On 17 September, Enric Duran, an anticapitalist living in Barcelona, went into hiding. He had just admitted to essentially robbing 492,000 euros from 39 different banks, and then published this admission in a free newspaper that was distributed in the quantity of 200,000 copies that very morning.
Enric accumulated this sum through fraudulent bank loans which he announced he will not repay. To add insult to injury, he presented his actions as a searing criticism of the banking industry, and explained how other people could easily pull off their own bank robberies.
“I robbed 492,000 euros from those who rob so much more,” he claimed in the newspaper, Crisi. The one-time publication was paid for with some of those stolen euros, and the rest of the money went to fund various social projects that are creating alternatives to capitalism. True to the long-neglected tradition of Robin Hood, Enric only kept a few thousand for himself, to aid his escape.
Perhaps even more than his robbery, the newspaper, Crisi, was an attack against the rich. Crisi was filled with articles about the socially irresponsible means with which banks create the majority of the wealth in our society, about the economic crisis, the energy crisis, world hunger, global investments in war and the arms trade, gentrification, a history of the capitalist media, and bios and pictures of the politicians and corporate figures personally responsible for all of the above. The final major article—running six full pages with photos—discussed social alternatives to capitalism. Using real life examples from Catalunya itself, the article presented a coherent view of horizontal social movements creating the means for a sustainable, cooperative society through struggle against the authorities and the proliferation of projects like community gardens, free housing initiatives, bicycle projects, workers’ coops, neighborhood assemblies, barter networks, and so on. These changes are possible and necessary “here and now,” according to the publication.
News of the direct action immediately travelled through the surprised corporate press, and for a couple days the whole city of Barcelona was talking about it. There was a danger that the media might make a superhero out of Enric, or more importantly, an exceptional case. But hundreds of people participated in writing the articles, producing Crisi, and handing out all 200,000 copies in towns and cities throughout Catalunya, running out within just a few hours. And one also presumes that Enric alone did not translate the entire paper into Spanish, English, Euskera, and Arabic, and upload it to the internet at www.17-s.info
In fact, the hope is that more people will strike back against the banks that rob us everyday. Enric Duran claimed his own action as a form of civil disobedience that could also be placed within Catalunya’s rich anarchist tradition of bank expropriations.
As Barcelona’s red and black labor union, the CNT, declared in a recent pamphlet, the “Crisis” is an invention, a story to convince the working poor to accept coming hardships. And it is an excuse to funnel more social wealth to the superwealthy. In the US, the government is using the crisis to funnel $700 billion of our money to the banks—a public robbery of staggering dimensions that will never go punished. Over here, the European Union is using it to justify lengthening the work week to 65 hours. At the end of the crisis, the rich will be richer, and the rest of us will have to pick ourselves up all over again.
Unless we do something about it. World leaders are calling for a new Bretton Woods. We would do well to have a new May Day. In everyday life capitalism is intolerable, and during an economic crisis it will become even worse. But we don’t have to accept the crisis. There is another path waiting for us—community gardens that need planting, rent strikes that need organizing, solar panels and localized electrical networks that need installing, and banks that need robbing. The opportunities before us are nothing short of exciting.
PETER GELDERLOOS is a writer and activist living in Barcelona, where he awaits trial on fabricated, terrorism-related charges stemming from his support for the local squatters’ movement. He is the author of How Nonviolence Protects the State and Consensus: A New Handbook for Grassroots Political, Social, and Environmental Activists.