Why a European pirate party should allow (and promote) individual membership

En français and auf deutsch

The pirate parties want to promote transparency. This is only possible if everybody can check what is going on in the party. This calls for the possibility of any individual to participate. In this note I will try to explain why and suggest a way to achieve it. The propositions are valid for a European pirate platform or for a European pirate party.

Any citizen of the European Union, or of any state in Europe, should be able to participate to the European pirate party. Participation supposes that one can submit, discuss and vote on motions.

  1. Why ?
  2. Obvious reasons why it dœs not seem possible
  3. How to tackle those issues
  4. And the officials ? And the respect of diversity ?
    1. « Several countries, several weights »
    2. « Officials prevail on individuals »
  5. A bicameral system
  6. Voting procedure

Why ?

Open participation of everyone is in itself a goal. But in the current European Union, since the European Commission and the Council of Europe often or always deliberate behind closed doors, this would allow an European pirate party to show concretely how an alternative model is possible. If we, the pirates, don’t succeed in proving with our own organization that «Basisdemokratie» is possible on the European level, then who would?

Obvious reasons why it dœs not seem possible

It can be argued against individual participations that this would render the organization completely unmasterable because

  1. too many languages are used in Europe
  2. real life general assemblies must happen at some point in order to vote and coordinate
  3. no secret and secure vote can be held on the Internet

How to tackle those issues

Well balanced and

First and foremost, I completely agree with the statement that democracy is a mess. See Plato for it. As the more open democracy at the European level. But what would be the most important goal for an European pirate party? To allow everyone to participate or to be efficient even if disconnected from the people?

So I think we should take into account and challenge all the problems caused by participation :

  1. Translation and multilingualism make communication painful, but not impossible. It can even help by forcing to render texts as understandable as possible.

    1. We can always count on automated translation and our guessing skills.
    2. Most Europeans speak English, German, French, Italian, Spanish or Polish, and if the party is big enough, we probably will have enough multilingual people to translate the debates or reactions in one of these languages to the others, and from all those big languages to the smallest languages, following the best effort maxim. This just supposes that multilingualism is taken as a real matter and that pirates take time to help the others communicate Europe-wide. In other words, this supposes a wide-spread cooperation spirit.
    3. One cannot think that translations are just a waste of time. Most of the time, translating involves reformulation and obliges one to explicit his thoughts in order to be correctly translated. So one can expect that texts translated in many languages can actually end more precise than at the beginning. And using the translations to have a more accurate idea on the meaning of a text is sometimes useful too, when you master several languages.
  2. Asynchronised and decentralized general assemblies are much slower than real-life meetings, but in no way impossible.

    1. Everyday, on mailings-lists, twitter/status.net, newspapers, blogs comments… people discuss and sometimes succeed in finding compromises.
    2. Discussions and decisions are different issues. Voting is precisely there to let the majority decide even if no agreement can be reached in the discussion.
    3. Since mailing-lists and blog comments are often a pain to browse, a web-based platform where comments are rated and hierarchically organized would facilitate discussions. Thus, a slashdot or linuxfr-like system conjugated with a voting system would render things more manageable. Concerning linuxfr, the source code of the website is open and brand new, so basically only the internationalization and the introduction of manual and automatic translations would have to be implemented.
  3. It is true that a voting system that be both secret and secure is not possible. But it is not true that people need to vote secretly. Generally, in real-life assemblies, people vote by raising their hands. And everybody can see them. Why would it be different on the Internet? Cheating is impossible with publicly countable votes.

And the officials? And the respect of diversity?

One must keep in mind that even if basisdemokratie is what we want, we also would want some balance between the countries and both the official and the individual voices to be respected. I am rather open on those questions, so I will merely sketch what could be a subjectively reasonable opinion on this matter below.

Besides the participation of individuals, I see two others criterions that the decision system that would be used by an European pirate party needs to fulfill

«Several countries, several weights»

It would be unfair for the populations and pirates of the big countries to have proportionally less weight than those of the smallest ones. So the decision process would have to take account of all or some of the following parameters :

In order to permit to the smallest countries to block completely unfair views for them, a double majority rule like the one in force in the European Council could be used.

Generally speaking, a double majority rule modified to include the above parameters could reasonably be used as a base to determine the official weights of the different local parties.

«Officials prevail on individuals»

The official views of the official pirate parties could be considered as more legitimate as those of individuals who, finally, just represent themselves, and not a whole party. So one might want to have a small assembly, or council, constituted by official representatives of the local parties, which would have a veto or final decision right in case of disagreement between the official and the individual members of the European pirate party.

A lower and a higher chamber?

In order to fulfill these two criterions, a possibility would be to have a bicameral system.

In the upper chamber, we would have the official representatives of the local pirate parties, with the previously sketched repartition of voting weights. There could be several representatives per country. In the lower chamber, every European pirate could vote and discuss as he likes, even if he has another role in the other chamber. No repartition rule would be imposed. Since the upper chamber would have the right to block any unfair submission from the lower chamber, risks of abuses from the lower chamber would be limited, while innovation would be encouraged in the «wild field» of the lower chamber.

Voting procedure

In both chambers, I would favour a Condorcet-like voting method, because I rather like consensual than harsh statements, but this is only my personal opinion, and not directly related to the subject of the participation of individuals, which can be achieved with public voting procedures. I often use the debian voting system as a starting point, but the Majority Judgment seems promising too.

What is important, however, is that both chambers rule, even if not on the same subjects and with the same weights. And the most important thing is that everything be public in both chambers.

(Note to the reader : if you can’t bear my mistakes in English, please inform me of them :) Comments in English/French/German/any latin language are welcome below.

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