What happened to the political hackers? – POLITICS
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European political pirates have split into two fleets as the protest movement tries to maintain its relevance 15 years after its lawless beginnings.
One group has adopted some traditional party structures that many members of the movement have long avoided – and could finally be part of an EU coalition government.
The other has stuck with his anti-establishment sensibilities, remaining loosely organized – and mostly stayed on the outside looking inward.
The divergence left the political movement in a phase of transition nearly a generation after it first appeared on the scene, fueled by a growing distrust of mainstream politics and pledging to bring politics to politics with a focused philosophy. on technology and radically transparent.
While the wider movement has stalled in many European countries – short-lived success as parties grappled with infighting and mainstream politics – some of the more developed parties are making gains. There are currently four pirate members in the European Parliament, as well as hackers in the national legislatures of Luxembourg, Iceland and the Czech Republic. A pirate is even mayor of Prague.
And next October, the Czech Pirate Party could finally get enough votes in the parliamentary elections to join the government’s ruling coalition. This would make them the first pirate party to be part of a national government within the EU – a major achievement. And that would place them in a rare league with other new age European protest parties, like the 5Stars movement in Italy, which actually rose to political power by promising to use technology to bring people straight into the socket. government decision-making process.
“It’s a new wind,” said Ivan Bartoš, leader of the Czech Pirates, highlighting the themes that made pirates popular for a small but vocal slice of Europeans: “No oligarchs or big sponsors” and ” completely transparent “.
Foreigners become insiders
Even though some pirate parties are increasingly willing to look – and act like – a traditional political party, they insist that they still represent a different approach.
Hackers first gained attention by touting their technological know-how, drawing in people who were concerned about issues such as legalizing free digital copies of books and music. Some members helped create software that gave average people a direct word on the policies this hacker party was pushing.
“What’s really special about our movement is that we understand technology, we understand how important digital rights are,” said German hacker MEP Patrick Breyer. “We have a pretty radical approach to transparency.
Yet hackers who have managed to carve out a role for themselves in national and European politics say you also need to be pragmatic and work across party lines.
“In difficult times, cooperation always gives better results than competition,” said Bartoš, the Czech leader.
However, their political rivals do not necessarily view the hackers as pragmatic, claiming that their approach makes it difficult to deal with sensitive political issues.
The hackers presented “something new” that “was sexy on the Czech political scene,” said MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, member of the right-wing Czech KDU-ČSL party. But, he added, “in many ways they are very naive.”
Wonders at your fingertips?
In the early years, the pirate movement gained adherents for the same reason it would soon stumble: it hated politics.
“None of us wanted to be a politician,” said Rick Falkvinge, who founded Europe’s first pirate party in Sweden in 2006.
Initially, he said, the party focused narrowly on “copyrights, patents and privacy.”
Much of the party’s initial momentum came from the debate around Pirate Bay, an illegal file-sharing service that Swedish police raided in mid-2006.
“We were so frustrated that politicians didn’t understand something that was fundamental in our daily life as the internet,” said Falkvinge, who is no longer directly involved with the party.
Swedish pirates quickly inspired other pirate parties across Europe. The group won 7.1% of the votes cast in Sweden in the 2009 European Parliament elections, a big step for such a young party that trashed mainstream politics.
“It was something as simple as not being allowed to copy chapters from books while I was studying,” said Mattias Bjärnemalm, political adviser to the Greens in the European Parliament, recalling his decision to join the Pirate Party. Swedish shortly after its founding.
In 2011, the German Pirate Party won almost 9% of the vote in a local election in Berlin, entering the state parliament.
But the early electoral success in Germany was quickly reversed. Within the party, members say there has been a shift in media coverage – from treating the movement as a colorful political curiosity to simply covering the “gossip”, “arguments” and “unfortunate things that people do.” people posted on Twitter, ”said Breyer, the German MEP.
“At first, the German Pirate Party was covered by the media,” he said. “After that, essentially the opposite happened.”
There were also accusations from outside the party that German pirates had hired members with far-right views. Separately, a 2016 grizzly bear murder-suicide involving a pirate politician took its toll.
Former German pirate politicians point to the party’s internal divisions and lack of organization.
“The party organs have even ignored their own decisions on how to run things, what to say,” said Martin Delius, a former hacker who is now a member of the left-wing Die Linke party.
It is not uncommon, however, for a grassroots movement to quickly gain traction as people rush to its insurgent message, and then falter as the movement quickly grows unexpectedly.
“It was a very common trajectory,” said Bjärnemalm, adviser to the European Parliament and member of the Swedish Pirates. “They have a first hit, then they implode because they didn’t know how to handle that hit. And most of the time, members come together more on what they don’t agree on than what they agree on.
A second life
Despite electoral disappointments in countries like Sweden and Germany, the Pirate Party has survived and has done well in some countries.
The parties that ultimately won seats in national parliaments grew “gradually,” said Sven Clement, chairman of the Luxembourg Pirate Party and member of the country’s parliament.
“We can be dogmatic when it matters, but we are often open to negotiating the best and most pragmatic solution,” he said, noting that the Luxembourg hackers voted with both the government and the opposition, according to the records.
In Luxembourg, hackers have emerged as one of the few alternatives in a political system that has traditionally strayed very little from the status quo.
Clément, one of the two pirates of the Luxembourg parliament, has forged a reputation for being outspoken ready to confront the government.
He was one of the few voices to criticize the Grand Duchy when the country’s role as a tax haven hit international headlines earlier this year, and took the government to court in an attempt to bring it down. more transparent. He also led the charge against covid vaccine queue jumpers and forced the country to commit to creating a privacy-friendly covid app.
Luxembourgers like what they see. Clement’s popularity increased during the pandemic, with his approval ratings increasing at one point more than any other politician.
ELECTORAL SURVEY OF THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC
For more survey data from across Europe, visit POLITICS Poll polls.
Other pirate parties that have expanded beyond their founding political issues – copyright and patent reform, digital rights – have also done well.
Bartoš, of Czech hackers, said the ethics of the movement can be applied to all government decisions. Focusing on data analysis, for example, will help shape “a good agricultural reform, or pension reform, which is needed,” Bartoš explained.
There is also a growing awareness in countries like Germany that pirates need a well-built ship. It means political staff. It means parliamentary assistants.
“I think we are experiencing increasing professionalization,” said the Breyer of the German pirates, who, like other pirates in the European Parliament, sits in the Greens / European Free Alliance group.
Then there are other countries across Europe with smaller pirate parties where a strongly anti-establishment vibe and diffuse organizational approach persist.
In France, for example, the pirate party purpose is to overhaul the whole system.
“Emmanuel Macron is the King of France,” said Florie Marie, spokesperson for the French Pirate Party and also vice-president of the board of the European Pirate Party.
“The French constitution and the French Republic – I want to change everything,” she said.
The result is that two types of pirate parties have emerged, said Clément, the chairman of the Luxembourg pirate party.
There are the few “well-established” parties with a thriving political infrastructure, Clement said. Then there are “all the other parties – and it is sometimes very difficult to find common ground, or consensus between these two approaches,” he added.
Nonetheless, Clément stressed that the two groups can work together.
“The successful parties must do more to help the less successful parties,” he said, predicting that the smaller parties “will also mature.”
A question of impact
If the Czech Pirate Party is part of the ruling coalition in the country after the October elections, that would be the first real test of whether the movement can turn its philosophy into concrete policy at the national level.
Critics of hackers have long insisted that the movement’s few elected politicians are ill-equipped for the realities of policymaking, especially on issues that naturally conflict with calls for full transparency.
“The naivety of these young computer scientists – it is really very huge,” said Czech MEP Zdechovský, adding that “we cannot be transparent” on issues like intelligence and the military.
“If things are too transparent, you give information – especially about the critical structure of the Czech Republic or the European Union – to our enemies,” he said.
But current and former members of the Pirate Party insist that the value of the movement goes beyond being able to simply step into a ruling coalition.
“It was the transnational aspect that kept the movement alive,” said Bjärnemalm of the Swedish pirates. “It doesn’t matter if we have national setbacks, we’re still relevant and our ideas are always pushed somewhere.”
Cornelius Hirsch contributed to the data analysis. Vincent Manancourt contributed reporting.