The Conquest of Bread

The Conquest of Bread

"The Conquest of Bread" ( _fr. La Conquête du Pain) is a book by the anarchist communist Peter Kropotkin. Originally written in French, it first appeared as a series of articles in the anarchist journals "Le Révolté" and "La Revolté" (which were both edited by Kropotkin). It was first published as a book in Paris in 1892 with a preface by Élisée Reclus, who also suggested the title. Between 1892 and 1894 it was serialised, in part, in the London journal "Freedom", of which Kropotkin was a co-founder. It has been translated and reprinted numerous times: it was translated into Japanese, for example, by Kotoku Shusui in 1909. It has been reprinted by Elephant Editions (1985), Vanguard Press (1995), Freedom Press and AK Press

In this work, Kropotkin points out what he considers to be the fallacies of the economic systems of feudalism and capitalism, and how he believes they create poverty and scarcity while promoting privilege. He goes on to propose a more decentralised economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation, asserting that the tendencies for this kind of organisation already exist, both in evolution and in human society.

Summary of chapters

Chapter 1: Our Riches

Kropotkin begins, in the part "I" of this chapter, by stating that humanity is rich, "surpassing the dreams of the fairy tales of the Thousand and One Nights". He then asserts, in part "II", that these riches have been earned by generations of workers and inventors, creating and improving technology and making land more habitable. Kropotkin then tells us that these riches are being, and have been, appropriated by a small class of owners who "force [people] to produce, not the necessities of life, but whatever offers the greatest profits to the monopolists." "In this," he says, "is the essence of all Socialism." Part "III" concludes that

:"All things belong to all, since all men have need of them, since all men have worked in the measure of their strength to produce them, and since it is not possible to evaluate every one's part in the production of the world's wealth."

Chapter 2: Well-Being For All

In this chapter, the author asserts that " [w] ell-being for all is not a dream," and goes on to show that "our riches" are being squandered, and this is the reason that well-being for all is not (yet) a reality. To back this up, Kropotkin tells us that a number of factors are at play, namely:
*that much of workers' efforts and resources are wasted on producing useless luxuries;
*that the market system often results in goods being deliberately wasted so that the price of said goods may remain high; and
*that middlemen — all those who sit between the producer and consumer — take their own shares at each stage, Kropotkin explains, without actually contributing to the production of goods.

Chapter 3: Anarchist Communism

Kropotkin states outright in part 1 the idea of communism, where every person has contributed to society, that no one or any group of people could claim it as theirs. The phrase "Take what you need" is said to be the foundation for all such communal arrangements for produce, materials, services or resources.

Having said that people should claim the "right to live" and then the "right to well-being", Kropotkin proclaims that the only means of achieving "well-being for all" is Anarchist Communism.

:"It is Anarchist Communism, Communism without government - the Communism of the free. It is the synthesis of the two ideals pursued by hum*nity throughout the ages - Economic and Political Liberty."

Part two begins with Anarchy for the ideal of the political organisation. It asserts that once people are free from all forms of government, they will satisfy their need for organisation by free contracts between each other and groups pursuing the same aim. He advocates Mutual Aid/Agreement to replace law in regulation of individual interesets in view of a common object.

:"..the tendency of the human race is to reduce Government interference to zero; in face, to abolish the state, the personification of injustice, oppression and monopoly."

He explains envisionment a world where laws are replaced by social habits, and goes to talk about state institutions and a lifelong insistence from media and the state, through saturation of state issues such as political report columns, police and law, economy, whose apparent complexity blind the masses from ever being able to think outside of existence of the state and its institutions.

Chapter 5: Food

Chapter 6: Dwellings

Chapter 7: Clothing

Chapter 8: Ways and Means

Chapter 9: The Need for Luxury

Chapter 10: Agreeable Work

Chapter 11: Free Agreement

Chapter 12: Objections

Chapter 13: The Collectivist Wages System

Chapter 14: Consumption and Production

Chapter 15: The Division of Labour

Chapter 16: The Decentralization of Industry

Chapter 17: Agriculture

"Remaining chapter summaries to follow"

:"See also": anarchism, ""

External links

* " [ The Conquest of Bread] " - full text at Anarchy Archives
* " [ The Conquest of Bread] " - plain text and HTML format at Project Gutenberg

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