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The fourth in AK Press’ Working Classics series, The Conquest of Bread is Peter Kropotkin’s most extensive study of human needs and his outline of the most rational and equitable means of satisfying them. A combination of detailed historical analysis and far-reaching Utopian vision, this is a step-by-step guide to social revolution: the concrete means of achieving it, and the world that humanity’s “constructive genius” is capable of creating. Includes a new introduction that historically situates and discusses the contemporary relevance of Kropotkin’s ideas.
224 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1892
In the present state of industry, when everything is interdependent, when each branch of production is knit up with all the rest, the attempt to claim an Individualist origin for the products of industry is absolutely untenable. The astonishing perfection attained by the textile or mining industries in civilized countries is due to the simultaneous development of a thousand other industries, great and small, to the extension of the railroad system, to inter-oceanic navigation, to the manual skill of thousands of workers, to a certain standard of culture reached by the working class as a whole – to the labours, in short, of men in every corner of the globe.The property, factories, machines, farmland, roads, railways, buildings, housing, which have been financed, developed, manufactured, built by the toil and efforts of countless workers, inventors – many compensated richly for their capital contributions, vast numbers of others, particularly those who actually did the work, expended the effort given a pittance (even nothing) by which they could barely sustain themselves and their families … all these things must be looked up as the common inheritance of those alive today, not as the property of the descendants of those who have already been compensated to an unjust extent.
The Italians who died of cholera while making the Suez Canal, or of anchyloses in the St. Gothard Tunnel, and the Americans who were mowed down by shot and shell while fighting for the abolition of slavery, have helped to develop the cotton industry of France and England, as well as the work-girls who languish in the factories of Manchester and Rouen, and the inventor who (following the suggestion of some worker) succeeds in improving the looms.
How, then, shall we estimate the share of each in the riches which ALL contribute to amass?
The essential difference consists in this, that the anarchists are far more concerned with dividing up than with the organization of production; and that they conceive of the organization of production as taking the form, not of a huge cooperative commonwealth, but of a great number of "free," small, self-governing communes. It need hardly be said that such a social system would fail to liberate mankind from nature's yoke, for in it the forces of production would not be developed even to the degree to which they have been developed under capitalism.
Estamos dispuestos a garantizarte el goce de nuestras casas, de nuestros almacenes, calles, medios de transporte, escuelas, museos, etcétera, a condición de que de veinticinco a cuarenta y cinco o cincuenta años de edad consagres cuatro o cinco horas diarias a uno de los trabajos que se reconocen como necesarios para vivir. Elige tú mismo cuando quieras los grupos de que has de formar parte o constituye uno nuevo, con tal de que te encargues de producir lo necesario. Y durante el resto de tu tiempo, reúnete con quien te plazca con la mira de cualquier recreo de arte, de ciencia a tu gusto. Y en fin, si eso no te agrada, vete por el mundo en busca de otras condiciones. O bien, encuentra partidarios y constituye con ellos otros grupos que se organicen con nuevos principios. Nosotros preferimos los nuestros.