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The Conquest of Bread

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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

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About the author

Pyotr Kropotkin

178 books790 followers
Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (Пётр Алексеевич Кропоткин, other spelling: Peter Kropotkin, Pëtr Alekseevič Kropotkin, Pëtr Kropotkin), who described him as "a man with a soul of that beautiful white Christ which seems coming out of Russia." He wrote many books, pamphlets and articles, the most prominent being The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops, and his principal scientific offering, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. He was also a contributor to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.

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Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
November 28, 2018
Anarchism: The name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government – harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfying of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.

This is how Kropotkin defined anarchism in 1905, for the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britanica.

biography and introduction

Peter Kropotkin. Russian prince, geographer, and outstanding anarcho-Communist writer. Raised as Imperial Cadet, later a cavalry officer; studied mathematics and geography. In 1872 visited Switzerland and joined the anarchist International Workers Association. Imprisoned for agitation in Russia in 1874. Escaped from jail and moved through England, Switzerland, and France (where he was imprisoned for five years). Then settled in England, where he wrote Memoirs of a Revolutionist and The Great French Revolution 1789-1793. Returned to Russia after the February Revolution.
(Adapted from glossary entry for Kropotkin in Victor Serge's Memoirs of a Revolutionary)

When I looked through several books I have that deal with anarchism directly or indirectly, I found The Conquest of Bread (CoB) mentioned more often than any of Kropotkin's other writings. As an example, in Colin Ward's book Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction he notes that the Mexican peasant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata was "made literate" by the anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon, through reading and discussing this book with him.

Before getting into the book, here's a list of some of Kropotkin's works, taken from Rudolf Rocker's bibliography in Anarcho-Syndicalism Theory and Practice.

1. Anarchist Communism: Its Basis and Principles (1891)
2. The Conquest of Bread (1892)
3. The State: Its Role in History (1898)
4. Fields, Factories, and Workshops (1899)
5. Memoirs of a Revolutionist (1899)
6. Modern Science and Anarchism (1900)
7. Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902)
8. The Modern State (1912)
9. Ethics: Origin and Development (1924)

Of these, all but #8 can be easily obtained even today, a century and more after Kropotkin wrote them. Here on Goodreads, Conquest of Bread has been rated by over 1800 readers; #7 by over 1300; #5 by about 400; a couple not on the list by about 300. All others are near 100, or fewer. Thus I would venture to say that the book here reviewed is Kropotkin's most widely read book, at least in the 21st century.

organization and main ideas

A list of chapters, with a few comments.

I Our Riches.
- Introduces the idea that the immense riches of the contemporary world are the result of the labor of countless workers in the past, and that they thus belong to all people now living, not to simply those who hold title to them.

II Well-Being for All
III Anarchist Communism
- What is meant by this, and how it differs from Communalism

IV Expropriation
- Why an anarchist revolution must expropriate things from those who claim "ownership" of things.

V Food
VI Dwellings
VII Clothing
- These three chapters lay out the reasons, methods, and justifications by which the common people may, on their own initiative and action, provide the essentials of food, dwellings, and clothing to all

VIII Ways and Means
- Why the current system will not and cannot supply for all

IX The Need for Luxury
- By no means will items of "luxury" be no longer available in an anarchist society. There will be ample opportunity for workers to engage in production and distribution of such items for all who want them.

X Agreeable Work
- How it can come about, because of great increases in productivity in modern times, that no one will be forced to work as wage-slaves now do. Women will benefit as they will no longer be forced to work only in the home, as even less than a wage-slave.

XI Free Agreement
- Arguments for, and examples of, the way in which free agreements among groups of people can effect the benefits which, some claim, can only be provided with a State which dictates. The State is not needed.

XII Objections
- How the objections urged against an anarchist society can be met

XIII The Collectivist Wages System
- Why it must come to pass that people in an anarchist society no longer be subject to different wages, depending on the type of work they do.

XIV Consumption and Production
- The correct way to analyze Political Economy. Rather than a description of "facts", it should be a science: "The study of the needs of mankind, and the means of satisfying them with the least possible waste of human energy."

XV The Division of Labor
- With modern methods of agriculture and production, each citizen need contribute a modest number of hours each week to work shared by all, to produce the essentials. Beyond that, each can choose to devote effort to what interests them, be it art, science, the production of luxuries, or nothing at all.

XVI The Decentralization of Industry
- The concentration of particular industries as the specialization of certain peoples, countries, areas, is unnecessary and counterproductive in the modern world.

XVII Agriculture
- This chapter is a detailed accounting of the acreage and human hours required, using modern agricultural methods, to allow the three and one-half million citizens of the two departments (Seine, Seine-et-Oise) round Paris, with their 1,507,300 acres, to produce all the corn and cereals, milk, cattle, vegetables and fruit that the population requires. Chiefly interesting for the way that Kropotkin argues foe the self-sufficiency of such a population, and the amount of the land left over for houses, roads, parks, and forests.

Anarchist Communism & common inheritance

Kropotkin's use of "Communism" is not to be confused with what we think of when we consider the Soviet and Chinese systems of the twentieth century; rather, he is using the term in the manner coined by the French philosopher Victor d'Hupay in 1777. d'Hupay defines this lifestyle as a "commune" and envisions that its members "share all economic and material products among themselves, so that all may benefit from everybody's work". That is, "Communism" for Kropotkin is organization and living by the principles of the commune. Or, as Kropotkin himself says, it is "Communism without government – the Communism of the Free. It is the synthesis of the two ideals pursued by humanity throughout the ages – Economic and Political Liberty."

Kropotkin returned to Russia after the Revolution. He was not particularly happy with what he observed, but was of an age that he felt precluded him from attempting to actively engage in what was going on. Here is a link to a first-hand account of a meeting that he had in 1919 with Lenin. https://www.bolshevik.info/meeting-le...

"Anarchist Communism" is the title of the third chapter of CoB. Kropotkin contrasts this idea with that of "the Collectivists". These are the followers of the other major anarchist theoretician of the second half of the nineteenth century, Mikail Bakunin (1814-1876), who is taken as the founder of "collectivist anarchism". The aspect of Bakunin's system that disturbs Kropotkin here is "that payment proportional to the hours of labor rendered by each would be an ideal arrangement… suffice it to say here, leaving ourselves free to return to the subject later [which he does, particularly in XIII The Collectivist Wages System], that the Collectivist ideal appears to us untenable in a society which considers the instruments of labor as a common inheritance. Starting from this principle, such a society would find itself forced from the very outset to abandon all forms of wages."

And what of "common inheritance"? This is an idea that Kropotkin brings up again and again. Introduced in chapter I Our Riches, he returns to it in chapter III:
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 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 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.

No need for government

Men do not need to be told by social or political higher ups how to live, how to solve problems that require more than simply personal attention – there are ample examples of free associations of men and groups of men that have made significant decisions on how an important enterprise can be organized, and this has always been done simply through discussion, bargaining, and coming to an agreement on what would in fact benefit everyone concerned to the best extent.

This idea is explored most fully in XI Free Agreement. Kropotkin tells how the European railway network came into being through free agreements between the scores of separate companies that had developed small pieces of the system, then connected them together, established routes and schedules, figured out how to allow freight to move over the entire network without having to unload and reload at company "boundaries" – all without the intervention of any Central authority or State Agency.

He goes through many other examples of things that have been organized by free agreement of people who simply saw a need for something to be done, and did it: the way that the Dutch settled questions of canal access; the similar way that shipowners settled question of boat access along the Rhine; the establishment of the British Lifeboat Association, manned and financed by volunteer seamen; and the founding, staffing, organization, and activities of the Red Cross.

On revolutionary failures

1871 the Paris Commune

In this instance, which is discussed in both the Preface which Kropotkin wrote in 1913, and in different chapters of the original book, the beginning of the end occurred when groups of the revolutionaries separated off to make decisions which they deemed needed to be made FOR THE PEOPLE. Kropotkin insists that THE PEOPLE do not need this, that they will make the correct decisions for themselves.

The "decision makers" begin to argue about what needs to be done, what rules and regulations need to be effected and put into place, and meanwhile … the people STARVE because their immediate daily NEEDS (which are of course provided for the decision makers in their own privileged ways) are completely disregarded. These self-appointed decision makers will provide the people, not with the food, clothing, and shelter that they need, but with EDICTS THEY MUST OBEY.

And so goes another failed revolution.

something that occurred to me

Despite the fact that we in the 21st century live in a world very different from that of the late 18th century, there is much that Kropotkin urges that seems to have application today. Particularly, with various contemporary movements (such as the Transition movement), which emphasize localized aspects of society, more support for local businesses, local food production, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), local banking, and so forth ... and then with the possibilities of society coming apart at the seams at some future point ... Much of what Kropotkin says may be extremely applicable in some future.

A book to be passed on into that future. Very highly recommended.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Profile Image for Tinea.
563 reviews266 followers
April 22, 2012
Uplifting, light, and truly enjoyable! While I stand by an earlier assertion that best way to learn about anarchism nowadays is through radical permaculture ecologists and intersectional women of color feminists, I was surprised to find The Conquest of Bread is really worth reading, too. In terms of your old white European male anarcho-communists, Kropotkin is the go-to guy; I'd put him ahead of Emma Goldman for timid students of anarchist theory, since he focuses more on practicalities and vision of the future while she brings instead critique of the present and passionate calls to arms. Feel free to skim the pages of statistics and outdated examples Kropotkin uses to support his hypotheses.

According to Kropotkin, the means to conquer bread is permaculture: intensive, small-scale, urban, soil-building, ecologically efficient agriculture based on an scientific assessment of "what are the needs of all, and what are the means of satisfying them"-- steps one and two an ecological design process. He calls for doing the least amount of work necessary to meet material needs (echoed in the present by both anarchists and permaculturalists), with all participating in labor so that that everyone may have free time and energy to pursue passions like science, art, music, writing, etc etc etc, the enjoyable productivity that Kropotkin reminds us so many people take up when they have time freed from draining work weeks. The aim, in his words, is to "Produce the greatest amount of goods necessary to the well-being of all, with the least possible waste of human energy." Elegantly efficient.

There are other lessons in here. Kropotkin argues in favor of free association and diversity and decentralization of production, and against coercion and centralized authority, always with examples and evidence to support his claims, but also always with a heartfelt uplifting of human creativity, inclinations toward kindness and mutual support, and general respect for the mass of people being competent and able. Finally, he argues for "the need for luxury." It is this acknowledgement of the importance of happiness that I think makes Kroptkin and anarchism so much more embedded in reality than other social theories, including capitalism's pursuit of competitive self-interest. We want bread but we want roses too-- Kropotkin says start there, with our needs and desires, and then figure out the best means of meeting them.

[For the (A) book club]
Profile Image for Sean Mccarrey.
128 reviews4 followers
July 7, 2012
This book was thoroughly disappointing, especially after reading Memoirs of a Revolutionist, which was an incredible book. This book however, was pretty much a 279 page rant about what a perfect society would look like, and what was wrong with the industrialized world at that time, rather than how these things could realistically be achieved. One reason for this is, as Kropotkin points out, was that these anarchist ideals could be achieved rather easily once some great revolution had occurred. Humanity only need to catch a glimpse of some efficient anarchist organization and they would fall in line. It's strange then, that Kropotkin gives example after example of where anarchist principles already exist in organizations of that period, be it the Red Cross, various communes, the British Life Boat Association, Russian peasant communes, the Royal Society of Zoology, etc. I wonder if these organizations were so well founded, and it would only take humanity glimpsing them during a period of revolution, why then, did the French not turn to anarchism in 1793, 1848, or 1871? For that matter, with the Soviets of the Russian Revolution that decided things in consensus, and ran their factories and farms efficiently without outside intervention, particularly of the State (such as the Kronstadt sailors), why was anarchism so easily defeated by state-sponsord Communism?
The answer lies in the fact that people are fully engrossed in the systems that they are a part of. Just because the oppressors and their tools are shattered does not mean that people stop thinking in certain manners and change towards whichever way the wind blows. Humanity is cultured and steeped in systems of capitalism, and state run systems, to the point where are very cities are designed upon the premise of the good of the state, as Kropotkin points out. Why then, would he expect people to readily abandon that system when they have had little education to the contrary, and even if they do try to change the status-quo they will be unfamiliar with the systems of anarchism until they are fully educated in them. This can be seen in the case of Occupy Wall Street. And in Occupy Wall Street one can see why his simplistic prognosis for revolution being a sudden and necessary cure-all failed. While organizers of the movement in various cities did attempt to make some form of change, they were often stymied by a lack of knowledge of their own consensus system (General Assembly), and that made it all too easy for those with enough will to wreck havoc on the organizational structure, especially when no one involved even seemed to be aware that the movement was fundamentally anarchist (at least outside of New York). So when I read Kropotkin's ideas about a spontaneous committee arising to address the cities need for food and supply, I do have to laugh. In reality, this would become so complicated, even if it did happen there would surely be so much infighting among organizations and power players that nothing of value would have gotten done. Kropotkin himself must have seen this system fall apart during his last days in the Russian Revolution.
I wish this book would have been better, but as it stands, it is a lot of pie-in-the-sky BS.
Profile Image for Duarte.
141 reviews
April 15, 2020
Ah yes, The Conquest of Bread. The Bread Book. Every anarchist knows it, every anarchist has read it (supposedly - I'll get into that in a second). Leftist Youtube is even named after it - Breadtube. A small book that is a shining argument against both the horrible, currently world-destroying mode of production that is capitalism and the nightmare that was the endless 20th century Stalinist regimes... or is it?

See, anarchists today, they don't actually talk about production. They talk about "freedom", "direct action", they care about the typical left liberal social justice topics (transgenderism and so on). Anarchism is, for them, almost always some far off utopia, that will come no matter what (ironically replicating the worst of Marxist teleology) that is irrelevant to the matter at hand, and as such, talking about production becomes too just the topic of idle musings while actual action is either mindless action, often times just kicking trash cans and beating up whatever right-wing idiot cares enough about culture wars to go after while chanting "we're revolutionaries!" (the result of the "we don't need theory, we need to act!" mentality, which is very common with the anarchists today - we'll see why this is nonsense soon).

What does the fact that production is seen as either irrelevant "future plans" or not considered at all by anarchists with The Conquest of Bread, which all said anarchists tell us to read as some sort of all ending argument? Because, quite in simple terms, this book is about nothing but production. Yes, this book does not busy itself with historical analysis, how society works, how the economy works, how revolutions work and so on. It does not concern itself with the hows and whys but simply the what, and that what is: how can we immediately abolish the state and meet everyone's material needs, doing away with money, the division of labor, etc?

Well, not like this!

See, we can ignore the fact that modern anarchists do not care about production and have no real economic doctrine and so on, that does not bear on the work itself (after all, the worst anti-Marxists all not only call themselves Marxists but endlessly ramble about "anti-revisionism" in a truly incredibly example of psychological projection, as they vulgarize Marx's work as to make it unrecognizable). However, the matter of fact is that The Conquest of Bread is neither correct factually (as in, Kropotkin's analysis is just wrong to the core) nor is it correct as a revolutionary programme (as in, a revolution that actually held these principles seriously would be annihilated). Let's see why.

The main reason is that Kropotkin does not start his analysis from any real material conditions: anarcho-communism, for him, is a set of ideals that will magically happen after revolution, and that reality will just have to adjust itself to these ideals. The core of his thesis is essentially moralistic (X must be done because it is morally correct), which is always a fundamentally bankrupt methodology, because morals are not in way "objective". What we find moral and right is of little concern to material reality - that we think it's right that everyone has everything they want has no bearing on the factuality of whether that is possible or not, which Kropotkin just does not care about. How capitalism works and thus how anarcho-communism would come out of capitalism is then not just poorly explained, it is just not explained at all. As such, no real argument is made here besides a moral utopian one, which you either already agree with or you are convinced but only in the same meaningless moralistic way (I have a great deal of respect for the early utopian socialists, but this is actually more primitive than the very rough, raw and bizarre work of Charles Fourier, which still has its unique insights. The point is to go beyond the utopians, but this only goes even more backwards).

Revolution wise, it wouldn't work for a variety of reasons. I think it was best and most succinctly put by Bukharin and Preobrazhensky in ABC of Communism:

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.

This is the real problem, ultimately: A common cliche from the braindead "left unity" types is that anarchists and communists want the same thing, they just think that there are different ways of going about it. This is false: Communists want the abolishment of commodity production - production for direct use rather than production for profit, which is best done by a centralization of the means of production into the hands of the proletariat. What the anarchists want is a federation of an uncountable amount of "free communes" all producing for themselves and each other, which is not just horribly inefficient - it is downright impossible in both revolutionary practice and as an actual economy after an hypothetical anarcho-communist revolution.

As a revolution, well, how is revolution meant to be carried out without a state? Perhaps that's the least damning aspect of anarchism - the state is just a moral category, not an actual political theory. So the state is never even defined as, say, the mechanism of government through which class antagonisms are resolved until they collapse through revolution and either the relations to production or the mode of production outright change. For many anarchists, "the state" is simply any sort of central government, and the notion that a revolution without such a thing or even that an economy without a central government is possible, or even that a central government means "oppressive" because of the old idiotic moralist platitude that "hierarchy = oppression".

Let us talk economics: Kropotkin just gives you examples of how much a few people can do, and it happens to be quite a lot, so only 5 hours for a fully employed community would be enough to clothe and feed and house people, etc. However, how is the quantity of what is to be produced decided? There's no central government, and Kropotkin is obviously not arguing for central planning, just communes, so... what? We just farm everything that we can, at all times? We extract everything that we can? What about things like computers? Since we don't plan them, what happens, you just make one if you want one? Or we just make a random number of them and make more when they run out? What about recycling old computers' parts for new ones? Do we just make new PCs with new materials as with the capitalist model, instead of making a circular economy, where new materials are made with recycled parts of old computers? Presumably not, since that would require centralized government apparatuses (which means "the state" for the anarchists - not for the Marxists).

What about crisis solutions? COVID-19 is ravaging the world as of now, and it's authoritarian, Capitalism With Asian Values countries, China and specially Vietnam, that proved the most effective in curbing it. This would be even more efficiently done in communism, where profits do not matter because they just aren't part of social reality anymore, but in anarchism, it would just ravage the world with no central world-wide government apparatuses.

And that example is ultimately a good microcosm for my point about anarchism and this book: Communists care about material needs, anarchists care about abstract ideals like "freedom". Who cares about having central apparatuses to take care of deadly pandemics when that (somehow) encroaches on "freedom".

This book really is a certain kind of poison - to someone looking for radical theory, it turns them away from analysis and into utopian dreamlands. Instead of making someone realize that revolution is a horrible thing that must none-the-less be done, it turns them into what is essentially a libertarian caring for "freedom" above all. Worse of all, so utopian is the message, that it makes the people who believe it in a complacent, narcotized state because such a thing can only be "in the far future", and thus only engage in typical liberal progressive politics, rather than turning them into militants.

If someone wants revolutionary theory, give them the Manifesto, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, State and Revolution, something by Bordiga, anything but this. It's not even Kropotkin's best work, that's Mutual Aid!
Profile Image for muthuvel.
257 reviews154 followers
March 14, 2021
In a world like this, why something has more value over others? In these times of global crises concerning our health, well-being and economic systems, many of us can't help but wonder where we might have got wrong. Some would be worrying about the privileges especially those who are doing  in relative comfort and watching the world burn beforehand. It's one of the seriously pursued endeavours in the civilized societies. But the term civilized is as funny and vulgar as calling ourselves as sapiens especially if we're only good enough at conformity and rationalizing.

Peter Kropotkin in this work explores the possibilities of leading far more fairer societies with abolishing the ways and means by which we have been living. TW: Too radical for conformed/practical people.

Written during the unstable times of Monarchial kingdoms of 1890s, the book discusses what went wrong during the previous social revolutions from French revolution, the 1848 one, 1871 Commune times and others, and what could've made them more sustainable and effective for praxis.

Plus or minus depending on the geekiness, the work is filled with rich statistical examples and case studies where he passionately argues, whether a capitalist or collectivist communist society, the welfare of the people will be at stake as long as there's statism.

Focusing upon small, self-sufficient communes with decentralized industries, permaculture and abolition of all unnecessary works, moving away from the wage systems with emphasis on free agreement for work, association, aids and leisure.

With minor setbacks that I found every now and then going through the work from last 19th Century regarding absolute liberty and specialization of work forces, I admire the ways he questioned the centralized economies causing inequalities over regions geographically which in some way sounded prophetic as well with regard to Globalization. Not to forget the passionate parts where he calls for a more fairer society where gender are to be considered as cultural influences and acknowledge the difference than their roles as natural obligation.

"..a revolution, intoxicated with the beautiful words Liberty, Equality, Solidarity would not be a revolution if it maintained slavery at home. Half humanity subjected to the slavery of the hearth would still have to rebel against the other half."

I could see many social movements like various workers unions and Anarchist bloc unioninizing during Spanish Civil War, and many artistic works of brave imaginations getting inspired by this one. Ursula le Guin's Dispossessed must be name-dropped!

With so much ideological propaganda going on in this ever changing world of cultures and coercion, we'll have to see the damages that we have made on this planet and on ourselves if at all its worth for the names of vanity that we have our ourselves. It doesn't mean the means have to be universalized but exactly the opposite.

"We are anarchists precisely because these privileges revolt us."

The Conquest of Bread (1892) ~ Peter Kropotkin
Profile Image for Yann.
1,409 reviews344 followers
May 3, 2016

Pierre Kropotkine, aristocrate russe ému par l'injustice des sociétés européennes d'il y a un siècle livre dans ce livre ses réflexions quand aux solutions qu'il imagine pour soulager la misère des classes ouvrières, lors de cette première mondialisation économique.

La hauteur de ses aspirations morales, la justesse et la mesure dont il fait preuve le font grandement estimer, quoique l'on puisse éprouver quelques dissentiment sur tel ou tel point de ses analyses. Il ne perd jamais de vue la finalité de l'amélioration de tous les hommes et femmes, sans tomber dans le piège de l'esprit de vengeance, de soif de pouvoir et de destruction. Il prend le temps de répondre aux contradictions les plus communes qui pourraient lui être opposées.

On notera néanmoins des remarques injustes à l'égard d'Adam Smith, lequel s'inquiétait effectivement des risques d'abus relatifs la division du travail, dans "La richesse des nations", contrairement à ce qu'avance imprudemment l'auteur.
Profile Image for Feliks.
496 reviews
November 22, 2019
I like this dissertation quite a bit. Startling to me --Kropotkin, sometimes called, 'the Father of Anarchism' --I was expecting an incoherent, hate-filled screed. Well, there is an occasional exclamation mark (!) when he hones one of his arguments to a particularly fine point. But otherwise this is a well-tempered and calmly-considered treatise on the great, good, commonsense found in socialism. Kropotkin says pretty much the same things I say in advance of socialism when challenged by libertarians and other 'self-made' men. I'm pleased to learn I've unconsciously been echoing some of his best points.

At the heart of Kropotkin is merely this: an eagerness for fairness. It's simple, eloquent, and compelling. If --in the circumstance that some or many men are starving to death for the lack of bread --what businessman has any 'right' to grow rich from this? Who imagines they have the foremost privilege to maintain their wealthy lifestyle, when others are in dire extremity? Just as a metaphor, mind you --what financial baron can say they 'own' all the bakeries and all the ovens? No one has the right to force other men to starve.

But Kropotkin doesn't advocate coercion or force. This writer reminds us that socialism differs from an authoritative, communist State seizing all our goods for the public weal. For fully half the book, Kropotkin reminds us of nothing else save mere facts. Remember: communal living was the way of all of man's most far-flung societies up until the late 170os; harmoniously-run communities were the way-of-the-world for much longer extant than the towering, egocentric money-making systems that yoke our necks today.

Comparatively speaking, the Industrial Revolution & the rise of 'great fortunes' have only recently replaced the more natural order. Moreover: communal living still demonstrates a thriving success anywhere it is left alone by capitalists to operate on its own and without hindrance. So there's nothing to fear in socialist communities: the core impetus is making sure we ALL have food and shelter.

You would call this 'anarchy'? Kropotkin, a frenzied, jabbering bomb-hurler? I'm sure every mendacious, wealth-hoarding, backstabbing, throat-cutting speculator out there would love to hear this confirmed; but the truth is Kropotkin is deadly to their slimy aims without ever once raising his voice. He speaks of revolution, yes --but the real revolution is the one we need to take place in our hearts, not outside in our streets. And he has it to offer. Just stop the selfishness and the luxuries. Your neighbor is not your enemy. We sink or we swim together. We get nowhere by preying on each other. That's all he's asserting!
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
702 reviews113 followers
August 1, 2022
“We, the utopian dreamers, we shall have to consider the question of daily bread. We have the temerity to declare that all have a right to bread, that there is bread enough for all, and that this watchword of Bread for All the Revolution will triumph.”

In The Conquest Of Bread Kropotkin was writing practical theory of how to make the Anarchist Revolution successful, desirable, and permanent. However, a great portion of his practical theory was centered on specific 19th century conditions, situations, and technologies that are no longer relevant in our modern world. This renders much of his clear-eyed practical theorizing no longer particularly useful for would be modern revolutionaries.

The value of this book lies in Kropotkin’s general theory. He analyzed the previous revolutions in France (1789, 1848, and 1871) and the reasons for their ultimate failure. He identified the reason for those failures in the fact that they were unable to feed the people, but instead concentrated on taking over the forms and honors of existing government which were both inadequate to and unworthy of a people’s revolution. Thus, his emphasis on practical methods of providing for basic needs and his title, The Conquest of Bread.

Kropotkin also clearly explained how Collectivist Communism differed from his own Communist Anarchism. He explained the pitfalls of Collectivist (or Statist) Communism almost as if he could see the future, and contrasted it against what he believed was the superior theory of Anarchism.

My favorite chapter was the one he devoted to luxury. He went into detail of how important it is to a good life to have more than the basic necessities for survival, to indulge our attraction to the arts and our intellectual curiosity, how any successful revolution must take this into account, and then proceeded to explain how it could be managed.

The Conquest of Bread is an important historical document. Anarchism of the 19th and early 20th centuries was so vilified, so demonized, that more than one hundred years later most people still picture a cartoon of a nefarious bomb thrower when they hear the word. Kropotkin’s clear, thoughtful prose belies that unjust caricature by explaining not just the theory, but the humane heart of Communist Anarchism.

Profile Image for Vicente.
42 reviews9 followers
August 17, 2023
Un libro sobre la implantación de una anarquía comunista en la era del capitalismo neoliberal parece más que superado y fuera de lugar. Es cierto que muchos de sus planteamientos son simplemente irrealizables, suenan ingenuos, confía demasiado en la colaboración humana y en sus buenos sentimientos (los ricos y poderosos también son humanos).
Sin embargo, a pesar de todo lo que hemos aprendido de la historia en el periodo posterior a la escritura de este libro, duele leerlo, especialmente porque vemos que la gran mayoría de las críticas que realiza son tremendamente vigentes. ¿Cómo puede ser que un libro escrito hace cien años analice los mismos problemas sociales que tenemos hoy con semejante lucidez? Quizá, porque a pesar de todas las mejoras alcanzadas, en gran parte se siguen comentando los mismos errores e injusticias. Duele leerlo porque te das cuenta de cómo funciona el capital, de cómo se maneja al trabajador, cómo se enriquecen unos pocos a costa de unos muchos, acrecentando sin límite la brecha entre ricos y pobres.
Puede que hayan cambiado muchas circunstancias, pero el hombre no ha cambiado, su sed de acumulación y ambición material sigue siendo la misma, y mientras no se controle y limite nuestra naturaleza humana, se seguirán cometiendo las mismas injusticias. Somos seres programados para sobrevivir en un entorno muy hostil, pero ya no vivimos en ese entorno. Mientras no se proteja a la economía de nuestros instintos de supervivencia, se mantendrán los mismos errores, y alguna gente acumulará lo que no necesita a costa de las necesidades de muchas otras personas. Duele leer este libro porque ves que no se ha avanzado en ese sentido y aunque su propuesta no es viable (los cambios radicales nunca dieron buenos resultados), la inercia actual tampoco nos lleva a buen puerto.
Seguro que hay muchos libros que exponen la situación económica actual mucho mejor que éste, pero es revelador ver cómo un libro de otra época analiza con tanto detalle nuestra realidad social. No creo que pueda recomendar su lectura a un público general, pero reconozco que tiene un gran valor.
Profile Image for Nick Klagge.
731 reviews56 followers
March 7, 2011
Reading this book was a strange experience for me. From what I had read about Kropotkin before picking up the book, I had expected I'd really like it--critique of capitalism, Communism without the state, warm and fuzzy anarchism. But while I thought Kropotkin made a number of incisive points, I came away from CoB feeling wholly unconvinced. Part of it may be the 100+ year time gap: Kropotkin writes for a society that is largely organized around agriculture and industrial manufacturing, and while of course those things are of course still important today, it just seems clear that he's writing about a very different time and place.

My first issue with Kropotkin's proposals centers around violence. The bedrock of his anarchist program is expropriation--the invalidation of the institution of private property and the seizing of all property by the people. He begins by making a pretty cogent argument for why property is theft, centering around the idea that the vast quantity and variety of human efforts going into any one item are such as to make it absurd for a single person to pretend to "rightful ownership" thereof. Therefore, he argues, it is only right that the people should expropriate property from its present claimants. Yet he is extremely vague about the nature of such expropriation, and in particular doesn't give attention to the fact that it would likely require a great deal of violence and killing (no doubt bringing about the demise of many workers as well as capitalists). I think this is an extremely important point for any expropriationist to take seriously. After all, it would be a completely plausible position to say that all property is theft, and yet that violence to expropriate it is not justified. In this sense Kropotkin refuses to count the cost, or to consider the implications of the fact that his ideal society would be born in blood.

My second issue with CoB is that I think Kropotkin provides a very weak moral foundation for his society. Even if we agree with him that capitalism and property are unjust institutions, what then? The alternative vision that he provides is still very much painted from the perspective of homo economicus--a society that minimizes work (which is disutility, natch) and studies "the needs of humanity, and the economic means to satisfy them." Here I turn to a passage from Alasdair MacIntyre on Aristotle, quoted by Stanley Hauerwas (all my favorite dudes!) in this excellent 2010 interview with Wunderkammer magazine (http://wunderkammermag.com/arts-and-c...

“…from an Aristotelian standpoint, it can never be right to weigh preferences in such a way that everybody counts for one and nobody for more than one. And it would be a fundamental mistake to try to maximize the satisfaction of the preferences of all the members of a given society.”

Hauerwas glosses MacIntyre as referring to the practice of weighing vicious and virtuous desires equally. As Hauerwas goes on to say, the position that MacIntyre is critiquing (which implicitly advantages pleonexia) stands at the heart of modern economic rationality--but I would argue that it also stands at the heart of Kropotkin's anarchist program. It's true that the needs that Kropotkin emphasizes--food, clothing, shelter--are hardly open to reasonable critique, but nonetheless I think that any system that focuses wholly on the fulfillment of "needs" without giving attention to the construction of those needs is dangerously incomplete. (cf. "parasitic liberalism" thesis)

I have not given up on anarchism as a subject of intellectual inquiry and am looking forward to reading Tolstoy's "The Kingdom of God is Within You" and Ellul's "Anarchy and Christianity."
Profile Image for Peter Neiger.
92 reviews7 followers
February 5, 2017
Kropotkin's "The Conquest of Bread" is rightfully a classic of anarchist literature. This book was the first of the "classic" anarchists that I've actually read and I found it rather illuminating. In my social circle, the words "communist" and "socialist" are so toxic that few people actually read communist authors to understand what they are actually advocating, which is unfortunate. In some ways, most people are socialist to some degree, it is just a matter of how far away from the individual you extend your tribe. Some people only extend it to their immediate family, while others want to extend it to all humanity (and beyond).

If people read more of these classics they might realize that we have more in common than we realize and that there is a lot of disagreement within communist circles. Kropotkin identified as a communist but had serious problems with Marx and other "state" communists. Kropotkin's view of government is very similar to that of modern libertarians and others who are skeptical of concentrated power.

Despite dying when Abraham Maslow was only a teenager, Kropotkin seems to have tapped into Maslow's hierarchy of needs. His focus on providing society with bread, clothing, and shelter in order to maximize human happiness and increase productivity echoes in Maslow's works, and bears a striking resemblance to conversations in modern times around a Basic Income Guarantee. In fact, much of the conversation and discussions in this book are still being had today and it seems the more things change, the more things remain the same. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Despite amazing technological advances in the last 150 years, the same fight is being had and many people are still living impoverished. Even if you don't agree with Kropotkin's economic viewpoints (and I certainly don't on several occasions) I can understand the frustration with the current system and how his utopian view could inspire people. And, considering he views the state as the primary problem, I probably have more in common with him than not.

My book is littered with underlined passages and writing in the margin. I wish I would have taken more notes while reading it, because I feel there is a lot more to be said.
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,024 reviews727 followers
October 6, 2021
I'd read bits and pieces of Kropotkin for years, and was hoping for a full-scale analysis of his anarchist program. So I read the fuckin' bread book. Well...

OK, I'll say one good thing first. His refutations of Malthusianism are prescient and are the sort of line of thought that should be taken into consideration today in an era where my fellow leftists -- and me myself in my darker hours -- obsess over issues of population instead of equitable distribution.

But the rest is just the worst sort of hippy-dippy bullshit, along the lines of "yeah man, we'll all just come together and live, you know?" When hearing Kropotkin's descriptions of a future anarchist society, all I could think is that why yes, I would also like things to be good rather than bad. But he seems to see this as an inevitability and once revolution just kinda happens, we all get ice cream. The whole thing is, frankly, almost a parody of what leftists believe.
Profile Image for Mina.
206 reviews76 followers
February 17, 2023
مجموعه مقالاتی‌ست در توضیح کمونیسم آنارشیستی؛ که درواقع آنارشیسم کروپتکین در داعیهٔ علمی بودن، با مارکسیسم همداستان است. هر دو ایدئولوژی از اعتماد عصر روشنگری ریشه می‌گرفتند. «علم» مارکس از متافیزیک هگلی و فلسفه‌ی آلمانی ریشه می‌گرفت، درحالیکه کروپتکین پایه‌های خود رو در علوم‌زیستی و فیزیکی جست‌وجو می‌کرد. در قلب «آنارشیسم علمی کروپتکین»، تفسیر او از نظریه‌ی تکامل داروین قرار داشت و «انسان‌گرایی» یکی از مؤلفه‌های اصلی در بنیان آنارشیسم کروپتکین بود.
Profile Image for Víctor .
242 reviews4 followers
November 19, 2019
"El bienestar para todos no es un sueño. Es posible, realizable..."

Utopía anarquista muy interesante.

Kropotkin ha conseguido que sus críticas al sistema feudal y al capitalismo no se me hagan para nada pesadas y me ha tenido reflexionando durante casi todos los capítulos.

Creo que es un clásico muy recomendable por poco que te atraigan estos temas políticos y sociales.
Profile Image for Scriptor Ignotus.
512 reviews181 followers
August 25, 2018
Anarchism has always been a question mark for me. For much of my life I dismissed it as a political philosophy for preteens—who—can’t—go—to—the—Ariana Grande—concert—because—they’re grounded—which—is—totally—unfair—because—I—didn’t—even—do—anything—wrong—and—Lindsey’s—mom—offered—to—chaperone—and—it—might—be—the—only—concert—she—ever—does—here—and—I’ll—be—a—total—outcast—at—school—because—I’ll—be—the—only—one—who—didn’t—go—PLEASE—PLEASE—PLEASE—let—me—go—I’ll—run—away—with—Duncan—if—you—don’t—he—never—gets—grounded—you—never—let—me—do—anything—fun—GOD—MOM—YOU’RE—RUINING—MY—LIFE /doorslam.

[Inhales slowly. Holds breath. Exhales slowly.]

Sorry, I don’t know what happened there.

But really, to construct an ideology around the categorical rejection of all authority has always struck me as quaintly sophomoric. Freedom from authority is typically the most urgent priority only of the very young. The young are concerned with establishing their personal autonomy and getting out from under the thumb of parents and teachers. They think of authority only as tyranny and ignore the myriad ways in which authority is exercised benevolently at every level of society. Then they get older, acquire some authority of their own, and realize that wielding power can often be far scarier than being subject to it, because personal authority is usually correlated with personal accountability in equal proportion. With a more rounded and less dualistic understanding of power, our former radical may even come to miss the days when his personal wellbeing was someone else’s responsibility.

Yet my misgivings are tempered by the fact that a number of highly intelligent people, people who I genuinely admire, have identified on some level with anarchist thought. The most recent of these is David Bentley Hart, an Orthodox Christian theologian and translator of the New Testament, whose translation I recently read. In an interview with a libertarian commentator, Hart mentioned that at his most “whimsical” he found Kropotkin’s writings “illuminating” when considering how society might be reconstituted along the lines of the earliest Christian collectives. So I decided to read Kropotkin to see if I could find out what I’m missing.

There are two aspects of Kropotkin’s thought which recommend him above the likes of Bakunin and Colin Ward. Firstly, he recognizes that a society owes its existence to the past; that its members are part of a vast temporal community which includes both the dead and those yet to be born, and thus have responsibilities to both.

There’s an interesting connection here between Kropotkinist anarchism and, of all things, Burkean conservatism. Burke celebrated the common law tradition of England, wherein governing legal principles were derived from caselaw, which is itself merely an amalgamation of practical resolutions of specific ground-level disputes. Governmental prerogatives were adapted to the real experiences of ordinary people, whereas the French revolutionaries were attempting to do the opposite; to impose an abstract social geometry from the top down and force the people to conform to it.

Kropotkin applies this mode of thought to economic relations as well as to legal and political ones. Just as principles of government should be derived from the common people who give it legitimacy, so commercial enterprises should be accountable to the workers who produce their productive output and generate their profits. It makes no more sense for the executives of a corporation to retain most of its profits and exercise total control over its internal affairs than it does for leaders of government to pocket tax revenue and govern according to their private whims rather than to the popular consensus of those who put them in power. By this mode of analysis, the masters of the corporate world play the role of the Jacobin and the Bolshevik: they impose an arbitrary, ideologically-conceived prescription of life on organic society. Jeff Bezos is the Lenin of our time; you can tell because they’re both bald.

Secondly, Kropotkin recognizes that certain “luxuries”—personal indulgences of the artistic, spiritual, or purely sensory variety—are necessary for human flourishing. When Kropotkin demands wellbeing for all, he doesn’t simply mean, as some collectivists do, that everyone should get their daily ration of bread and water and have a roof over their heads to keep the rain out. He believes that everyone should have the means to pursue those particular passions which extend beyond the realm of mere subsistence, and which every individual develops and refines once the conditions for their survival are met. Rather than scorning the artistic dalliances of the upper class—the ballroom dances, the cultivation of courtly etiquette, the concerts, the art exhibitions, and so on—Kropotkin sees them as ideals for human flourishing and calls for their democratization.

Kropotkin describes his anarchism as an attempt to synthesize the ideals of democratic socialism and classical liberalism; a mighty fine project, and one which we would be well-served to take up again in the twenty-first century. But when it comes to prescriptive matters, when Kropotkin describes the type of society he actually wants and how to get there, he runs into the same conceptual problems that have ensnared other anarchist thinkers I’ve read.

Fundamentally, anarchists have failed to imagine a way of life beyond the state because they haven’t produced a coherent account of what the state is, how it came to be, and the “pre-state” conditions that made its creation desirable. They haven’t considered that the modern nation-state, with its bureaucracies, borders, currency regulations, and universal laws under centralized government, was a radical and extremely hard-won social innovation; the only social apparatus so far in history which has had some success in manifesting universal human equality (in the strictly legal sense) and individual sovereignty, as well as reducing violence and imposition within its borders.

From the Renaissance to the twentieth century, massive amounts of blood and treasure were expended—much of it by common people—so that the state could be possible. Classical liberalism, as a governing ideology, has produced the most powerful and ubiquitous states the world has ever seen; their influence is far more pervasive than that of the absolute monarchs of premodern times, who used the state only to fund their armies and defend themselves from threats foreign and domestic.

But anarchist thinkers, including Kropotkin, don’t see this. They see in the state only “authority”: mean people telling them what to do. And their lack of appreciation for the state causes their “stateless” societies to have a sort of shadowy statist underside to them. Kropotkin expects that at a single historical moment, in every corner of every society, the people will simply “expropriate” government and industry without any sort of hierarchical organizational structure or vanguard class. There can’t be any half-measures, as these will be undone by the elements of the state that survive the initial expropriative effort; but the global revolution can’t be organized in such a way as to give anyone authority over anyone else; so what you’re left with is a bizarre totalitarianism of non-rule; a divine right kingship of an empty throne.
Profile Image for Anthony Ruta.
147 reviews45 followers
April 3, 2021
A widely influential work, The Conquest of Bread is one of those books which might be more relevant today than it was when it was first written. Kropotkin identifies a series of problems and devices possible solutions like his empasis on technological innovation freer of humankind, how technology will allow for more leisure time and to produce everything for all people, from food to luxury, if only we break down the artificial social structures holding us back.

A truly revolutionary work that point to a possible future that is certainly better than our present, beyond differences of education, gender, race or nation, a firm belief in the innate goodness of humans and an organization of society which is above all fair. What he predicts and claims here is the idea that no one needs to go hungry or shelterless, but they do because of an unfair distribution of food and housing.

Essential read.
Profile Image for Nick.
691 reviews181 followers
July 13, 2016
Kropotkin is a great writer. Also, there is way too much content in this, and it is way too late for me to review it in any detail. Just some things off the top of my head. This is a much better book for understanding Kropotkin's anarcho-communism than Mutual Aid, is, although I think Mutual Aid is a better book overall. He espouses some proto-knowledge problem stuff and refutes the Marxist labor theory of value. He makes a big point in the early chapters of stressing that humanity is extremely wealthy, its just that the wealth is highly concentrated. He also makes a major point of noting that the bulk of our wealth comes from positive externalities produced by people living in the past.

Sometimes he sounds downright american libertaran-- namely when he is decrying government intervention in the economy on moral and economic efficiency grounds. He is also genuinely decentralist, and voluntarist (although some would dispute this). His economics is awful though. Doesn't like the division of labor or money.

There is also a lot of detail about what the ideal "social revolution" would entail. He doesn't leave this fuzzy like lots of lefty anarchists, but instead pinpoints precisely what sectors of the economy the workers should seize, and what types of institutions are likely to emerge. This is all of course informed by his view that collective property and labor arrangements are the norm, and that private property is an invention of the state (a very justifiable belief in his historical context). However, he reaches all of his communist and collectivist conclusions from a methodologically individualistic basis.

There is so much to talk about with this book. I'll probably need to re-read it (well... read it, as I audiobooked it this time around) to get the full message. It doesn't get 5 stars because the "objections" chapter should have addressed more objections, and the "agriculture" chapter seemed out of place. Each essay can be read on its own though.
Profile Image for Marts  (Thinker).
2,668 reviews
February 28, 2016
Kropotkin highlights his observations of existing economic systems and a decentralisation of such particularly capitalism and elements of feudalism. He shows how such systems though claiming to be ideal actually encouraged continued poverty and resources scarcity. He also mentions that some revolution must occur in order for there to be change...

As stated in his opening, "The human race has travelled a long way, since those remote ages when men fashioned their rude implements of flint and lived on the precarious spoils of hunting, leaving to their children for their only heritage a shelter beneath the rocks, some poor utensils—and Nature, vast, unknown, and terrific, with whom they had to fight for their wretched existence..."

He closes with the following,"Inspired by a new daring—born of the feeling of solidarity—all will march together to the conquest of the high joys of knowledge and artistic creation.

A society thus inspired will fear neither dissensions within nor enemies without. To the coalitions of the past it will oppose a new harmony, the initiative of each and all, the daring which springs from the awakening of a people's genius.

Before such an irresistible force "conspiring kings" will be powerless. Nothing will remain for them but to bow before it, and to harness themselves to the chariot of humanity, rolling towards new horizons opened up by the Social Revolution."

The Conquest of Bread is available from Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23428/...
Profile Image for Lizbeth.
76 reviews
March 5, 2021
Excellent and thought-provoking. Kropotkin details not only why Anarchocommunism is right but how to make it work. He touches on some pretty interesting ideas. For example, can anyone have a fully novel idea that is not based, at least in part, on those that proceeded it? And if so, can they rightly claim ownership of it? Kropotkin thinks not. He sees the beauty, solidarity, and ingenuity in humanity that could make an Anarchocommunist society feasible. He sees the numerous and insidious ways that capitalism leads to exploitation and suffering. On a critical note, he is overall Eurocentric in his examples, and I think this limits him greatly. However, The Conquest of Bread is definitely a great introduction to Anarchocommunist theory and a worthy read.
Profile Image for Nuno R..
Author 7 books60 followers
March 15, 2018
Comrades, whenever someone asks you, "so do you think humans can actually live together and cooperate, peacefully?", you just say "yeah". And you can add that more than 100 years ago social Darwinism was (intellectually) defeated. And that historically we are here today because we did cooperate. We survived millennia because we are a cooperative species. And for the finer details you can advise the read of "The Conquest of Bread" and "Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution".
Profile Image for Ignacio.
459 reviews89 followers
July 3, 2019
La conquista del pan es uno de los textos fundacionales del anarquismo moderno, y uno de los que todavía resultan legibles hoy en día. Para Kropotkin, los procesos económicos de la sociedad moderna (i.e. la de 1892) son tan intrincados, y se asienta sobre desarrollos históricos tan complejos e inextricables, que es imposible establecer con justicia cualquier tipo de propiedad individual. Esos conceptos erróneos sobre la propiedad hacen que siga existiendo la pobreza, aun en épocas en que la humanidad es más rica de lo que nunca fue. La solución de Kropotkin: colectivizarlo todo. Rechaza la idea, que pocos años después defenderá su compatriota Lenin, de un partido de vanguardia, augurando que, una vez llegados al poder, los cabecillas revolucionarios perderán su tiempo discutiendo cuestiones inútiles y se olvidarán del pueblo. Lo que hay que hacer es dejar todo en manos de los trabajadores. Para Kropotkin, “la anarquía conduce al comunismo, y el comunismo conduce a la anarquía”. Su diferencia con el comunismo clásico es que rechaza toda forma de autoritarismo y estima que, en la sociedad futura, “el mutuo acuerdo reemplazará a la ley” desde el vamos – de lo contrario no durará mucho. Gran parte del libro está dedicada a describir el funcionamiento de una hipotética sociedad anarquista; algo que, me imagino, sonaba impracticable ya en 1892, y que con mucha más razón lo parece ahora. Se puede argumentar que estos principios nunca se han puesto en práctica, y no sabemos qué tan bien podrían funcionar en la vida real; pero podría contestarse que el solo hecho de que nunca se hayan puesto en práctica ya dice algo sobre ellos.

Veamos, por ejemplo, lo que nos cuenta Kropotkin que le diría esta sociedad ideal a un “inadaptado” o a alguien que se rehusara a trabajar como el resto:

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.

Por más que el autor estuviese lleno de buenas intenciones, la noción de que los conflictos desaparecerán, o podrán borrarse de un plumazo, en la sociedad ideal, no deja de ser una expresión de deseo. Además, el fragmento que cita pone en evidencia una de las mayores contradicciones conceptuales del anarquismo (o, al menos, de este tipo de anarquismo): el apoyo mutuo sigue siendo una ley, aunque no esté escrita, y sus preceptos se impondrían de manera igualmente autoritaria a quienes no estuviesen de acuerdo con ellos. Claro, este es un problema de todos los sistemas políticos; la cuestión es que el resto de los sistemas no se ven en el aprieto de justificarlo.
Profile Image for sadeleuze.
112 reviews11 followers
June 2, 2023
The conquest of bread is a very enjoyable read, there's something beautiful in the writing, in the choice of language itself, it's written with passion and optimism.

Kropotokin describes what an anarchist society might look like. It's full of interesting ideas, although some parts are a little dated, since it was written in 1892. He gives a lot of figures, making references to other works of his time, particularly related to agriculture. The book is also set in the context of the industrial revolution.

It is more of a detailed description, although the basic criticisms of capitalism and the syate are also mentioned: pooling of goods, expropriations, reorganization of society and labor, abolition of the state, private property...

A cool book for its fluid writing, with critiques of capitalism and the state set out quite simply, taking historical examples of failure and proposing solutions, with the help of numerous statistics from the time.
Profile Image for Lucas.
24 reviews28 followers
March 4, 2014
Possibly the most vital text on Anarchist-Coummunism, The Conquest of Bread not only critics the current capitalist system it also gives a fair critic of traditional Marxist conceptions. Kropotkin explains his ideas and how they could look in society and also responds to criticisms of Anarchist-Communism. Although some of the data is now outdated the validity of his claims must still be seriously considered in the modern world.
Profile Image for Kristen Pesta.
287 reviews11 followers
April 16, 2022
Very accessible and detailed, would highly recommend to anyone dabbling in leftist/communist literature.
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