Theorizing an Anarchist Society (After the Revolution, 1937)

Theorizing an Anarchist Society (After the Revolution, 1937)

By studying a detailed blueprint for an anarchist society, as found in Diego Abad de Santillan’s After the Revolution (1937), we can better understand the ideology of anarcho-syndicalism, as well as the democratic and anti-capitalist philosophy which fuels it.

Diego Abad de Santillan was among the most influential anarchists during the Spanish Revolution of the 1930s. The writer, widely known for his radical publications and activism across the world (most notably in Germany, Mexico, and Argentina), was asked by the Confederacion National del Trabajo at the height of its power to outline the specific organization of the new world in construction. Santillan, fixated on the theoretical dynamics of an anarchist economy, came back with The Economic Organism of the Revolution (1936), a 40-page manifesto which vividly describes the structure of a hypothetical anarchist society (specifically tailored around Spain). Today, this document (now titled After the Revolution) serves as required reading to anyone who seeks a heightened understanding of anarcho-syndicalist objectives or even just an alternative to the problematic capitalist structure. By studying Santillan’s proposals, as well his critiques of the contemporary system, we can better understand the problems we currently face and the solutions which may lay ahead.

Click here to explore Santillan’s 1937 work, After the Revolution.

Although I certainly find value in studying these blueprints, I also believe that such a future society cannot be predicted with the meticulous detail of After the Revolution. Our understanding of human social behavior is still highly underdeveloped, and there’s simply no way to predict how these many new elements would truly function in the context of the greater society. These are ideas which require testing and gradual development, as well as an enormous shift in popular culture and socioeconomic thought, which can only be achieved through time and universal solidarity.

The anarchist society described by Santillan would require popular participation on a level which is unimaginable to many contemporary capitalist citizens. The culture of capitalism, one of consumerism and obedience, is intended to breed a passive population who obeys orders in the workplace and ‘doesn’t question the management of government or the economy. Americans are encouraged to pay attention to politics once every four years and, besides that decision, hardly ever participate in the governing of society. It is simply not our place in a capitalist world. As workers, our role is to maximize profits for owners and trust that ‘what’s best for them is best for everybody. If an anarcho-syndicalist society were to be achieved and power was to be distributed equally, there would be more pressure on individuals to adhere to a social contract radically different from today’s. We, as individuals, would be able to participate in the decision-making process of the councils, unions, and industries alike. This direct action of this scale would require a massive, widespread shift in how we perceive work, democracy, and society. It would require individuals to wish no longer to be passive, but rather an active voice in their community.

It may also be noting, as suggested in the title, that any such commune would require the abolition of global capitalism entirely. Any “free commune” would require independence from outside influences such powerful governments and international corporations. However, the markets are inherently expansionist and impossible to be geographically contained. As seen especially throughout the last century, the wealthy are not afraid to utilize powerful governments (and their militaries) to ensure the global economic landscape they desire. Hence, this outline is only applicable to a post-capitalist world, which the writers believed to be in the process through worldwide revolution. Considering the developments of capitalism since this period (and the decline of international labor representation), it is still likely that capitalism will soon end, however by self-destruction rather than revolution.

These obstacles aside, I still find studying works such as these to be a valuable exercise in philosophy and political theory. Indeed, such ideas require gradual testing and an unprecedented shift in widespread social relations, but tomorrow’s solutions always begin with radical prospection nonetheless. By theorizing the framework for a utopian society, we can better understand the flaws of the current system, as well as what some of the possible solutions may be. Works such as these also respond to the common claims that there are no alternatives for capitalism and that anarchism lacks any specific proposals for the restructuring of society. As evident in Santillan’s After the Revolution, there are countless inherent flaws in the modern capitalist system – and many untried solutions to address them.

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