Monday, September 19, 2011

Pirates Storm German Parliament!!

No joke. [In German, Pirate Party website.]

The party I voted for on Sunday in Berlin's local election has won 14 seats. The FDP (a business friendly liberal party, currently in coalition with the CDU) received under 2% of the vote and have thus no seats. A genuine double whammy election shocker. Tabloid-style headlines and sentence structure fully justified.

I voted for the Pirates (Die Piraten) because they are for transparency in the political process, direct democracy, guaranteed income, and other assorted sensible ideas. I thought I'd give a small taste of their platform by translating some of their manifesto so that you have it straight from the pirate's mouth, as it were.

We see transparency as a duty of Berlin. We will abolish regulations for application [I assume this is concerned with over-complicated German bureaucracy regarding political participation], minimize entry restrictions and abolish fees for [publication of political] information and reports. We demand that every step of bidding, contract negotiations and contract signing processes are made public. Every contract will only become valid after it has been made public; old contracts will be looked into anew. Documentation pertaining to committee meetings, board meetings, etc., will be immediately and clearly published, online and offline. In future the public are only to be excluded from sessions in rare cases, sessions will be broadcast live on the internet and recorded. Every delegate is to make public his/her contacts to lobby organizations, unions and other organizations. We will live transparency. All data and works brought into existence by taxpayer funds will be made public and available to every citizen. Berlin must inform her citizens about every new project as early as possible, so that her citizenry has a proper opportunity to participate. Press laws will be changed such that no whistle-blower need have any fear of the state.

We will prepare the way for free, Berlin-wide wireless internet access and abolish operator liability for public WLAN networks. Furthermore we want to show every Berliner and this city's guests how to use this network.

For learning too we insist on the freedom and self-determination of the individual. All students shall have the chance to organize and complete their schooling individually. We want to democratize schooling institutions. In the future there will be one teacher to every fifteen students. We will end the use of filter software in public education establishments and enable free and open access to all information available on the Internet. We will also make sure that all students are able to work with digital media and will school them accordingly. We will also provide free lunches. We will offer students of non-state schools the same developmental opportunities as those of state schools, and expand and improve the teaching of German as a second language. We will abolish fixed school times so as to enable an open and critical coarse of study. Longer term we want to set up a round table as a public forum for all involved in higher education. We want to realize a library statute in Berlin.

Now I did not vote for Die Piraten because I am a political animal fervently in support of one party or the other, nor because I understand the fine details, or even the totality of their whole program in general, but because this is a party called The Pirates who are gently and humorously making the right noises and prodding the mainstream in the right direction. The party has only been around since 2006, so this is an explosive start, and is making headlines here. They've knocked the FDP out of the Berlin Parliament (The Greens expanded their share of the vote too), and this represents a major shift in the politics of Berlin, a sea change.

It just so happens the the father of one of my daughter's friends is "A Pirate" so I will be grilling him soon as to what the party is going to do with its power, and other questions along those lines. If you guys want to know anything, drop me a line...


Timbo614 said...

Well, well, the beast stirs and slowly opens it's eyes!

Toby said...

Looks that way, Timbo. Let's see how mightily it can rouse itself to constructive action.

I watched their press interview and was very impressed. They plan to learn as they go, blog the whole experience, stay in constant contact with their entire base and anyone else who wants to chip in, will use a software called Liquid Democracy (or similar) and basically upset the apple cart towards direct democracy and direct participation. They are young, self-confident, witty, honest and very tech- and Internet savvy. So although this sort of surprise has happened before, the newcomer party has been corrupted by the process. This time it's different. There's a new tech in town.

I'm hopeful. I'll keep you all posted.

Rupert Russell said...

I've gotta find out if there is something along these line in the UK. Feeling funky this morning.

Timbo614 said...

"This time it's different" now where have I heard that before? But maybe it is, let's hope so.

The Pirates have implemented parts of my "mad idea" - that you could get elected to government without initially knowing exactly what you are doing, on the premise that it could not be much worse than the hell pit that the established parties have created!

Also to use high tech to create real democracy. Not possible before IPv6 (which is capable of giving every device on the planet and beyond a unique address). Which would in turn require everyone to be connected and that implies free connection or there is no democracy.

Hmmm... There is a pirate party UK that I had never heard of which seems to be affiliated to your German friends with some similar ideas. So A question for you to ask: Is it?

Toby said...

In a provocative-style post I allow myself some provocative expressions. This time it's different. Ha ha! Onwards ship mates!

I think what makes the Pirates interesting is that their goals are limited. The Greens burst onto the scene about 30 years ago, no suits no ties, open, honest, naive, and proceeded to get lost in the labyrinth of politics, just another light meal for the beast. It may well go the same way for the Pirates, but because they are not planning to save the world, just shine a light where the cockroaches do their dirty work, and push for some reasonable educational reform, then guaranteed income, which has sympathetic ears across the political spectrum (even my mother-in-law, an arch right-winger, now sees it as self-evident), I think the old chestnut "This time it's different" may be rolled out for another airing. I suspect the old girl still has a little juice in her.

As to British Pirates, I'm not sure, haven't looked into it yet. I plan to get to know the party in coming months, which at the moment is located only in Berlin and concerned only with Berlin. The idea of them, their name and manifesto, is a template that would export well the world over. If you turn up connections and affiliations I'd be interested to hear about them...

Rupert Russell said...

That was easy.

Toby said...

You folks with nothing to do all day but laze around on the Internet looking for things other people are looking for while others work hard making a living and juggling balls of all colours and sizes just to keep the wolf from the door as winter approaches and the harvest was destroyed by locusts and the wife miscarried you make me SICK!


Timbo614 said...

This lazy good for nothing has also found:

It is world wide it seems and grew from the prosecution of Pirate Bay the download site in 2006, which fits with your dates too.

It's very techie focused and some of the demands would need some explanation to lesser mortals than us Computer techs :)

Toby said...

sterling work me hearties! Me timbers argh all a-shiverin'

Rupert Russell said...

I believe it was your niece that made you sick, was it not? Humm?

Rupert Russell said...

I plan to get in touch with the computational corsairs at the earliest oportunity. No mention of basic income on their web site though.

Toby said...

Indeed, a brief glance of the British Pirates made me think they're just another liberal-lite group focused on the standard mainstream fare only being 'honest' and open about it. Nothing I saw there impressed me much.

However, if the Berliner Pirates can't follow through on their promise to shine a light into the hallways of power, their very failure to do so will be helpful, since it will be another nail in the coffin of mainstream politics and the economic paradigm which undergirds it. If they do shine a light and grow in popularity, at least the guaranteed income proposal will get closer to the centers of power. Right now I'll take whatever genuine change I can get my hands on.