Short brainstorming: Greens & Pirates – the future of alternatives
There has been a lot of discussion lately on the position of new parties in Europe, particulary on the rising Pirate Party, as well as repercussions it will make on the estabished mainstream parties. Long time ago the same kind of discussion thrived in relation to Green parties, when many mainstream conservative, socialist & liberal parties believed that “green politics” is just a seasonal reaction of people who were fed up with existing parties. However, Greens managed to establish themselves as a real, long-lasting alternative and became 4th and/or even 3rd strongest party in many western EU countries. This trend is slowly spreading to eastern & southern European states, where Green ideology still has to make its break-through. However, most established parties recently faced a new phenomenon – the rise of Pirate Parties, political movement that is determined to defend internet freedoms. This movement is increasingly appealing to young & educated voters, which poses a great problem for many progressive parties, in particular the Greens. This is especially the case since Greens have so far been viewed as a real alternative to the mainstream parties, while now the Pirates have equally strong position, in addition to being new & fresh political force which brings them additional attractivness to the electorate.
Greens have been (rightly so) worrisome about these developments, and it could be heard several times that Greens are not sure what their strategy should be towards the Pirates. Also, a recent comment by many mainstream parties (including Greens in Austrian local elections) that Pirate party is only a “seasonal” movement and that people should stick to “established” parties doesn’t really sounds very smart, and puts Greens in the position of fighting against “alternatives” and defending the “mainstream”. This could have very negative effects on the Greens in the long-term, especially if one analyses the Pirate strategy more deeply. First of all Pirate Party might look like a seasonal happening, but their program is being enlarged and they already presented broader program in relation to GMO’s, social liberties, environment etc. This shows that they intend to fight for much more than just digital rights. Secondly, we are living in the digital age, and question of internet freedoms is not only temporarily trendy, but will become increasingly more important over time, and it should be expected that Pirates & similar movements will only continue to rise and spread across Europe and the world. Therefore, the Greens’ strategy of sidelining the Pirates and sticking together with the establishment parties might be very dangerous.
Greens have worked hard to establish themselves and to broaden their program and support base. Nowadays, they are increasingly being viewed as defenders of human rights, social equalities, freedom of speech & other progressive values, and not only as an “environmental” movement. The example of such a good brending is also the Hungarian party “Politics can be different”, which could perhaps represent a model for modern Green party. But then again comes a crucial question – How to deal with the rising Pirate parties, since their electoral base could potentially take significant portion of the Greens electorate.
One of the proposed strategies is partnership. First of all Greens have to adopt a strong digital rights platform and to pay increasing attention to defending those rights and informing citizens of potential threats and current legislative developments in Europe. Secondly, clash with Pirates would show weakness of both sides, since it would give voters the sense of fighting for “power” instead of being a genuine defenders of its own programs.
Last, but not the least, Greens and the Pirates are on the same side of the coin. They are both viewed as “alternatives” to mainstream parties and young, educated & progressive electorate would probably prefer to see these two parties in some kinds of coalitions, rather than being confronted. Of course, Pirates would first need to establish themselves and show their strength and decisive willingness to fight for their ideals. In the long-run, running together in a coalition on some of the elections would significantly increase the share of the votes that both parties would gain, and it would give people a sense of voting for real alternatives. Ideally in many countries (on national and local levels) these coalitions of Greens and Pirates would have from 20% to even 30% of votes wich would make them either second or even decisive political force, and would give them power to strongly impose their agendas (ecological, digital and other) on the other mainstream parties. This would be a win-win situation. For Pirates, for Greens and most importantly – for all the citizens who wish to see changes in our societies across Europe.