After The Revolution:

Economic Reconstruction in Spain Today
by D.A.Santillan, New York, 1937.

Facsimile Edition produced by Jura Media May 1996. Paperback 127 pages 6x8 perfect bound. Available from Jura Books, 110 Crystal St. Petersham, NSW 2049. Aus/Canadian $10, US $7.50 UK 5.00.

Distributed by both AK Distribution and Left Bank Distribution.

A General Survey

The Spanish Revolution (1936-9) stands at the intersection of history. Comrades had learned many lessons from the descent of the Russian Revolution into Stalinism. Meanwhile the capitalist state in Italy and Germany had plunged into the abyss of Fascism. The old Imperialist Empires offered nothing for the workers of their countries, who like the workers in North America had all suffered under the effects of the great depression. The state-capitalist/socialist ideal was bankrupt, and this combined with the strength of the anarchist worker's organisations in Spain, meant that anarchism seemed both attainable and desirable to a broad cross-section of the Spanish population.

D.A. de Santillan was a leading figure amongst the anarchist revolutionaries during the Spanish Revolution 1936-9. This traveller, journalist, editor and economist, who suffered imprisonment for fighting the old-regime, was one of those CNT militants who entered the Cabinet of the revolutionary government in Catalonia, of which he was sharply critical. This popular economic manifesto outlines a practical programme for an anarcho-syndicalist society, tailored to the needs of the Spanish people in 1936-7. The economic analysis is interspersed and enriched by his philosophical reflections upon the nature and place of anarchism in the modern world. For anyone interested in anarchism during the Spanish Civil War and the historical development of anarcho-syndicalist theory, Santillan's book is a lucid and extremely important historical/philosophical document. In preparation for the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution, Jura Media has produced a facsimile edition of this work which has remained out of print in English since 1937. It was financed via a fundraiser organised through Rebel Worker newspaper and is the first collectively printed and published anarchist book to come out of Australia for many, many years.

The book begins with a general survey of the situation in Spain at the outbreak of the revolution. It is concluded that the major problems with the economy in Spain are parasitism, a small urban proletariat, and under-employment. Parasitism by the state, clergy and upper classes is the subject of a lengthy debate and it is unequivocally concluded that "he who does not work does not eat" (with the exception of the young, sick and elderly). He observes that the population is heavily distributed in the rural areas which has led to the under-development of both agriculture and industry. Under half of those who are able to work, do not do so, Either due to unemployment or parasitism. By way of a general solution he calls for a need for greater industrial and agricultural self-sufficiency and to stop relying upon imports from the colonies. His solutions are uncompromisingly industrial in their orientation. He calls for accelerated industrialisation of Spain and entirely rejects W. Morris's economic "primitivism", which envisaged a return to small-scale artisanship and localism. Although the book is dated in respect of its green credentials, it was for its time an environmentally sensitive book. Its arguments against localism still hold weight against those anarchist's of the present day, such as social-ecologist, Murray Bookchin, who have at times argued, that a future anarchist society must/will be based upon small, self-sufficient, isolated, craft-orientated "eco-communities". Santillan argues for example: "A shoemaker in ancient Rome made a pair of shoes in a week; a worker in a modern factory produces 500 pairs a week. Undoubtedly many went barefoot in the time of Caesar. Is there a real justification for such a condition today?" (p.78) Santillan does not, however, argue in favour of what we would now understand as industrial/chemical agriculture. In fact rather, he calls for massive reafforestation projects, (bio) regional sensibility and the increased use of native agro-forestry products. On the industrial front he argues for the collectivisation of industry by means of worker controlled factory/farm/ councils that would be federated upon the basis of industry into syndicates co-ordinated by regional industrial branch council for each major branch of industry. For example in agriculture their would be amongst others; a vine growers, sugar beet growers, olive growers syndicate. These would be co-ordinated by regional councils of agricultural production in each locality to which the syndicates would send strictly mandated delegates. He advocates the collectivisation of property and is against the individual ownership of land, but accepts that the "individual instinct of peasant ownership" will involve the coexistence of "totally socialised property and private property". This was in actual fact what occurred in many parts of anarchist Spain. Santillan though, was not supporter of the concept of the self communal ownership as an economic ideal. Of course the commune would have political autonomy, however a socialised economy involves very much more than a society where individual ownership of land and capital had been replaced by communal ownership:

"One thing is the free commune from the political standpoint and quite another from an economic point of view. Our economic ideal is the federated commune, integrated in a total economic network of the country. Economic communalism is a relic of old juristic concepts of communal property. We who advocate the suppression of all private property do not argue that, in the place of the old individual owner, should appear a new proprietor with many heads. Our work on the land and in the factory does not make of us individual or collective proprietors, but it makes of us contributors to the general welfare. We cannot realise our ideal of abundance for all as an economy organised upon a localist basis can only cause a scarcity of goods at the local level. Only with the suppression of specialised labour can we imagine the free and self-sufficient commune as an economic ideal. This is quite impossible. We must work with a social criterion, considering the interests of the whole country and if possible, of the whole world" (pp.99-100)

The New Structure

In part II of the book the author by means of detailed figures and informed suggestions, systematically outlines the problems, merits, deficiencies, inefficiencies of each of the major branches of industry in Spain, as well the possibilities existing for their improvement. This analysis is undertaken within the Framework of a proposed new socialised economy which aims to co-ordinate economic activity on a national level without recourse to capitalism and state.

"The Syndicates are to be co-leagued in accordance with the basic functions of economy, which we divide into eighteen sectors or general branches of activity. They are the following":

  1. Council of Foodstuffs Branch
  2. Council of communications Branch
  3. Council of Construction Industries Branch
  4. Council of the Clothing Industries Branch
  5. Council of Agriculture Branch
  6. Council of Livestock Production Branch
  7. Council of Forestry Branch
  8. Council of Mining and Fishing Industries Branch
  9. Council of Public Utilities Industries Branch
  10. Council of Transport Industry Branch
  11. Council of Chemical Industries Branch
  12. Council of Sanitation Branch
  13. Council of Metallurgical Industries Branch [1-13] federated into National Fed. of Branch councils
  14. Local Council of Economy
  15. Regional Councils of Economy
  16. Federal Council of Economy
  17. Council of Credit and Exchange
  18. Council of Publishing and Cultural Activities

    Although it is not possible in to explore what Santillan has to say about all the branches of industry listed above, by way of example we have provided below some brief excerpts about the [7] Forestry and [9] Utilities Branch Councils. We shall then examine what Santillan has to say about the more generalised regional and federative structures, listed [14-18] above.

    To this day Spain lacks forest land. Any visitor to Spain remarks upon this fact. The need to reafforest land for both industrial and environmental reasons is a recurring theme throughout the book. He argues for large scale reafforestation, the development of promising agri-forestry techniques using native trees, as well as for the development of forest councils to monitor and guard resources. The notion of forest councils is one that has recently re-emerged within the bio-regional movement. Agri-forestry is where forests are specially grown to yield a range of other products apart from timber. It is a concept that is currently very popular in permacultural and organic gardening/farming circles:

    "Lumber is not plentiful in Spain. Woods have been disgracefully thinned without any thought of the future. This has given Spain an almost desolate aspect and has seriously affected the humidity of the soil, fountain of its agricultural wealth. For a considerable period of years reforestation will be an important task for the new economy. There are some 7 million acres of land suitable for reafforestation. Under proper care this total acreage should supply the necessary lumber for building and fuel. The timer is not only to be considered for its industrial utility, but also as a beneficial agent for the land, producing micro-organisms to fertilise the soil and form the humus, which in the course of years will reduce the aridity and desolation of the Spanish land...In Segovia thare are great tracts of plains with their important production of resin and by-products. Extremadura and Andalusia abound in cork trees...St. John's bread grows more in Spain than in any other Mediterranean zone. Eight million trees occupy 192,793 acres; to which must be added further three million trees disseminated through rocky lands and gullies. The seed of these trees converted into flour makes a nutritious feed for livestock. There is also another by-product "vaina" which can be used in the production of alcohol. There are besides other medicinal and chemical by-products of these trees...What is necessary is a corps of technicians, botanists, engineers, and labourers to develop plantations and forest beds. An adequate number of forest guards for the conservation of woods is also needed. The Council of forest production should be constituted in every geographical zone with the object of encouraging the cultivation of trees, planting of forests, the production of fruit trees and the distribution of lumber and fuel...All immediate work would be under the organic supervision of this council leaving ulterior processes of industrialisation to other councils. For example, the forest council would collect the oil from the olive trees but the refining of the oil and bottling of the olives would be administered by the foodstuffs council. In the same way, the elaboration of resin and the roots from the pines would come under the council of chemical Industries" (pp.65-67)

    For both economic and environmental reasons (large scale hydro-electricity schemes were then thought to be much safer for the environment than they are today) Santillan argues strongly in favour of clean and local energy sources.

    "According to the statistics of the Federal Power Commission of the US, the hydroelectrical reserve power of Spain amounts to four million horse power, of which only a fourth part is exploited. There are some large plants, mostly owned by US companies. But there is plenty of room for greater development...There still remain the fountains of energy which may be drawn from the air, which the Dutch have utilised so well with their windmill and which is now thought of as a possible source of electrical energy...The organisation of the public utilities industries is the same as the others from the bottom up, from the individual establishment to the syndicate, from the syndicate to the branch council, from the branch council to the local council of the economy, etc, but as in transport , the public utilities must be integrated on a national scale. This is indispensable and will afford the greatest possible development. There is even talk today of the electrical unification of the whole European continent so that not a single kilowatt many remain unused or wasted" (pp.70-72)

    Local, Regional and Federal Councils of the Economy [14-16 in above list]

    At the local level Santillan proposes the establishment of `Local Councils of the Economy'. Unlike the Syndicates and Industrial Branch Councils, these are generalist structures designed to co-ordinate inter-syndicate relations/activity on the local level and between other local councils of the economy in nearby locales. Delegates from these local councils would periodically meet at Regional Councils of the Economy. These regions were to fixed according to natural geographical factors and cultural perception of regional difference. Delegations from Regional Councils would periodically meet in the Federal Council of the Economy:

    "In Spain there are a number of regions with their own peculiar characteristics of dialect, history and geography. These regions will be the organised economic centres of the future. Local councils of economy in both the city and country will combine to form regional councils of economy. There will be the council of the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Basque Navarre, Galicia etc. The perfect regional administrative autonomy, asked for in vain of the central capitalist government, will at last be realised. Autonomy does not mean insolidarity or independence, because all regions in Spain are necessarily inter-dependant...The regional councils will constitute by delegations or through assemblies the federal council of economy, the highest organ of economic co-ordination in the country. This would be a permanent national unification that would counteract any possible regional/localistic tendency. Parallel to this structure is the national federation of branch councils whose mission is limited to the due co-ordination of all the branch industrial and agricultural activities in the country...The federal council of the economy is not a political power but an economic and administrative regulating power. It receives its orientation from below and operates in accordance with the resolution of the regional and national assembles. It is a liaison corps and nothing else...The supreme authority resides in numbers and statistical data, coercion, besides being impossible in itself, would produce contrary and sterile results." (pp.81-87)

    "We began with the primary cell, the worker. We passed on to the first structure of cells united by similar functions in the same working establishment, the factory, mine or collective farm council. We then developed associations of these working colonies into syndicates and subsequently in branch councils where the productive efforts are concentrated as a complete economic function. We have seen how these branch councils are federated in local councils of economy on one hand, and on the other, are leagued into a national federation of branch councils. Through the medium of the local councils of the economy, work attains unity and organisation first on a local basis; second, through the regional council upon a regional basis; and finally, through the federal council of economy integrated by delegations from the regional councils, on a national basis" (page 84)

    The Council of Credit and Exchange [17]

    "Credit will be a social function and not a private speculation or usury and will be based on the economic possibilities of society. Its mechanism will consist of exact statistics on production and consumption. The personnel would be selected out of the present banking institutions. The council would generally fulfil the function of the present commercial/financial establishments and will not have to occupy itself with the distribution of products, since the branch councils of industry and agriculture are adequately organised to take care of all operations, from the production of raw material to the delivery of the manufactured product to the consumer. Should it be necessary, as it probably will, to create a symbol of exchange in response to the necessities of circulation and exchange of products, the council will create a unit for this purpose exclusively as a facility and not as a money power...The Council will be like a thermometer of the products and needs of the country. Producers will know through the council what they must produce and their destination. The bureaus of statistical records, which now only perform a decorative function, would be the central axis and proportion all the necessary data for the competent administration of the new economy." (pp.87-9)


    Given the economic/industrial backwardness of Spain in relation to neighbouring countries, as well as the threat of international boycott, Santillan favoured a planned rather than market/monetary based economy. As we have seen, this was to be facilitated by a series of hierarchally arranged economic councils, consisting of worker's delegates, that would administer things, rather than people, upon a scientific basis, by means of the analysis of statistics and other data. It was felt necessary to organise Federal structures, as not only was localism repugnant and likely to lead in shortages and hardship, but also it was necessary for Spain to present itself as a united nation to the rest of the world. Like Kropotkin, he believed that the only way that a revolution would succeed is if the whole population came together to ensure that every worker in society could be provided with the necessities of life. Local disasters, droughts and shortages, all of which would be compounded by the disruption of revolution, meant that without national co-ordination of economic resources, whole communities and regions might go hungry or subsist in misery. Given the circumstances, Santillan felt that `Bread and Liberty for all' could be best achieved with a good measure of centralised economic administration. This might sound very Marxist, however, Santillan only argued for a rational degree of centralism within the economic sphere. Within the political sphere he advocated complete political autonomy to all the regions of Spain. He even argues in several places, that some regions may become predominantly state-socialist in orientation, however, for the well-being of all workers, at the national level, it was necessary that all regions, of whatever political shade or faction, should co-operate at a federal level, with regard to the satisfaction of the basic economic needs of the Spanish masses. The details concerning the possible details of a potentially all powerful national economic council necessarily remain hazy and sketchy. Despite the rhetoric, it is still not apparent to me that he has a clear conception of how "we can go beyond the regime of private capitalism without going over to state capitalism"(p.49). I do not believe that economic and political power can be easily separated from one another as he supposes. That the economy could be centralised and the politics decentralised also does not seem very likely. In specific Branches of Industry, such as transport and communications it was vital, and still is vital to co-ordinate the activities of a diversity of local outfits at the national and international level. Although, of course, there would always be international gatherings of experts in all fields of endeavour, from time to time, I do not see any necessary need for forests, clothing, sanitation industries, for example, to be co-ordinated nationally. Such issues may best be left to the individual (bio) region. On the other hand, a trans-continental postage or train service obviously cannot be organised in this way. I believe that Santillan over-emphasises the need for economic centralisation, which always brings with it the danger of political centralisation and state capitalism/socialism. However even in a radically decentralised, bio-regionally orientated society, there would certainly be a need for international and hierarchally structured forums in certain key industries.

    In the last section of the book Santillan stresses the point that it is not the structure as such which causes authoritarianism, but the ideas that we bring with us when forming organisational structures. In addition to the anarchist and syndicalist revolutions, it is also necessary that we have a "Libertarian Revolution". By this he means the development of a more anarchistic form of liberalism which would lead to a tolerant and morally enlightened society that accepts other points of view/lifestyles/work practices etc., and does not resort or agree to authority, the state, or violence to suppress them.

    The book ends with a very useful afternote, consisting of a revision of a speech written some time after the main body of the work was completed, in which he very critically assesses the progress of the revolution up to the point of publication.

    I can recommend this book to anarchists of all political shades. Even if one is not sympathetic to the type of industrial syndicalism he espouses, the book is not dogmatic and is littered with rich and eloquently presented philosophical insights concerning all areas of concern to anarchists. It is a mine of practical knowledge that successfully presents a unified and informed overview of the Spanish situation at the outbreak of the Civil War. As such it remains a primary source for all those interested in understanding the complexity and forces that shaped the course of Spanish anarchism during this period. Jura Media should be congratulated upon reproducing such an important and easily digestible little book.

    Graham Purchase