Peter Kropotkin's Masterpiece 'The Conquest of Bread'
history of anarchism |
Monday May 30, 2005 16:48 by Paddy Rua - WSM
The first thing that really strikes you about the book is the simplicity of the arguments: the author describes clearly the basis of anarchist communism, without resorting to obscurities which, usually, veil one's lack of arguments.
Book Review: Peter Kropotkin's Masterpiece
The Conquest of Bread
This book isn't new in any bookshop: it first appeared 1892, and was
based on a series of articles written by P. Kropotkin, then a leading
figure of the anarchist movement, for the French revolutionary press
during the 1880s. It has been influential as few others have, and
despite having been written more than 100 years ago, many of its
arguments are still amazingly relevant today.
The first thing that really strikes you about the book is the
simplicity of the arguments: the author describes clearly the basis
of anarchist communism, without resorting to obscurities which,
usually, veil one's lack of arguments.
The Conquest of Bread is directed to appeal to the common folk who
are new to socialistic ideas, and not to satisfy the appetite for
dilettante discussion between militants. Even the way he simply sums
up the anarchist communist revolutionary drive in the phrase
"demand the right to everyone's welfare" shows the didactic
character of the book.
In this language and with well informed evidence, he demonstrates
(120 years ago!) that, objectively, the conditions to create an
anarchist society, a society that guarantees everyone's welfare, is
not an utopian dream, but an actual possibility thanks to the
advances in science and technology. He demonstrates too how society
has created so much wealth, but unfortunately, due to the existence
of an insane capitalist, statist and class society, this wealth is
completely squandered and distributed in a completely uneven way.
To solve this injustice and to replace this dysfunctional system,
Kropotkin offers anarchism as a solution. This means the
expropriation and collectivization of property and goods from the
hands of the gang of capitalsts that have made a fortune off the back
of the workers and to put them into the service of the whole society
and not of a privileged elite; to reorganise production to fulfil the
needs of society, and not profit; to reorganise society from the
bottom up, with grassroots democracy, instead of an elite of
politicians in government deciding for all of us....
And thus, conquering the bread, to open a whole new phase in human
history in the arts, education science, etc... for the aim of
revolution is not only about material things, but also about changing
the life we're living.
He also smartly and passionately discusses the division between
intellectual and manual labour, the de-centralisation of industry,
the imperialist relationships between industrial countries and
providers of raw materials and the contradiction between country and
This book, despite not dealing with the practicalities faced by
those who organise to change society and not giving an account of the
many problems that any revolution faces (shortages in production,
international boycott, etc.), gives a vivid account of the immense
possibilities of social change and constitutes an appeal to transform
by Paddy Rua
Dirst published in Workers Solidarity 85