I have been repeatedly criticised on Twitter this morning by @PaulMBrady65 for saying I am a federalist, but refusing to vote for a federalist party in European elections. Here is a quick explanation why (I can’t easily get the nuance into 140 character tweets).

As a starting point, my commitment to federalism is not in question. I spent 6 years as a volunteer (including two years as President) in the Young European Federalists campaigning for federalism.

But the crux of the issue is what federalism is. For me it is a governmental structure, a way of organising the balance of powers between different levels of government. That is important, but federalism absolutely does not give answers to everyday political questions to do with economic growth, environment, foreign policy, social policy etc. In short, federalism is not an adequate and political ideology, and for me some sort of ideology is a pre-requisite for a political party.

I would of course like it if political forces of the left, centre and right were to espouse federalism too, in addition to everything else they espouse, but a party that makes federalism – a governance structure – its central ideology is not a party that I am going to vote for.


  1. Julien-223

    I’m not so sure that federalism can’t be understood as an overarching ideology founding a political party able to answer to everyday political questions.

    It depends on the way you define federalism.

    Some understand it as a democratic principle, as you do.

    Others will develop a detailed programmatic content on the basis of federalist ideas: liberalism, extreme decentralisation, strong central authority, common social policy, euronationalistic dimension, etc.
    I agree with you that the future success (or not) of the European federalist party depends on its ability to talk less about democratic structures and more about federalist solutions to concrete problems.

  2. Yes, federalism is about democratic ground rules (at European level). Once in place, parties need to contend for voters in order to put their substantive programmes into action.

  3. Also, as Rick Falkvinge would freely admit, the Pirates do not yet have a complete answer to all the questions that governance would require, but then again the Greens in Germany took some time to develop that. So I am rather unconcerned about this issue within the Pirates – it will come.

  4. Hi Justus – I think the Pirates’ position is more to do with traditional ideologies having been discredited – that might hence be termed post-ideological. Perhaps the Pirates don’t have an ideology that you can label with an -ism (socialism, liberalism etc.) but there are deep values and ethics in what the Pirates do, and so there should be.

    Pirates say giving the right to vote based on residence rather than nationality is best for society, but a CDU politician would reply that this is ethically wrong… I would also see the Pirates position on this sort of issue as ethically or ideologically driven.

  5. Very interesting read. One would hope that such ideas would be pushed by otherwise ideologistic (?) parties more.
    One somewhat related question: At least in Germany the Pirate Party always said that they do not want to make politics steered by ideology, but by what the politicians and the populace believe is best for society (ie they also do not want to be sorted or sort themselves in left/right schemata). You said earlier that you see yourself as close to the Pirate movement; how would you react to such a statement?

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