Occupiers, Pirates, and the Labour Party

Jon Worth sees similarities between the Occupy movement and the Pirate Party:

The Occupy movements are about the values of the left [...] They have Mac laptops and use the free wifi at Starbucks, to the consternation of the right wing blogosphere.

These are the very sorts of people who, from the late 1960s onwards, formed themselves into punk and green movements, creating the Green Party in Germany, with similar parties also gaining ground elsewhere in Europe, a sort of protest against the system but – importantly – with a channel back into the political mainstream that has recently spawned the Pirate Party in Sweden and, most spectacularly, in the Berlin state elections in Germany.

I’m not sure I’ve describe the Pirate movement as a party of the “left” so much as one that is against unjust concentrations of power: we’ve known from the start that society is run by and for the big corporations, which is how they were able to buy iniquitous laws like the DMCA or Digital Economy Act. And so the theme that society needs to be rebalanced to work for the 99% is one that resonates with Pirates. (Incidentally, Worth is not the first person to see similarities between Occupier and Pirates).

Worth is right when he says the Labour Party is a broad-based organisation rather than an ideological one:

The problem for Labour or the Democrats in the USA is that these parties never really had their 1968 moments, the moment when the left became an issue of ideological identity as well as the political aspect of a workers’ movement, and for this to manifest itself through the political success of more than one party to the left of the centre. Held in place by the majoritarian election system, the broader left in the UK and USA has been poor at collecting up the alternative and non-unionised vote.

One difference between the Labour Party and Pirate Party UK is that while Labour is trying to get 40% of people to like them a little, the Pirates are trying to get 10% of the people to like us a lot. We’re not aiming to win FPTP elections, at least not yet, because that would be unrealistic for us. However, most elections in the UK are now held under PR: Scottish parliamentary and local elections, Northern Ireland assembly and local elections, the Welsh assembly, the London assembly, and European elections.

[Ed Miliband]‘s challenge is to be radical enough to appeal to the sentiment of the St Paul’s protestors, and to articulate lifestyle and values based politics within a still essentially traditional social democrat party. [...] Get them into the system and Labour could have the essence of a winning coalition in London in 2012 and nationally in 2015.

While some people who vote Pirate at non-FPTP elections may support Labour at Westminster elections, it’s likely that many won’t, at least until Labour change their policies — we haven’t forgotten it was Labour who passed the Digital Economy Act. If Labour want to entice Pirate-inclined voters, they need to apologize for the DEA, and have someone shadowing the Culture Department who has a good record on digital rights, such as Tom Watson.

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