Sigrid Quack and Leonhard Dobusch comment on the recent developments in the German “Piratenpartei” around the Pirate Party Convention 2012.

With the German Pirate Party continuously rising in national polls – currently ranging between 10 and 13 percent (see Figure below) – media attention on the party’s convention last weekend had reached a new height.

German Election polls

Source: Economist

And this media coverage is increasingly becoming transnational. Germany’s largest weekly Der Spiegel devoted an extensive feature article in English to the phenomenon, trying to explain questions such as “Why the Pirates Are Successful”:

“This is precisely the Pirates’ biggest attraction: transparency and participation, as well as a healthy dose of freshness and otherness. This sometimes makes the Pirates seem childishly naïve and chaotic, and yet they seek to make do without back-room backslapping and conventional political smoothness.”

But also criticsm is voiced in the recent coverage. The Economist, for example, calls Pirates in its recent printed edition  “slightly barmy” and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung published a series of articles on unfortunate comparisons of the Pirate Party’s rise with that of the NSDAP by the secretary of the Berlin Pirate caucus (German article) and some right wingnuts in the party who among other statements denied the Holocaust (German article).

Last weekend, 2000 delegates at the German Pirate Party Convention distanced themselves clearly from such positions. In an unanimous vote delegates stated that to deny or diminish the Holocaust under the cloack of freedom of speech (as one of the Party’s members had claimed before) is incompatible with the basic principles of the party. This is in line with the statements that form part of the Party’s Manifesto which is now also available in an English version. The Manifesto emphasizes that migration and cultural diversity enriches society, and accentuates the need to oppose “prejudice and intolerance at the heart of society: everyday racism, latent anti-Semitic stereotypes and the emerging trend of Islamophobia.”

Compared to the public attention (rightly) paid to political worldviews, other parts of the comprehensive Party Manifesto have not received similar regard. However, since the German party is by far the largest Pirate Party within the transnational Pirate Party movement, their manifesto is likely to become a reference point for discussions in other parties in Europe. It therefore deserves more detailed attention.

The Pirate Party in Germany

Source: Spiegel Online

One of the most controversial passages in the German Pirate Party’s manifesto does not even deal with Internet-related issues but rather with guaranteed minimum income. The paragraph on the “Right to secure livelihood and social participation” states that

“People can only live in dignity if their basic needs are met and their social participation is assured. In our monetary economy, this requires an income. If an income can only be achieved through work, we must assure full employment to protect all people’s dignity. This is why full employment has been a major goal of our economic policy in the past. There are two paths by which we try to achieve this goal: Through economic measures which aim to create jobs or through publicly financed jobs with the main goal of securing people’s livelihood. These are both detours which require substantial public funding. If public funds are used, however, this must be done as efficiently as possible. Since the goal is to secure an income and a livelihood for everyone, this income should be guaranteed directly to each individual. Only this way can we protect the dignity of all people without exception.”

It will be interesting to see whether other Pirate Parties in Europe follow the German party in this respect. More generally, the debates within and outside of the Pirate Party on the issue illustrates the difficulties connected with the transformation of topically oriented movements into a party with a full-fledged political program.

(leonhard sigrid)