn” thingy with a STOP sign on “childporn” pages.
        That was such a dumb move from technical and “it works or not” view, that several people got really angry. I mean – warnung people who download child porn that this site it beeing watched?
        If you could talk about the topic for 2 minutes (what is not easy, it beeing child porn), even 80 year old people on the street did understand the dumbness.

        It was the final drop that motivated me to join the PP after I had watched it for half a year or so.

        1. ForskarGurra

          Germany is just perfect for pirate politics. More people than anywhere else understand the pirate issues in Germany. You really know how barbaric Stasi was and those few too young to remember have lived with the internet all their lives understand net neutrality and why freedom on the internet is so important. PP was just the igniting flame required to start it all up. All the prereqs. of a non-naiive population with liberal democratic beliefs understanding these issues are already in place thanks to Germany’s history the last lifetime or so.

  3. Anonymous

    ” Of course, it is possible that Germany’s Piratenpartei takes 10-15% but still ends up in the German political opposition. ”

    I’m afraid that is 99% likely. Established German parties are currently grieving about the pirates’ success. The Piraten themselves have declared that party whip doesn’t fly with them, and are therefore a very unattractive parter for color games. Furthermore the Piraten are still struggling with internal organisation, so forming a coalition will not happen for at least another, more likely two or even more legislative periods.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Yes, being a reliable political partner is paramount, of course. Fortunately, we have Christian Engström in the European Parliament to point at here as an example – he’s been one of the most group-loyal (the most loyal?) MEPs in the entire Parliament in exchange for the Greens/EFA group taking up Pirate issues.

      Pirates can be very loyal political friends – as long as you hold up your end of the bargain.

  4. Aleks Lessmann


    thanks for the nice thought. But let keep it real. Our 12% are a flash. We will have to work very strongly to keep even double digits up. And the establishment has waken up and is beating us everywhere they can (and losing, but that’s another discussion).

    An we still are amateurs. Most of us are doing our work in the Piratenpartei besides our daily job. Against an army of paid politicians who this time are expecting us.

    Let’s stay real. While I expect the Piratenpartei to sooner or later reach 20%, it’s going to be a lot of work, and the Establishment is loading their guns. And firing at will.

    Anything above 5% is going to be great. Getting to the double digits in the german general election inmense and hard work.

    But as always, we’re taking the bull by the horns. And glad fo any help anyone can give us.

    Hope to see you next week in Prague

  5. Justas

    “ignoring pressure from the US once Europe decides to lead its own path into the future.” most of the top internet sites/services are based in US and even worse everything from Google, Android, Windows… belongs to US companies and promotes US policies. So does that mean that our own EU based services may quickly gain popularity and maybe even replace US monopolies worldwide after changes? Or US monopolies will move to EU, because they won’t be able to compete with all the better internet stuff here? 🙂

    1. Datavetaren

      I think you’re wrong here. First, Google was one of the major forces who shot down SOPA and PIPA. Even Google realizes that a too restrained copyright industry will hurt their business model. Also, Google isn’t too amused by the current patent litigations either. I think there’s a slim chance that Google will discover Rick Falkvinge and the PP movement and perhaps even back it up. It’s not impossible…

        1. Datavetaren

          Excellent talk, and I’ve seen it before while googling around, but I assume it was a rather limited audience. Your power base has grown considerbly since 2007. The breakthrough in Germany, and the potential of being enlisted as one of hundred most influential thinkers on Time 100 should caught peoples attention. Let’s hope Eric Schmidt is watching your TED presentation and thinks “fuck it!” and gives you his personal support and the assets that go with it 🙂

      1. Justas

        I didn’t say that it’s impossible to change the internet.. Quite an opposite. Google and other major internet companies are based in US and are forced to follow US policies, they want it or not.. And the most interesting part for me is that if Europe will be free from US and copyright holders pressure, then all the sudden Google, Microsoft and everything from US won’t be competitive in our market, because there will be better search engines, video services without content filtering, better online stores without DRM and better prices here… 🙂

        1. Scary Devil Monastery

          More likely…should the EU become an internet-liberal region then Google will be sorely tempted to move their business here. Google’s business model is built around the idea of open source and liberal rules. No matter the reservations I may have regarding their view of the “consumer” as “merchandize” it has to be said that they are one of the very few companies whose business model is actually built around a primarily “free” concept.

          In the US they are right now facing rather tough and unpalatable legal challenges thanks to the RIAA/MPAA/etc.

          However, a liberal europe would indeed enable actual competitors. Google was an aberration and I do not believe the current US climate will allow another company like that to prosper into maturity.

    2. Vik1ng

      Both Google and Facebook have datacenters in Europe and at least Google has some business offices here. This means they will have to comply with EU law. And when it comes to Copyright the law in the country applies, so if copyright is 10-20 years in Europe nobody will care here if it is still 90 in the US.

  6. shyguy

    The German Media/Press (off/online) started a big offense against the pirate party some days ago :(.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Excellent! That more or less guarantees its success.

      1. LennStar

        Yes, seems to work 😀
        13% poll from 9.4.2012


    2. LennStar

      To be precise, the copyright-profiting part of the media (the people who get the stuff from the authors) declared right after the Saarland elections that “The creative people should voice their opinions on *insert copyright-related word or insult of your choice*”

      First big group were 51 people who write TV-srcipts for “Tatort”, which is funded publicly.
      Second group were 100 people, where about 80 were not creative but using the work of creative people – newspaper CEOs and so on.

      Nice answers on the net, but how to get it on the street?

      But I thing it’s the same as with Ricks luggage. It just shows we have angered the right people 😉

      1. ForskarGurra

        EXACTLY! Was just gonna write that myself 😉 In Sweden, the German Pirate Party success is being silenced by very many of major corporate media. Only state controlled media (SR) writes anything lengthy about it. Actually I also saw one guy from Sydsvenskan who wrote about it. But it seems that the “bigger players” in Sweden are almost as scared as to shit themselves as of now…

      2. NingúnOtro

        It’s too late for the media to stop us, they are broke, waiting for us to put the last nail in their coffin.

        To be discussed in Prague if trivialities and lack of maturity do not steal the agenda.

  7. AndrewM

    Hi Rick,

    What process is being used to expand on TPP’s policies?

  8. DrD

    Very interesting article!
    As a Brit, what can I do to help things along?

    1. LennStar

      Join your Pirate Party. Make and deliver flyers. Be visible (T-Shirts n summer). Ask (the right) questions. Make an information desk (?) on your market place.

      Erm… vote Pirates 😉

    2. Anonymous

      What about becoming a member or at least supporter of http://www.pirateparty.org.uk!?

    3. Mark (Germany)

      What about joining http://www.pirateparty.org.uk!?

    4. NingúnOtro

      Be very, very AWARE of things going on, THINK, and ANTICIPATE possible outcomes and opportunities to ACT.

      Both the swedish and the german Pirate Parties have identified young people as a very big part of our political target. Todays world youth is the most learned and aware youth in the history of mankind, and it struggles to get established egoism off its shoulders, as represented mostly by aging professional politicians and established economic tycoons.

      They are waiting for us to appear everywhere so they can vote us, because we are to be the ones aware of todays problems and trying to solve them for everybody alike and not just a happy few.

      See for instance what pollsters say of France, where the Parti Pirate has not yet shown itself on the political scene: “A new study reveals that far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen is the most popular candidate among young 18-24 year-old voters, as 26% of them intend on voting for her in the upcoming elections.”

      Those voters should be ours, AND we have to forget our petty personal limitations and work all together for it to happen.

  9. Jan

    Seems like the Austrian Pirate Party can profit from the success and media coverage of the german pirate party. They are at 7% in national polls.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      That’s great news! Do you have a link I can refer to?

    2. LennStar

      Is there some Link for this like http://www.wahlrecht.de/umfragen/forsa.htm ?

    3. Rick Falkvinge
  10. dangerous dan

    This is so dangerous. can’t we all be pals? and buddies, and friends? inter connected in the world. 🙁

  11. PLad

    There is no way the German Pirate Party will be part of the next German government. As of now, no other party seems to be willing to cooperate with them.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      That’s tactical positioning. You’d be surprised what can happen after an election, if people realize their votes hold the key to the prime ministry.

  12. steelneck

    This is a tip for you Rick. I have just got up from my soafa (i am sick) infront of my TV and there was a paneldiscussion on Kunskapskanalen (The Knowledge channel) from “UR Samtiden” about China and the power of microbloggers, it lasted from 16:46-18:05 (found it at UR). Among others Zhao Jing (jpornalist and blogger) from China was talking, he was a bit careful in his wording, i got the impression that he knew that his regime could be listening, but he said one very important thing about aid from the west regarding the issues they where talking about. China do not need technology, they have that, and they ceartainly do not need money, different NGOs is wasted effort and sometimes even counterproductive, no. What he asked for as the greatest help we ever can give the chinese people to gain more freedom was very simple, just hold on to our values.

    They have started to see a bit of light, and change wont come from above, it will slowly spring out of social change, they have started to see a bit of the outside world and that things can be different, but if we do not hold on to our values it will become very dark indeed, that little beacon of light they have seen a glimpse of is their navigation and they will become lost without it. But Zhao has come to understand that this light is fading fast. In very subtle and careful wording he basically declared some of our politicians as fools.

  13. Chuck Smith

    I’d just like to chime in here and point out that the pirates are now polling 11% in Schleswig-Holstein. This is up from 5% just 2 weeks ago! Looks like the Saarland elections is having a HUGE influence!


  14. […] Rick Falkvinge explains the game plan of the Pirate Party and why they’re succeeding: […]

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