There are plenty of ways people are experimenting with the loan bubble, but the story of Enric Durán may be the most extreme. This weekend, Vice writer Paul Geddis interviewed the elusive Catalan anticapitalist, whom the press has nicknamed “Robbin Banks.”
Durán was granted 39 loans--for a total of 492,000 euros--in the two years leading up to the global financial meltdown. He never intended to pay them back. Instead, he used the money to finance projects like a newspaper called Crisi, which aimed to publicize solutions to what he saw as a looming economic bust, among other activist projects. Durán characterizes the half-million-dollar loan as a kind of civil disobedience. Geddis describes him as a “guinea pig with bombs strapped to it trying to dismantle the system and see if alternatives can work:”
There were two main goals. One was to denounce the financial system as something unsustainable, and the second goal was to show that we can be disobedient, brave, and that we can empower ourselves… We wanted to use the money for a project that could prove how methods other than capitalism were possible.
Durán is now being prosecuted by a number of banks--though of course, he has no way to pay back the loans. Instead, he’s spent several years in jail. Still, he sees his actions as a radicalized version of what millions of people are doing every day:
Well, a lot of people are already doing it by accident; not paying off debts was one of the things that took down the financial system in the first place. Not so much with small loans and private mortgages, but with big construction and property development companies that couldn’t pay their debt and ended up going bankrupt. The chance of the overall plan going global isn’t very probable, but the important thing is to spread the idea of the little changes and decisions you can make to help the world become a better place.
There are plenty of things to criticize about Durán’s approach--we’ll leave that for the commenters--but it is indicative of a growing wave of activism that attempts to curb predatory lending. For example, the many church congregations that have opened up loan shops to provide alternatives to shady payday lenders. Or the Rolling Jubilee, a nonprofit that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and then abolishes it--freeing unsuspecting people from their debts as they go. Read the full interview on Vice here.