Diego Abad de Santillan (1897-1983)


Diego Abad de Santillan — pseudonym of Sinesio García Hernández. Born in Reyero, Spain 1897, died in Barcelona 1983. Author, editor and one of the leading figures of the Spanish and Argentinian anarchist movement.

Raised in Argentina and studied in Madrid. Imprisoned after the general strike of 1917., returned to Argentina in 1918. Active in the anarcho-syndicalist Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA) and editor of its newspaper La Protesta.

Representative of the FORA during the formation of the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) in Berlin 1922. Went to Mexico to assist the Confederación General de Trabajadores (CGT) and then back to Argentina. Expelled from Argentina, he returned to Spain in 1931. and became an active member of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI); editor of Tierra y Libertad and Tiempos Nuevos (1935-1936) Secretary of the FAI in 1935. After July 19, 1936. he organized as a member of the Comité de Milicias Antifascistas the militias in Catalonia. Minister of Economy of Catalonia.

Returned to Argentina in 1939. and resumed his scholarly career. From 1977. back in Spain. Author of El organismo económico de la revolución (1937) and many other books.


After the Revolution


Diego Abad de Santillan: After the Revolution (excerpt)

Society of Producers and Consumers

The idea of the suppression of economic and political parasitism is or should be sufficiently ripe in the minds of the people, for its immediate realization. Those who work cannot be very happy to see the best part of their production deviated, and if it were not for the armed forces of the State, surely the slogan of justice, “he who does not work should not eat,” would be instantly realised. But the workers of the factories and the land still live subjected to a regime of oppression and servitude. The only difference is that modern wage-earners in the so-called democracies have the freedom to choose their masters, a very relative freedom to say the least.

Out of ten million persons able to work in Spain, only 4 1/2 to 5 million are actually employed in productive labor. The Revolution would suppress this parasitism and by this fact alone, its mission would be justified. With the disappearance of parasitism would be eliminated abundance alongside of privation, ostentation of great luxury alongside of penury. If there were not enough of any particular product to satisfy the needs of all, it would be rationed so that no one remained without his share, on the basis of equitable distribution. Clothing, housing and education would be attended to in the general interest. For the first time in the history of the world there would be no brains or muscles on forced strike.

We do not believe that there would be any real resistance to work, even on the part of the class known as the idle rich. There would be the natural initial difficulties in the adequate proportioning of a large population in respective trades and industries. The chief difficulty, however, would be in the eventuality of an international blockade.

Spain lacks cotton and without this raw material about 200,000 workers would be left jobless. Without petroleum transportation would be seriously affected. Even paper is lacking and the deficiency of same would result in the unemployment of thousands of printers, journalists and writers. The Revolution must therefore concern itself, right from the beginning, in assuring supplies of cotton; it must solve the problem of a synthetic petroleum by the distillation of mineral coals. There are no insuperable technical difficulties which science could not conquer and if the Revolution would not bring society to lower standards, but on the contrary, elevate the general well-being, it must produce sufficient commodities to take care of the general requirements. Of course, these problems would be less urgent if the world blockade would not take place and Spain could obtain petroleum from Russia and cotton from America in exchange for copper and iron ore.

Of the large amount of ore extracted in the mines only a very small part is refined. The greatest part is exported and returns to Spain in the form of machinery, instruments, etc. The Revolution should make of the metallurgical industries a reality and increase the foundries, plants, and substitute motor traction for horsepower. It should electrify railroads and factories, utilise natural resources of water power for irrigation and electricity, replant the forests and prepare new territory for agriculture. In a word, the Revolution should realise in a few years what capitalism is already impotent to create: a Spain capable of feeding, clothing and housing a population which will not take long in arriving at the figure of 30,000,000 inhabitants.

We don’t need a postulate of God to build up our society of workers. Nor do we need the hypothesis of a State. We don’t wish everyone to dance to the same step; we even admit the possibility of different organisms, some more and some less revolutionary, some more and some less friendly to the new situation. The important thing is, that all Spaniards have a minimum of necessities which must be satisfied and to which we must contribute through the process of production. The same as we work today and consider our comrades more as good-working companions regardless of their political ideas; so tomorrow we will rub elbows with people who will not think as we do and who may be even hostile to our ideology. These we must conquer by the example of our labor and by the efficacy of our plans. There are different workers’ organizations in Spain; all should contribute to the economic reconstruction and to all should be given a place. The Revolution does not reject any contribution in this respect.

Afterwards, outside of the equitable distribution of production — the work of all and for all each one can adopt the form of social life most pleasing to him. Nor will we deny the right of religious faith to those who wish to practice same. We would not deny the expression of other social concepts; nor their defense and practice; always with the condition that these are not aggressive and respect the same right for us. Otherwise there would be hostility and civil war.

We can even foresee that the friends of the Russian system might institute their own experiments and the political socialists could have their parliament and continue making speeches. We will not be the least affected and will be content with the prevention of any manifest aggression of one faction against another and maintain the productive and distributive apparatus in the hands of the producers and distributors themselves.

In other words, we wish absolute liberty in the political order of things; coordination of all the forces in the economic order. What objection can there be to a society organised in this way? We believe that such a Revolution would harm no one and benefit all. What does it matter if a lot of people who are enjoying too many privileges have to forgo them and learn a little of what it means to earn their crust of bread? For them, the change will be a moral and physical benefit. But the middle class and the proletariat have nothing to lose and a whole world to gain in fraternal productive cooperation, thanks to which everyone will be able to obtain a secure standard of living. There will be no worries for tomorrow and no more of the continual tragedies of unemployment of people who yesterday had relative comfort and today are plunged in utter misery. All this will disappear because work will be available for all without any other aim than the satisfaction of social necessities.

Timid people suppose that the Revolution is inspired by vengeance. This is an error. On the contrary it is to be feared that a triumphant Revolution might sin by excessive generosity. The Spanish workers are not revengeful. Quite the contrary, on the day they take possession of the social wealth, they will have forgotten their long Calvary.

We need not have any illusions about the men and women who are not used to work. It will be necessary to adapt their parasitic generation to the less important tasks. But on the other hand a number of small industrialists and even capitalists who began on the same level with workers will have a valuable and sure place as technicians and experts in their respective branches of industry. They will not be the masters, but they will be indispensable members of the new social structure and they will be able to develop much more freely and much more completely all their initiative of enterprise and plans for general improvements.

We could go through all the categories of society and demonstrate that no one should have any fear of the inevitable social change. There will be no royal gentries, there will be no people bursting with excessive wealth, sick with the gout and boredom through vicious living. There are less than a 100,000 homes in Spain which would feel their situation lowered by the revolutionary process. We refer to the 100,000 persons whose wealth is secure from all risk of depletion. On the other hand for the 23 or 24 million other Spaniards the Revolution will be liberating and will bring an incomparably higher standard of living than they have known under capitalism.

Economy and Liberty

Anarchism, meaning Liberty, is compatible with the most diverse economic conditions, on the premise that these cannot imply, as under capitalist monopoly, the negation of liberty. Anarchism is an attitude of the spirit towards life and in any and all economic situations not monopolistic, man can be master of himself and should exercise the control of his own will) rejecting imposition from without.

The negation of the principle of authority of man over man is not bound up with the realization of a predetermined economic level. It is opposed to Marxism, which desires to attain a system, as a corollary of capitalist evolution. To be an anarchist, one has to attain a certain level of culture, consciousness of power and capacity for self-government. Idiots cannot become anarchists; they must be cared for by society, along with the weak and the incapacitated. We are cognizant of the fact that the grade of economic development and material conditions of life influence powerfully human psychology. Faced with starvation, the individual becomes an egoist; with abundance he may become generous, friendly and socially disposed. All periods of privation and penury produce brutality, moral regression and a fierce struggle of all against all, for daily bread. Consequently, it is plain that economics influences seriously the spiritual life of the individual and his social relations. That is precisely why we are aiming to establish the best possible economic conditions, which will act as a guarantee of equal and solid relationships among men. We will not stop being anarchists, on an empty stomach, but we do not exactly like to have empty stomachs. We wish an economic regime in which abundance, well-being and enjoyment will be available to all. This aspiration does not distinguish us as revolutionaries. The ideal of well-being is shared by all social movements. What distinguishes us is our condition as anarchists, which we place even before well-being. At least as individuals, we prefer freedom with hunger to satiation alongside of slavery and subjection. If we are in favor of communism, it is not because this system is identical with anarchism. Communism can be realized in a multiformity of economic arrangements, individual and collective. Proudhon advocated mutualism; Bakunin, collectivism; Kropotkin, communism. Malatesta has conceived the possibility of mixed agreements, especially during the first period. Tarrida del Marmol y Mella advocated pure anarchism without any economic qualifications, which supposes the freedom of experimenting or establishing on trial, that which every period and locality judges most convenient. What we can say is that we must aim for an economic system of equal rights and justice, in which abundance will be possible. That is, the proper satisfaction of material needs, which alone will create a favorable social disposition and thus constitute a solid guarantee of liberty and solidarity. Man pitted against man is a wolf and he can never become a real brother to man, unless he has material security. If anarchism for the anarchists can exist with abundance as well as with misery, communism must have as its basis, abundance. In communism there is a certain generosity, and this generosity in a time of want is replaced little by little by egoism, distrust, competition; in a word, the struggle for bread. We repeat, therefore: abundance is indispensable to assure a progressive collective life. We face, therefore, economic reorganization of the future, free from any preconceived notions, fixed system or dogma. Communism will be the natural result of abundance, without which it will remain only an ideal. In each locality the degree of communism, collectivism or mutualism will depend on the conditions prevailing. Why dictate rules? We who make freedom our banner, cannot deny it in economy. Therefore there must be free experimentation, free show of initiative and suggestions, as well as the freedom of organization. To make possible this freedom, we must insist on the prerequisite of abundance which we can attain by the thorough use of industrial technique, modern agriculture and scientific development. But modern industry as well as modern agriculture has its own limits and possesses its own rhythm. The human rhythm does not make its mark on the machine; it is the rhythm of the machine which determines human progress. With the Revolution, private property is suppressed; but the factory must go on and follow the same methods and development of production. What changes, is the distribution of the product; which, instead of obeying the laws of interest and profit, must satisfy the general needs on an equitable basis. The factory is not an isolated organism, nor can it function independently. It is part of a complicated network, spreading throughout the locality, region and nation, and beyond all frontiers. The writer knew economic localism in his own native town, a little hidden valley out of all contact with civilization, only thirty years ago. The wool was spun from sheep, shoes were made from wood, the wheat was cultivated and made into bread; the herbs of the surrounding hills made the import of medicines from the outside unnecessary. We knew that somewhere beyond our valley there was some kind of superior power, which sent out tax collectors and police forces. This little town, thirty or forty years ago, lived autonomously. But today everything is changed, fortunately. The townsfolk wear clothes woven in Barcelona or Lancashire, made from Argentine or Australian wool, or from Indian or American cotton. They have radios manufactured in England or France, they drink coffee from Brazil. Would it be desirable to return to economic localism? No one would consent to it voluntarily; everyone wishes to enjoy all the good that intelligence and labor have produced. It is plain: a thousand ties unite the most insignificant locality with national and world economy. We are not interested how the workers, employees and technicians of a factory will organize themselves. That is their affair. But what is fundamental is that from the first moment of Revolution there exist a proper cohesion of all the productive and distributive forces. This means that the producers of every locality must come to an understanding with all other localities of the province and country, which must have an international direct entente between the producers of the world. This cohesion is imperious and indispensable for the very function of all the factors of production. The interdependence of the factory and the electrical plant; the foundries in Bilbo and the production of the mines; the railroads, agriculture, building and a thousand and one trades and activities, all make for an inevitable highest maximum coordination of production and distribution. We believe there is a little confusion in some libertarian circles between social conviviality, group affinities and the economic function. Visions of happy Arcadias or free communes were imagined by the poets: of the past; for the future, conditions appear quite different. In the factory we do not seek the affinity of friendship but the affinity of work. It is not an affinity; of character, except on the basis of professional capacity and quality of work, which is the basis of conviviality in the factory. The “free commune” is the logical product of the concept of group affinity, but there are n o such free communes in economy, because that would presuppose independence, and there are no independent communes. One thing is the free commune from the political or social standpoint and quite another, from an economic point of view. In the latter, our ideal is the federated commune, integrated in the economic total network of the country or countries in revolution. Economic communism is also a relic of old juristic concepts of communal property and we who advocate the suppression of all private property do not wish 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 of the land or of the factory; but it makes of us contributors to the general welfare. Everything belongs to everybody and the product of all labor must be distributed as equitably as the human efforts themselves. We cannot realize our economic revolution in a local sense; for economy on a localist basis, can only cause collective privation and scarcity of goods. Economy is today, a vast organism and all isolation must prove detrimental. Only with the suppression of specialized labor can we imagine the free commune as an economic ideal. This, needless to add, is quite impossible. We must work with a social criterion, considering the interests of the whole country and if possible, of the whole world.

The Libertarian Revolution

We have said that anarchism is the expression of our will for a free life. We have affirmed that anarchism can exist in penury or in abundance, under one or another form of economy. We will now dwell on another phase of libertarian thought.

Our chief distinction as individuals and as a movement is represented in our position on the principle of authority, in our perennial affirmation of respect for the liberty of all and of each. Apart from the method, we can coincide in economic solutions with other social forces. In the political solution, we substitute for the principle of authority and its maximum incarnation, the State and its oppressive institutions, the free accord of social groups. In this position, we anarchists are more isolated, and even in a victorious revolution we would still be set off by ourselves. We believe that a great number of people are not with us through ignorance; but the majority have been influenced negatively by their systematic education. Besides, they do not understand our aspirations, not having the same sensitiveness, nor a sufficient development of the sense of liberty, in, dependence and justice. The revolution may awake in many men the forces of liberation, held in lethargy by daily routine and by a hostile environment. But it cannot by art or magic convert the anarchist minority into an absolute social majority. And even if tomorrow we were to become a majority, there would still remain a dissident minority which would suspect and oppose our innovations, fearing our experimental audacity. However, if today we do not renounce violence in order to fight enslaving forces, in the new economic and social order of things we can follow only the line of persuasion and practical experience. We can oppose with force those who try to subjugate us in behalf of their interests or concepts, but we cannot resort to force against those who do not share our points of view, and who do not desire to live as we attempt to. Here, our respect for liberty must encompass the liberty of our adversaries to live their own life, always on the condition that they are not aggressive and do not deny the freedom of others. If, in the social revolution, in spite of all the obstacles, we were to become a majority, the practical work of economic reconstruction would be enormously facilitated, because we could immediately count on the good will and support of the great masses. But even so, we would have to respect the experiments of different minorities, and reach an understanding with them in the exchange of products and services. Surely, as an historical minority, we anarchists have the right of revindicating this same liberty of experimentation and to defend it with all our might against any individual party or class which would attempt to crush it. Any totalitarian solution is of fascist tailoring, even though it may be defended in the | name of the proletariat and the revolution. The new mode of life is a social hypothesis, which only practical experience should evaluate. We are convinced that right and justice are on our side, although at the same time we recognize the rights of other social tendencies, methods and aspirations. We believe that the truth is nearer our concepts but we do not consider ourselves infallible, nor do we deny the sincerity and good faith of other doctrines. Which is to be the method to prove these or other social hypotheses: our own or some other revolutionary program? In the Middle Ages, one inclined to the judgment of God. Later men would resolve their dispute by a duel. The one who crushed the head of the other would be the victor of justice and truth. Do we wish in our day, in place of the judgment of God, to accept force as the sole means of resolving the truth between different revolutionary tendencies? We reflect back to anarchism in Russia: has its practical extermination by the new dictatorship proved that it had no right to exist? If we condemn this procedure in demonstrating the superiority of a given revolutionary party, we do not do so because it was practiced in Russia, but we would have to condemn it even were it attempted in Spain by ourselves. We want, first of all, to recognize the right of free experimentation for all social tendencies in our revolution; for this reason, it will not be a new tyranny, but the entrance into a reign of freedom and well being, in which all forces can show themselves, all initiative be tried out and all progress be put in practice. Violence is justified in the destruction of the old world of violence, but it is counterrevolutionary and antisocial when it is employed as a reconstructive method. In Asturias, during the October revolution, two well-defined tendencies came into relief — in some localities a socialist republic was proclaimed and in others, libertarian communism. If the revolution had had a different outcome, what would have been the consequence? Unfortunately the respect for free experimentation would have had to depend on the force our tendency had at its disposal, in defense against contrary pretensions of a totalitarian regime. The anarchists would have had no objection to the innovation in Oviedo of the methods of labor and distribution proposed by the Socialists, while in Gijon and La Felguera, libertarian communism was put into practice. Perhaps the Socialist and Communist tendencies not being identical, on the day following the triumph over the bourgeoisie and the State, a Civil War might have broken out, to determine whether the future would be social, democratic, bolshevist or libertarian, a war between brothers, which would have annihilated the spirit and the promises of the revolution. We do not know if our friends in Asturias would have been able to defend their right of existence against a socialist or communist totalitarianism. Perhaps there, they would have found themselves in minority. But in the rest of Spain, in the event of a revolution, we would have been an indisputable majority, as manifested in Aragon, Rioja and Navarre, in Andalusia, in Catalonia and in Levante. Imagine the disaster and the death of the revolution, were we to affirm the same totalitarian criterion maintained by socialists and bolshevists. In the political aspect, naturally, we must renounce; the hegemony of a committee, of a party, of a given tendency; that is, we must renounce the State as an institution which demands obedience from all with or without their consent. Without this renunciation of a State dictating the law for all, there can be no true revolution or social well-being, because the maintenance of the State is the maintenance of the largest source of exploitation of human labor. This does not imply that the economic order would exclude solidarity, mutual aid and agreement. On the contrary, where economic localism is impossible, libertarian communist Gijon needs socialist Oviedo. Just as in the question of economic organization, what is most important is reciprocal good will between the parties to a pact. Assuming this good will, agreement must follow, notwithstanding political and social divergences, which might separate the interested parties. In this way, it is possible to organize a magnificent network of relations and exchanges, on an entire national scale, without the precondition of a sole regime regulating life and production on a monopolistic basis.

For over half a century, Marxism has produced division in the ranks of the workers by its dogmatic embrace of the totalitarian state concept. We aim for the unity of the workers; for, without unity, they will continue to serve as cannon fodder, or as beasts of burden, for the benefit of the privileged class in power. But we want this unity to emerge from the common interests of all and to guarantee the freedom of the individual within the collective organism. There is a common basis of accord, and it is the sincere recognition of differences of character, temperament and education, and the solemn promise of mutual understanding, through mutual respect, in our common aspiration: the suppression of capitalism and the totalitarian state, towards the triumph of the Revolution.

Compiled by Romano Krauth
Originally published by anarchy-movement.org/anarchist, which went offline in 2006

2 Responses to “Diego Abad de Santillan (1897-1983)”

  1. See also The Libertarian Revolution (1936)

    One of number of articles on the Spanish Revolution posted by Charlatan Stew

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