Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread.

The Conquest of Bread

This is the first short introduction of famous anarchist and anarchism in general i post. It just happens that I started listening to this specific book today so that’s why it will be the first. My intentions are to write about anarchism regularly as a way for me to categorize it, something I would do any way, collecting links, names, books etc.

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It’s like a shared adventure into the world of anarchism, a world that is misunderstood by most but it might surprise you how mush we have to thank those pioneers for the things we take for granted now. My starting premise is that anarchistic ideas where often so explosive that it changed the trajectory of the society in witch it exploded, afterward the speed of change dropped fast and conservative forces took control but they where not able to turn back the clock on everything. It is fascinating to read 150 year old books with ideas that even today seem to be to progressive for most people like woman rights, prison reform and reining in speculative forces. We might have cars, computers and cellphones now but we are all still as dumb ass the day we walked out of that cave.

I have here a short introduction by wikipedia (I cannot do it better) and a couple of back covers for you to read. Also a short excerpt from this book, you can find it on archive.org and on many other places. You can read all these old books for free online or buy them cheap online or in your locale used-bookstore if you want a secondhand physical copy.

The Conquest of BreadThe Conquest of Bread is is an 1892 book by the Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin. Originally written in French, it first appeared as a series of articles in the anarchist journal Le Révolté. It was first published in Paris with a preface by Élisée Reclus, who also suggested the title. Between 1892 and 1894, it was serialized in part in the London journal Freedom, of which Kropotkin was a co-founder. In the work, Kropotkin points out what he considers to be the defects of the economic systems of feudalism and capitalism and why he believes they thrive on and maintain poverty and scarcity. He goes on to propose a more decentralized economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation, asserting that the tendencies for this kind of organization already exist, both in evolution and in human society. Read more at Wikipedia

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Excerpt:

CHAPTER I

OUR RICHES

I

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.

During the long succession of agitated ages which have elapsed since, mankind has nevertheless amassed untold treasures. It has cleared the land, dried the marshes, hewn down forests, made roads, pierced mountains; it has been building, inventing, observing, reasoning; it has created a complex machinery, wrested her secrets from Nature, and finally it pressed steam and electricity into its service. And the result is, that now the child of the civilized man finds at its birth, ready for its use, an immense capital accumulated by those who have gone before him. And this capital enables man to acquire, merely by his own labour combined with the labour of others, riches surpassing the dreams of the fairy tales of the Thousand and One Nights. The soil is cleared to a great extent, fit for the reception of the best seeds, ready to give a rich return for the skill and labour spent upon it–a return more than sufficient for all the wants of humanity. The methods of rational cultivation are known.

On the wide prairies of America each hundred men, with the aid of powerful machinery, can produce in a few months enough wheat to maintain ten thousand people for a whole year. And where man wishes to double his produce, to treble it, to multiply it a hundred-fold, he _makes_ the soil, gives to each plant the requisite care, and thus obtains enormous returns. While the hunter of old had to scour fifty or sixty square miles to find food for his family, the civilized man supports his household, with far less pains, and far more certainty, on a thousandth part of that space. Climate is no longer an obstacle. When the sun fails, man replaces it by artificial heat; and we see the coming of a time when artificial light also will be used to stimulate vegetation. Meanwhile, by the use of glass and hot water pipes, man renders a given space ten and fifty times more productive than it was in its natural state.

The prodigies accomplished in industry are still more striking. With the co-operation of those intelligent beings, modern machines—themselves the fruit of three or four generations of inventors, mostly unknown—a hundred men manufacture now the stuff to provide ten thousand persons with clothing for two years. In well-managed coal mines the labour of a hundred miners furnishes each year enough fuel to warm ten thousand families under an inclement sky. And we have lately witnessed the spectacle of wonderful cities springing up in a few months for international exhibitions, without interrupting in the slightest degree the regular work of the nations. And if in manufactures as in agriculture, and as indeed through our whole social system, the labour, the discoveries, and the inventions of our ancestors profit chiefly the few, it is none the less certain that mankind in general, aided by the creatures of steel and iron which it already possesses, could already procure an existence of wealth and ease for every one of its members. Truly, we are rich–far richer than we think; rich in what we already possess, richer still in the possibilities of production of our actual mechanical outfit; richest of all in what we might win from our soil, from our manufactures, from our science, from our technical knowledge, were they but applied to bringing about the well-being of all.

Read the rest here at archive.org or listen  to it here

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2 thoughts on “Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread.

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  1. Hoi Chris,
    Je stuk over anarchisme zo goed mogelijk gelezen, Engels is altijd een beetje moeilijk voor mij.
    Anarchisme is net als communisme een mooi idee. Maar in mijn jongere jaren ben ik ook wel eens met anarchistische/communistische groepen in aanraking geweest. Ooit was er een groep in Pieterburen die hadden daar een commune opgericht. Met een paar andere mensen zijn we daar eens geweest. Er was toch een leider, alhoewel hij dat zelf zou ontkennen. Aardige jongen, groot charisma. Iedereen luisterde naar hem. Zo heb ik nog wel meer mensen leren kennen maar ik kwam er toch achter dat zonder iemand die boven een groep staat en uiteindelijk de beslissing neemt de groep niet functioneerde. We hebben het bij het vrouwentrefpunt ook gezien alles samen doen is moeilijk. Veel overleggen omdat we het allemaal met elkaar eens moeten zijn werkt enorm vertragend. En uiteindelijk is er ruzie en geen beslissing. Daarom is het idee goed maar de uitvoering laat te wensen over.
    Wel is het goed om er over te lezen en over na te denken. Het zou mooi zijn als het zou kunnen.
    Ik zal eens kijken of iemand nog weet hoe die groep heette.
    Dikke kus
    Marion

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  2. Ja dat soort van “anarchisme” is vaak bedrieglijk. Ik ben die en die, ik wil een anarchistische commune beginnen, dit zijn de regels, volg mij… Nee, ik denk meer aan een maatschappij zoals die in Star Trek waar mensen werken en waar alles dat belangrijk is voor het leven gewoon aanwezig is voor iedereen, en iedereen zijn of haar rol weet in de maatschappij omdat ze dusdanig zijn opgegroeid dat ze weten wie ze zijn en daar niet over hoeven te twijfelen de rest van hun leven, met alle gevolgen van dien.

    Heel simpel dus…

    Waar denk je dat de schrijver van Star Trek zijn ideeën vandaan heeft, die heeft waarschijnlijk ook boeken gelezen van Kropotkin en andere vergelijkbare denkers die dat soort van maatschappijen voorspiegelden aan de lezers.
    Het zal der ooit wel van komen, maar dat zullen wij nooit mee maken, wij laten zonder blikken of blozen meer dan 80 000 duizend kinderen doodgaan in Jemen, het brood moet nog steeds eerlijker worden verdeeld…

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