So after discussing this for years with many people, and with the major changes to the electoral system coming, I thought I’d put pen to paper and write a proposal for renaming the Party in the most viable and reasonable way possible.
I have always said that I believe the Pirate brand had a ‘10 year use by date’ which we are quick approaching since our formation in 2008. Indeed, it could be seen the 10 year date has been hit if you count the fact the Swedish party formed in 2006. Given my beliefs on this, it seemed prudent that I attempt to come up with the next best evolutionary step for the Party, so please, see below my proposal.
I look forward to the robust discussion that is obviously to follow.
- Spin off Pirate brand as new NGO entitled “Pirate Bureau”
- Reincorporate Pirate Party as Libertarian Left Party
- Proposal and vote at 2016 Congress, confirmation vote in 2017, transition to be completed by 2018
Arguments for transition to new name
- The Pirate movement is dead as a party political organ.
- The world no longer needs a party political voice for intellectual properly reform exclusively, technology is winning.
- Bigger issues have appeared that we are best positioned to attack, particularly universal basic income,
human rights issues, civil liberties issues, education issues, and the rest of our policy set.
- We have become a movement in our own right. We are the only Party in the lower-left quadrant of the political axes in Australia.
- The Party constitution specifically was written in mind to influence other parties and act as a lobbying organ, with a secondary mind to getting elected. We achieved quite a lot of influence in our time, but in a post-GVT world, and as we aspire to genuinely effect change through election from a local level up, it’s time for a change to remain relevant.
- The proposed name has a similar effect that Pirate used to: it strikes to the heart of the biased political sphere in Australia and says that we represent a strong, viable new direction to take Australia that legitimately and openly solves each problem.
- Strongly positions us between the Greens (“socialist, green, left”) and the LDP (“corporatist, libertarian, right”), while also positioning us as a legitimate alternative to the major parties through a pragmatic but not ‘centrist’ approach to problems.
- Ordinarily we avoid using the term ‘left’, though looking at the Pirate ethos through a political scientific lens, we are strongly ‘left-libertarian’. We are strongly about the individual, but not to the point of destroying society as a consequence. We recognise that human freedoms only exist within a strong framework of human rights and society, and that a highly democratic state is indistinguishable from no state at all, as interference is only there when the individual needs said interference (welfare, emergency services, healthcare).
- Avoiding terminology and talking around the issues is one of the core issues of the Australian political sphere. We’ve spent 8 years taking back the word ‘pirate’ and using it to our advantage. We can—with our experience—do the very same with these terms, which have not yet been used in the Australian political sphere. They are attention grabbing, they guarantee us our position in the Australian political context, and the name is broad enough to attract all those persons who culturally fit within our organisation.
Q: How do you propose the Party would be referred to in election material, etc?
Libertarian Left. Leave the ‘Party’ suffix for formal documentation such as bank accounts, etc.
Q: What would we nominally be called in shortform?
LibLeft. Short, easy, shiny.
If we flip the adjective and noun, we’d be LeftLib.
We can also use the initialism LLP.
I look forward to the continued bikeshed discussion.
Q: Why this specific name, “Libertarian Left”?
This is the exact quadrant of the political axes that the Pirate Party in Australia actually fits. Take a gander at the left-libertarianism page on Wikipedia and you’ll quickly see many overlaps with how the Pirate Party policy set exists and how the party functions.
While even I personally don’t like the term, it is the most accurate for our politics. It also gives us a distinctive name and functions as a weapon of definition. We can clearly state what our politics is, and have a discussion with the electorate about what that means. It makes it clear that we fill a gap in the Australian political sphere, and that we’re willing to strongly represent it.
As we’re strongly about transparency, I think it’s very appropriate we were more upfront about our politics.
Q: What about the terminology as applied in American politics? Won’t we be confused for the American radical right?
Well, the main conservative party in Australia is the Liberal Party, and in America, liberal means radical left. Comparing Australian (or European, South East Asian, East Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern) politics to America is not a highly relevant factor.
Q: I think you’ll lose the ‘right’ for calling it left and the ‘left’ for calling it libertarian. What do you think?
I think that is a reasonable assertion based on the traditionally narrow minded views of the mainstream media that paints Australian politics on a one-dimensional axis.
However, the argument falls apart very quickly as it becomes evident that the Party stands on a platform that significantly differs not only from the two major parties, but even the Greens and the LDP. We are an independent and unique party that is largely the only one that fits in the left-libertarian part of the political axis. I again invite you to consider the left-libertarianism page on Wikipedia and see how well the Pirate Party fits within this broad quadrant of politics and how no other Australian party does.
I challenge you to consider another name that clearly encapsulates these facts, and welcome the feedback.
Q: Aren’t both the terms Libertarian and Left tainted to the point of no return?
Yes. So are the words: ‘green’, ‘freedom’, ‘liberal’, ‘conservative’, ‘market’, ‘common-sense’, and even ‘pirate’. During the 2013 election, some feminists came out against our party because the German Pirates had said something sexist a year prior. There is no spoon, we cannot objectively win with any given name, but it a matter of how much you can gain. We can gain a lot more from this name than we would lose, particularly opposed to using another name like “Freedom Party” or “Science and Tech Party”. They either bring up different imagery than intended, or are limiting in their depth, much like Pirate has been in practice.
However, I do believe that tainted or otherwise, this name is the strongest name we could use.
One of the major problems with Pirate as a party political name is it demonstrably does not have mass appeal in Australia, something which is important for electability, which should be our primary aim. Libertarian Left is not only self-describing as a brand, it is a strong unifier for the lower left quadrant of politics where we lie, and should draw attention to those people who have similar political leanings but either never knew we existed or thought putting effort into an unelectable organisation to not be worth it. It would be folly to underestimate the power of a name that clearly says “Not Labor, not Liberal, not the Greens and not the LDP.”
However, some have argued that it is possible that this name could draw comparisons with the Liberal Democrat Party due to the introduction of Libertarian to the name. There is no evidence that the name Libertarian has been tainted to the degree that words like “Freedom” have been, nor that it lacks the mass appeal necessary to get a quota of votes to be elected at any level of politics. Most recently, the “Freedom and Prosperity Party” was deregistered; they were formerly known as the “No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics Party”. Not the kind of bed-fellows you really want to associate with.
There are of course risks from those self-selected ‘libertarians’ such as Leyonhjelm, who fails to meet even the most broad definition of libertarian, as he strongly opposes science which is necessary for growth under a right-libertarian economic model (largely the only model the right-libertarians care about). However, the Pirate Party where possible has been sanitising the name for many years, often being referred to as a civil libertarian party in the media and by those I’ve spoken to. Other groups such as the EFA have been referred to as civil libertarian for years as well. Any time you talk about human and digital rights, you will be branded a civil libertarian.
This demonstrates that Libertarian Left—or a variant of those two words—makes it very clear in context where we stand, and what we intend to do, and it doesn’t take a genius or a spinster to explain to the common person what it means and how it differs to any other variant of libertarian or left that you can imagine.
To tackle the final argument that this name may deter voters: anything can deter voters, but I believe this rename would not deter any voter who would have voted Pirate in the first place based on a reading of our policy set and not for the amusement or cultural factor (of which 0.5% isn’t strongly demonstrative of), and would not deter any voter who would never have voted Pirate in the first place due to either name or policy.
I believe, as I asserted above in my argumentation, that the name will only broaden our appeal as it claims an entire quadrant of the political spectrum which has been neglected for centuries and deserves strong representation.
Q: Would another party be able to register as the Pirate Party if we no longer use it?
Yes. This isn’t a real problem, as if the arguments herein are accepted, and we vote to change our name, we’re tacitly accepting the name is no longer useful, and best of luck to those people who attempt to reuse it in the future (though we doubt you’ll get far and we won’t be impressed with your lack of originality).
Q: My fear would be that for the common voter that has no interest in political terminology we would just look like another small fringe party. Why wouldn’t this be the case?
This is an important question. Upon relaunching the party, we must blitz the media to control our brand, much like the first time we launched as Pirate. It works quite well, everyone is interested in the novelty of your existence, and it’s hard to argue “one policy party” with this name.
Branding is everything. You can win or lose your initial base with three things before you even start: name, logo, and website design. Creating that initial impression of growth and professionalism is something that is much more tangibly possible than with our current branding.
It is important to accept that this name is meant to be a wedging name that demonstrates we are not like the other parties. It is one of the sharpest distinctions between Pirate which is meant to be a bit silly, a bit unelectable, but still dead serious at its core. We’re just saying we’re now dead serious in all aspects, watch out for us. Let’s not forget the people vote for parties named Palmer United and Animal Justice without getting a laughed at.
Unlike groups like the socialist left or libertarian right, we fill a position that is neglected not only by both the major parties, but the two largest minor parties, the LDP and the Greens. We are merely clarifying directly that we are the progressive power in the bottom left corner everyone has forgotten about.
One of the most common questions we get asked is how we differ from the Greens, when to any Pirate, this is obvious. This name makes the distinction sharp and clear: we are similar to the Greens, but not too similar; we can work together as we are both thinking parties, but we won’t agree on all things.
If we stay Pirate, we guarantee our status as a small fringe party.
Q: I don’t want to stop being a Pirate though. What about me?
Pirate isn’t going anywhere. The Pirate brand will be spun-off as an NGO where the core features of the original Pirate movement will be able to flourish more freely than within the political infrastructure. We were always in practice a lobbying organ, and as a separate NGO with a strong and vibrant brand that screams “no compromise!”, this will continue with fewer restraints. All current Pirate Party members will be founding members of that NGO (unless you opt out, I presume).
There is also no reason you can’t identify your politics as Pirate within the left-libertarian ecosystem. That’s where it belongs, and it is a legitimate brand of left-libertarian ideology. We intend to continue with our current method of politics regardless of a name change. The culture will never die, only evolve as it always has.
Q: What about other Pirate Parties? How will our relationship change?
Our relationship will not change, and might actually as a result have renewed vigor as other parties see a new direction they may wish to take with their own party. Since the Pirate Bay trial era, the movement as a whole has been in a slow decline towards irrelevance. The Swedish Party is largely unrecognisable compared to how it used to be, the German party has been more or less captured by internal factionalism, resulting in significantly neglect of the only Pirate Party representative in EU Parliament, Julia Reda (and I give her strong credit as she’s doing her best).
There is a strong feeling from the remnants of the movement that are left and still active that we need to regroup and relaunch under a new name that more closely represents our current way of thinking. One could consider the Swedish era as Pirate Party 1.0, the rise of the Germans as Pirate Party 2.0, and the collapse of PPI and the larger movement, stagnation of the movement at large, and the rise of more openly left-libertarian organisations like the Icelandic Pirate Party as Pirate Party 3.0. This proposal merely takes us to the next level of accepting that the brand is no longer relevant 10 years after its skyrocketing into the political sphere and slow decline.
tl;dr we’re still Pirates, but we’re the new version. We’ll work with any other group where there’s overlap as we always have done. You shouldn’t have to have the same name to be part of the same political network.
Q: An old mantra of the Party was that we fit neither in the left nor right, as we are about “information politics” and we “transcend traditional labels”. Are you arguing that this is not true?
I am arguing that we have outgrown these mantras. When the Party first started, we had a very limited policy set focused on transparency, intellectual property reform (copyright and patents), privacy rights, digital rights, and eventually broadly even human rights. These, in principle, are neither left nor right concepts, but basic reforms for a functional, modern and free society.
However, eventually our policy set developed further as our ambitions grew. We now have policies in traditional areas of politics such as health, education, taxation, etc. Now these types of policies can very easily be considered within the two-dimensional political spectrum, and even at a cursory observance, we are left-libertarian.
It cannot therefore be said that we, in whole, transcend these labels. We still attack the issue of how to deal with a modern society differently to any movement that predates us, but that doesn’t mean we’re unique, perfect snowflakes that came to these conclusions without anyone else thinking anything similar in the whole of human history. We will be continuing in the left-libertarian tradition in a Pirate strain. I think that’s quite awesome.
We’re actually at the point where we can say that the Pirate ideology (yes, we have that now) is not only a real thing, but a continuation and consolidation of a body of thought going back hundreds of years into pragmatic and implementable policies for a robust, modern liberal democracy.
Q: Can we be purple now?
Proposed implementation procedure
Referendum of name change
- Propose full details (as currently known) of actual plan, which is roughly:
- Rename and rebrand party to Libertarian Left Party in 2018. This means we have until 2018 to create all new materiel
for the party rebrand, such as narrative, focus, branding, etc.
- Create in 2018 an NGO called Pirate Bureau to continue Pirate lineage, and create committee to draft its
constitution and other necessary aspects. Elections for roles will occur in 2018 at the same time as the
AGM for the Pirate Party, and membership will consist of all current Pirate Party members but be a
legally separate organ.
- Form a federal corporation for the purposes of alleviating the pain caused by having a NSW association.
- Disband and transfer all current Pirate Party named accounts etc at the conclusion of the transition
with the AEC into the new legal identity.
- Undertake an ordinary motion for these proceedings, that requires a confirmation vote in 2017 AGM to
- Until 2017 AGM, build up all necessary materiel for rebrand etc to present to Party.
- Once accepted by affirmation at 2017 AGM, legal nonsense begins for implementing the good stuff.
Handling legal transition
- Provide all relevant documentation to NSW Fair Trading to resolve current status.
- Create federal legal entity
- Create bank accounts, etc as necessary
- Transfer what you can to new legal entity, otherwise create new and delete old
- Rename with AEC
- Disband old legal entity at 2018 AGM and affirm new entity.
If you have a detailed reply you wish to write about a specific aspect of this proposal, please consider using the “Reply as linked Topic” feature which appears at the top of the right column of this post (when you hover).