The Pirate Party's Next Target: The French Parliament

The growing political movement for Internet freedom, the Pirate Party, has shocked many with recent electoral success in Germany. The next objective is establishing a beachhead in France in the upcoming Parliamentary elections.

A French Pirate Party member during a protest (tornad3)
A French Pirate Party member during a protest (tornad3)

PARIS - Founded in 2006 by a group of Swedes close to the Pirate Bay illegal download website, the Pirate Party has spread across Europe. The Pirates are the spiritual heirs of the libertarian hackers from the late 20th century, who dreamed of a free circulation of culture and knowledge on the Internet.

But unlike these hackers, the European Pirates have chosen legal political action to make their voices heard. Their success is spectacular in Germany where, since Fall of 2011, they have won between 7% and 9% of the votes in four regional elections, where they now count 45 seats in total.

Inspired by the German model, the French Pirate Party decided to pursue the electoral route, aiming to legally implement a series of reforms: free non-commercial use of cultural works, right to privacy for Internet users, reform of copyright and patent law, transparency of the state and access to public records and content.

Maxime Rouquet, the Party leader, is 26 and a video game engineer. He is one of the few with an electoral experience: he ran for a by-election near Paris in 2009, under the Pirate banner, and won 2% of the votes. This year, he is running in the same district. Like a majority of his co-members, Rouquet got into politics in response to these barbaric sounding laws – Dadvis, Loppsi, Hadopi – intending to quell online downloading and strengthen Internet monitoring.

"When I realized that you could get a three-year sentence and a fine of 300,000 euros for sharing a cultural work with a friend, I realized that society was going the wrong way," Rouquet explains.

The Party stepped onto the battlefield at the beginning of this year, with only 200 members and no experience, no allies, no headquarters and no money. The Party is funded with membership fees – about ten euros a year – and thanks to its online shop, which sells caps, t-shirts and flags. Many candidates will be leading a "zero euros' campaign and asking their voters to download and print their ballot paper themselves.

Yet the Party succeeded in enrolling about 100 candidates – and as many substitutes – thanks to its blogs and collaborative websites, as well as Facebook and Twitter. In the Paris region, there are 42 candidates. Meanwhile, the number of members increases by 50 every week.

Go forth and multiply

The next step for the Pirate Party is to get out and meet the voters. The Party will have the right to broadcast TV commercials, but it won't be enough. In Paris, members organize mini-demonstrations, picnics, fairs, in addition to online discussions. Despite the lack of money, the Party works perfectly because it has a homogenous core: young, employed, IT technicians, clean-cut and looking serious and competent.

Stéphanie Geisler, 26, a software designer who is running in Paris' seventh constituency, says her aim is not to take power -- she simply wishes to see one or two Pirates in Parliament, to help the other MP's understand the different issues involved in digital technology: "I watched parliamentary debates on the subject and realized that there was a big knowledge deficit on the topic."

It would be wrong to think the Pirates are just blissful technophiles: "We are against video surveillance, against citizen databases, against automated financial transactions that make the crisis worse, and, most of all, we are against electronic voting machines: e-voting will always be opaque and election rigging will always be possible."

Liquid democracy

The second part of the Pirates' project is more atemporal: the establishment of a direct democracy regime, founded on citizens' participation on every level – an old utopia about to come true thanks to the Internet. As an example, the Party set up a system of hybrid governance. At the head of the Party, the system is normal: an administrative and political council carries out the leadership, assisted by a national council to coordinate local actions. What is different here is the program, which is entirely determined by the base: every suggestion is debated on the Internet – sometimes with excess – and then voted during a general assembly.

The French Pirates adopted the British concept of "liquid democracy": each activist and party member participates as much as he wants, in the topics he choses. Liquid Democracy is also the name of a software created by the German Pirates and that the French intend to adapt: it allows members to introduce a project on the Internet, then to debate about it, to amend it in real time and then to vote it.

With such a system in place, the Pirates' program is going to grow naturally, as the number of members grows bigger. The party will then face a developing crisis and the leaders' task will become more complicated: they will have to figure out how to become more mainstream without falling into the right-left divide that the movement pioneers said was obsolete.

Read the original article in French

Photo - tornad 3

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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