After the Revolution – Economic Reconstruction in Spain Today. By D.A. Santillan – Paul Mattick

International Council Correspondence, Vol. III (1937), No 9-10 (October)

To Santillan, one of Spains prominent anarchists, there are three practicable schools of economy: 1 – private capitalism; 2 – state capitalism; 3 – socialized economy or communism. He rejects the first two and chooses the third “not only because it is more just, but because it is the only means of overcoming the monstrous contradiction of competitive production based on profit” (p. 79). To make such an economy possible, all power must rest in the hands of the workers since “no one knows better than the workers themselves the capacity of each one in a determined establishment” (50). As the best and most democratic form of representation, he proposes the council system which is to be organized as follows: in each establishment the workers would appoint an administrative and technical council; these councils would form a syndicate and the syndicates would be coordinated in the council of the industry branch. In this way all establishments would proceed from the simple to the complex; from the factory council to the syndicate; from the syndicate to the branch council; from the branch council to the local federation; and from the latter to the regional and ultimately to the national council. (52).

According to this plan, production and management will be organized from the bottom up. It will be noted, however, that the syndicates (unions) continue to function and the position assigned to them by Santillan is a very important one in as much as they should act as mediators between the factory councils and the branch, regional and national councils. “The workers, administrators, and technicians of each shop or factory would be guided and coordinated by the function of the syndicates” (57); which means, in simple and direct language, that the syndicates have the last word. Regardless of what the workers in any given factory might want or propose, the syndicate, as the guide, will determine the course. Even if we go so far as to admit that during the first phase of the revolution many workers might remain indifferent to the needs of the revolution and thus unduly stress production and consumption resources, we maintain that the dual power exercised by the syndicates constitutes a grave danger towards the development of real communism, the society of free and equal producers. It must be borne in mind that syndicates, including the anarchist CNT, are pre-revolutionary organizations which were organized principally to wrest concession from the capitalist class. In order to do this most efficiently, a staff of organizers, an apparatus, was necessary. This staff became the new bureaucracy, its members the leaders and guides of the workers. (Though the CNT did not pay high salaries and changed the personnel rather frequently, it could not eliminate the apparatus as such which, in spite of counter-arguments, permitted the development of a bureaucracy). This bureaucaracy, – whether it consists of good or bad leaders is of no concern -, Santillan wishes to keep intact and expects from it “guidance” in the workers’ attempt to reorganize society along communistic lines. To us, this form of dual power, at the best, will lead to state capitalism, the very thing which Santillan so vehemently decries in his articles dealing with Soviet Russia’s economy. In Russia it is one party which exercises the power; in Santillan’s anarchist Spain the syndicates will do it; the result is the same.

Santillan’s program has striking similarities with the post-war German factory council system. There, too, the workers were permitted to elect councils and voice their demands and grievances; there, too, the unions acted as guides and advisors, and in such efficient manner that not only the bosses but also the workers themselves soon laughed it out of existence. We recognize, of course, the difference between the type of organizations and the situation the anarchists might find after “their” revolution, and yet, we consider our parallel quite fitting. We do not ask, “Who are the organizations that head the workers?” We insist on knowing “who is actually in control over the means of production”, and upon this answer we base our analysis as to the character of the revolution.

In Spain, as elsewhere, the task of the revolutionary forces is not to consolidate the power of any party of syndicate, but to curtail and, if possible, abolish it at once so that the revolution may live, that revolution which aims to abolish the existing capitalistic relationship – wage slavery. Dual power breeds unrest, disintegration, favoritism, exploitation. To avoit it, all power must rest in the workers’ councils. They alone are capable of reorganizing society without, and even against, the educated guides. The councils will need technicians and statisticians, to be sure; but these will have no executive power. They will merely carry out the orders of the workers, be it a plan for a new factory or the compilation of data assembled by factory councils. In Santillan’s plan, however, technicians and statisticians shall determine the required volume of production that is needed to give to each worker so and so much of this or that commodity. In reality this would mean almost unlimited power over the mass of consumption goods on the part of the statisticians against which the workers have practically no means of opposition. The result would be the renewal of the class struggle, the syndicates and their statisticians playing the role of the former capitalist exploiters. But this plan is also impracticable from the viewpoint of a planned economy in as much as the market will function as the regulator of supply and demand much the same as under capitalism where this phenomenon leads to competition, shortage of profits, and finally, crises.