Without a revolutionary tee-shirt or anti-mafia sandals, Antonio Baños is candidate for the CUP, but with his own style and willing to break clichés with his tie. The candidate explains, with a smile, that in three years the members of the CUP have changed from being seen as "violent anti-system agitators and unintelligent visionaries" to "likeable hippies in tee-shirts". In the new legislature, they hope for a parliamentary group politically "equipped for war".
This interview with Antonio Baños by Àlex Tort was originally published in La Vanguardia on Monday 14th September. Click here for the original interview in Spanish.
two pro-independence options in these elections. What can the CUP offer that
Junts pel Sí can't?
We're a safe vote. When you vote for the CUP, things happen: commissions against corruption in Catalonia are created, rubber bullets are banned, President Pujol is condemned, November 9th turns into an act of disobedience. We're going to make things happen, because others are in less of a hurry than we are.
If we look at the polls, the CUP is indispensable for an absolute majority. Are you the key or the political crutch?
We want to be the spring and tense the process in two ways: independence and the constituent process and also to austerity policies and misery. We're going accelerate, cause trouble and push ahead.
You've already said that you won't invest Artur Mas, but voting in favour isn't the only option for making him President.
Obviously we'll never vote for Mas, with his light and shadows. There are options like abstention, but what we want are real answers. We demand that there is a clear break with the Spanish State and an immediate stop to anti-social policies. This is what a government of concentration has to do and when we know how this government is, we'll decide. The CUP doesn't give its trust automatically, we don't give presents, we're not Yes-men ... The red line is not betraying the people of Catalonia.
If that's what they do, we'll evaluate it. It's not about imposing those kind of conditions now, because we don't know how the negotiations will go. For example, making Father Manel Minister of Economy would make things easier.
With the CUP in the Government?
That's not part of our plans.
Are you planning an immediate declaration of independence, given that there's no chance of negotiating with the State?
Everything has to be negotiated. We have to negotiate just as much with Brussels and Frankfurt as with Madrid. The problem isn't whether we have to negotiate with Spain, but rather which position you negotiate from. If you negotiate after a declaration of independence, you do it from a stronger position. A negotiation without strength is always a sellout. A majority of votes would also strengthen the message.
Would leaving the EU be a problem for Catalonia?
The CUP wants Catalonia out of the EU and the Euro. We're discovering an EU where you don't vote for the people who run it, you can't control them and you can't make them resign. They couldn't care less about the will of the Greek people. Europe is where live and a Europe of peoples is where we want to go, but the EU is an anti-democratic monster.
And the Euro?
Another dream. It's a common currency, but it's also a weapon because if there's no common taxation system, you create economic divergence not convergence. You create a core of European growth, and periphery of economic uncertainty. The Euro is a neoliberal concept that makes countries poorer.
Is a break-up process like the one suggested by the CUP viable?
We propose not paying the debt. You have to pay debts if you take them on freely, not if you're forced to take them on, and the Spanish State has taken on a debt not to pay for schools and motorways but to bail out banks.
Do you offer legal guarantees to the companies located in Catalonia?
We want a made to measure economy, suited to the country and to throw out big companies that destroy everything and then leave. We have to relocate production. Externalising means exploiting in a different place. Today being an anti-capitalist is being moderate and is common sense.
The CUP is very associated with the fight against corruption. Will there be another commission of investigation like the one on the Pujol case?
Of course! We asking for votes because the more there are of us, the more work we'll do lifting up the carpets in Parliament.
In your programme, you include the objective of bringing together the Catalan Countries.
What's happening in Catalonia is also happening in the Balearic Islands and Valencia. People are organising on a national and country basis. Nobody co-opts, there's no control. At the end of these political processes we'll see that there's a whole nation, that there's a space that's not just cultural, but also political that can work together.
Pablo Iglesias asks for the votes of people with Spanish ties and origins.
I like to think that the idea of separating people based on language is a result of ignorance. And more than dangerous, it's pathetic. You can speak Spanish and be in favour of independence, and you can have intense affective ties with Spain and vote CUP. If it's a political tactic, Iglesias will make a fool of himself. We're not in favour of independence for identitary reasons but instead for political ones.
Should Spanish be an official language in an independent Catalonia?
I don't believe in official status. When you make a language official, you make the others unofficial and you open a door to illegality. I believe that Catalan is the language of the Republic, of the school and the State. It has to be a language of prestige and pride. But thinking about only two communities in Catalonia, the Catalan and the Spanish, is fooling yourself about the Catalonia we're building: the Catalonia of 200 languages.
So where does that leave Spanish?
It's the mother tongue of the majority of Catalans and totally part of Catalonia. Respected by the law, studied at school, the language of many singers, films, of many Catalan writers. It's also my language.