by Christine Lepisto, Berlin on 09.25.11
As the rest of the world was celebrating talk like a pirate day, the Pirate Party won its first seats in the Berlin state elections.
In Germany, any party winning more than 5% of the votes is entitled to a share in government. With 8.9%, the Pirate party lands 15 seats in the state government, among them 19-year-old Susanne Graf (pictured above), who will be the youngest representative when session opens in October. Is this the beginning of a new kind of politics? Is the Pirate party walking a green plank?
First and foremost, the Pirate Party campaign program (pdf, German) promises transparency and to give citizens more voice in government.
As a young, technologically oriented party, this could auger a change (which some believe is inevitable) in the way we govern ourselves, a move away from representative government to net-based referendums. While not itself green, many believe this strategy could help take big money out of government, bringing balance back to the human aspect of decision making.
Although the word "pirate" has come to be associated with, well let us just say, the uncompensated use of certain digital properties, the official program of the Pirate Party focuses on equal access to information that is in the public domain, and equal opportunity use of internet technology as well as improved educational opportunity for the youth.
The greenest angle on this approach to equal access in public domains is the call to keep natural areas available for everyone, such as maintaining open access to river banks. Ironically, the debate stirs already over the lack of female presence in the party. Susanne is the only female sitting with 14 males.
The Greenest Planks of the Pirate Party Platform
Probably the greenest plank proposed in the Pirate program calls for free public transport, and activates against expanding highways through the city. Free public transport speaks for itself as a green platform. Thoughts on how to suppress highway construction projects rest on the main Pirate plank: make the contracts transparent, so the big money cannot win behind closed doors, and give people a direct vote on whether such projects should proceed.
Of course, the Pirates advocate nuclear-free power as well. And the campaign program explicitly calls for "sustainable, ecological economic policy."
Pirates Walking Other Planks
The Pirate program offers much more than "open access." It turns the clock back on post-9/11 state controls, fighting against surveillance of citizens and demanding improvements in accountability for police forces.
The platform contains planks designed to open borders, fighting on several fronts against anti-immigrant feelings. Perhaps most controversially, the Pirate platform also demands a change from drug abuse penalization to educational and social supports designed to reduce dependence on harmful drugs. Walking this plank includes the legalization of marijuana, on the grounds that illegal cannabis handlers pose a health risk by selling contaminated products.
Nations around the globe are finding politics as usual unsatisfying in the face of global economic crisis. Sustainability fans know that things cannot go on as they are. The question that now arises in Berlin is: will this youth movement earn respect for a new path forward, a post-capitalist, post-industrial, social-network based politics? Can politics survive transparency? And can it work for a party named "Pirates"?