Antonio Baños (1967) is a journalist and writer. In a few weeks’ time, he will know whether CUP party members have chosen him to be among its candidates in the 27-S parliamentary elections in Catalonia. CUP represents Catalonia’s anti-capitalist, pro-independence left. Born in the district of Nou Barris, an only child, Baños is the first member of his family to hold a university degree: communication studies, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. As a child, he read entire encyclopaedias for fun. He is the author of ‘La economía no existe’ (The Economy Does Not Exist, 2009), ‘Posteconomía’ (Posteconomy, 2012), and ‘La rebel·lió catalana’ (The Catalan Rebellion, 2013). Affable, friendly and learned, Baños is a member of Súmate, an organization that brings together Spanish-speaking supporters of Catalan independence. At home growing up, his father spoke Spanish; his mother, Catalan.
—Why have you stepped forth to run as an MP candidate representing CUP in the 27-S elections?
—I have not actually stepped forth myself. In CUP, candidates must be nominated by others. I was asked to be a candidate, and at first I said ‘no’. Being a reasonable man, I thought, ‘Are you are crazy or what?’ But later I acquiesced because I think this could be a historic and transformative time. We might be able to change the status quo. We have an opportunity, and if I were to waste it I would regret it for the rest of my life.
—President Mas has suggested that civil society, not political parties, be in charge of putting together the electoral lists for the 27-S elections. What is your reaction to that?
—I will quote Quim Arrufat on that: ‘It’s a mess.’ In my understanding, it would be a mess, especially for the civil society organizations Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural. They already have their work cut out for them organizing the Eleventh of September activities and maintaining the spark and organizational momentum alive for the Eleventh of September to, on top of that, be saddled with a responsibility they are not prepared for.
—I imagine the three secessionist parties as remaining separate but sharing the campaign; their campaigns will be coordinated. What about you?
—The three-headed hydra: I think that would be great. Let independence bring us together as a nation under an all-encompassing umbrella: ‘I am a social democrat. Just a moment, I’ll put him on. I am an anarchist. Don’t worry, the separatist will explain things. I am Christian. This way please’.
I think running separately is a powerful thing. Much more so than having a populist list comprising everyone, which gives an impression of weakness. Quebec had a single list. Scotland, a single party. In Catalonia, we have a panoply of secessionist parties. If we proclaimed independence tomorrow, we would have a competent and perfectly normative system from the very start.
—How has the secessionist process been experienced in your neighbourhood, which is home, mostly, to Catalans of Spanish origins?
—I’ll explain. Two days after the 2010 demonstration, when Spain won the World Cup, I walked around the Vilapicina neighbourhood. It was 50% Catalan flags, 50% Spanish flags. By 2012, there were no Spanish flags and the secessionist flags had come out. And now you will find many of those and only a few Spanish flags. There has been an organic approach to secessionism. It is seen as one of the options: ‘Ah, it’s not for me, but my grandson is an independence supporter’, one might hear. Today everyone knows someone who is for independence. It is considered completely normal to have Spanish origins and be in favour of secession. Independence has not been won, but this new circumstance I am describing has. The idea that in these neighbourhoods the independence movement is as normal as the rest of political options is a silent victory that is worth noting.
I think running separately is a powerful thing. Much more so than having a populist list comprising everyone, which gives an impression of weakness.
—I’ve read some of the documents put forth by the Catalan Business Centre and they contain entire paragraphs that CUP might support, fully anti-establishment and anti-oligarchy. The SMEs allied with CUP, is that a possibility you envision?
—I could kiss you right now. I wrote about this in my book ‘Posteconomía’. One of the chapters is titled ‘Your parents are anti-capitalists and they don’t know it’. I think that small and medium enterprises are anti-capitalist by nature. They want to maintain their small businesses, or shops, and this capitalism of franchising, outsourcing and executive-ordering is making it impossible. The CUP wants to promote cooperative enterprises, yes, but productive enterprises nevertheless. That’s part of the idea. And what the Catalan Business Centre is calling for is fully consistent with our views and part of the same process. Because the independence process is an anti-globalization movement. It demands sovereignty so as to avoid having to obey rules such as the TTIP. The TTIP is anti-Catalan. I don’t know why Convergència and Unió has backed it. If we want sovereignty, it should be not only political. It is also about defending the productive fabric and labour rights. This is crystal clear for me; many CUP supporters own shops, businesses and workshops. CUP is not the university-educated elite, we are working people.
—The left talks about wealth redistribution, but not wealth creation.
—I think this is a debate that the anti-capitalist left must take on. We must talk about creating wealth, prosperity and businesses. Not as something separate from the redistribution aspect, but realizing that cooperatives distribute wealth more efficiently than vertically-integrated, outsourced megacorporations that don’t pay taxes or provide decent wages. The shopkeeper, the small business owner, is geographically rooted and at the core of the nation’s fabric. We cannot allow Catalonia to become a desert of megacorporations. Business owners must understand that anti-capitalism, though it doesn’t defend free enterprise and market interests, does defend an even playing field between the macromultinational and them, between Zara and the neighbourhood shop.
—Without the bourgeoisie, there will be no independence.
—But what is the bourgeoisie, finally? Because, of course, here we have architects with three graduate degrees and dismal salaries. They are considered bourgeois, and so is their moral sphere and profession, but their salaries are shockingly low. On the other hand, a SEAT factory worker who has seniority and a fixed contract enjoys infinitely superior working conditions than someone who is considered bourgeois. Things are complex. Among the popular classes there are socially excluded people, people who live very well, and people who steal. Applying the old categories can be treacherous. We won’t get anywhere without the middle bourgeoisie. On the other hand, when it comes to the upper bourgeoisie . . . these are the ones who bid an emotional farewell to Primo Rivera and welcomed Franco with open arms. With this bourgeoisie, there is nothing that can be done.
—Let’s play political fiction: CUP gets sixty-eight representatives in the upcoming elections, an absolute majority. What if it is not ready to govern? Would it not be advisable to gain a few years of experience beforehand?
—Sixty-eight representatives? Well, if you put it that way: we would proclaim the Soviet! No doubt about it! Ha! In my opinion, I think we should go in with a winning mentality. I am among those who believe CUP is in the right. Not always, and not universally right, but in the right nonetheless. I’m speaking now about CUP, the squatters, the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages. I come from the anti-globalization sphere, and early on in this century we said that things would implode, that social inequality would increase. We were saying this when everything appeared to be going swimmingly. And look where we are now. It turns out that we were right. When the squatters of the nineties said that they were occupying buildings to denounce property speculation, they were right. When the pro-independence left said that a Catalan Republic was possible, they were right. The Catalan Countries seemed like a chimera, and lo and behold: we have progressive governments in the Balearic Islands and Valencia. Why should I not believe that winning is possible? Another matter is managing institutions officially. CUP was not born to manage institutions. It was born to build its own institutions and, if it became a part of existing institutions, to transform them completely. We do not want to lead a regional parliament. We want to change everything and have a Catalan Republic.