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The Conquest of Bread The Conquest of Bread by Pyotr Kropotkin
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“The means of production being the collective work of humanity, the product should be the collective property of the race. Individual appropriation is neither just nor serviceable. All belongs to all. All things are for all men, 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.
All things are for all. Here is an immense stock of tools and implements; here are all those iron slaves which we call machines, which saw and plane, spin and weave for us, unmaking and remaking, working up raw matter to produce the marvels of our time. But nobody has the right to seize a single one of these machines and say, "This is mine; if you want to use it you must pay me a tax on each of your products," any more than the feudal lord of medieval times had the right to say to the peasant, "This hill, this meadow belong to me, and you must pay me a tax on every sheaf of corn you reap, on every rick you build."
All is for all! If the man and the woman bear their fair share of work, they have a right to their fair share of all that is produced by all, and that share is enough to secure them well-being. No more of such vague formulas as "The Right to work," or "To each the whole result of his labour." What we proclaim is The Right to Well-Being: Well-Being for All!”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“In our civilized societies we are rich. Why then are the many poor? Why this painful drudgery for the masses? Why, even to the best paid workman, this uncertainty for the morrow, in the midst of all the wealth inherited from the past, and in spite of the powerful means of production, which could ensure comfort to all, in return for a few hours of daily toil?”
Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevich, kniaz, The Conquest of Bread
“It is not difficult, indeed, to see the absurdity of naming a few men and saying to them, "Make laws regulating all our spheres of activity, although not one of you knows anything about them!”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“All is for all! If the man and the woman bear their fair share of work, they have a right to their fair share of all that is produced by all, and that share is enough to secure them well-being. No more of such vague formulas as "The right to work," or "To each the whole result of his labour." What we proclaim is The Right to Well-Being: Well-Being for All!”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Why has woman's work never been of any account? Why in every family are the mother and three or four servants obliged to spend so much time at what pertains to cooking? Because those who want to emancipate mankind have not included woman in their dream of emancipation, and consider it beneath their superior masculine dignity to think "of those kitchen arrangements," which they have put on the shoulders of that drudge—woman.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“It seems to us that there is only one answer to this question: we must recognize, and loudly proclaim, that everyone, whatever his grade in the old society, whether strong or weak, capable or incapable, has, before everything, the right to live, and that society is bound to share among all, without exception, the means of existence it has at its disposal. We must acknowledge this, and proclaim it aloud, and act upon it.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Well-being for all is not a dream.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Every machine has had the same history – a long record of sleepless nights and of poverty, of disillusions and of joys, of partial improvements discovered by several generations of nameless workers, who have added to the original invention these little nothings, without which the most fertile idea would remain fruitless. More than that: every new invention is a synthesis, the resultant of innumerable inventions which have preceded it in the vast field of mechanics and industry.
Science and industry, knowledge and application, discovery and practical realization leading to new discoveries, cunning of brain and of hand, toil of mind and muscle – all work together. Each discovery, each advance, each increase in the sum of human riches, owes its being to the physical and mental travail of the past and the present.
By what right then can anyone whatever appropriate the least morsel of this immense whole and say – This is mine, not yours?”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Whole columns are devoted to parliamentary debates and to political intrigues; while the vast everyday life of a nation appears only in the columns given to economic subjects, or in the pages devoted to reports of police and law cases. And when you read the newspapers, your hardly think of the incalculable number of beings—all humanity, so to say—who grow up and die, who know sorrow, who work and consume, think and create outside the few encumbering personages who have been so magnified that humanity is hidden by their shadows, enlarged by our ignorance.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
tags: media, news
“Letters and science will only take their proper place in the work of human development when, freed from all mercenary bondage, they will be exclusively cultivated by those who love them, and for those who love them.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Somebody has said that dust is matter in the wrong place. The same definition applies to nine-tenths of those called lazy. They are people gone astray in a direction that does not answer to their temperament nor to their capacities. In reading the biography of great men, we are struck with the number of "idlers" among them. They were lazy so long as they had not found the right path; afterwards they became laborious to excess. Darwin, Stephenson, and many others belonged to this category of idlers.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Poverty, we have said elsewhere, was the primary cause of wealth. It was poverty that created the first capitalist; because, before accumulating "surplus value," of which we hear so much, men had to be sufficiently destitute to consent to sell their labour, so as not to die of hunger. It was poverty that made capitalists.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“We hold further that Communism is not only desirable, but that existing societies, founded on Individualism, are inevitably impelled in the direction of Communism. The development of Individualism during the last three centuries is explained by the efforts of the individual to protect himself from the tyranny of Capital and of the State. For a time he imagined, and those who expressed his thought for him declared, that he could free himself entirely from the State and from society. "By means of money," he said, "I can buy all that I need." But the individual was on a wrong tack, and modern history has taught him to recognize that, without the help of all, he can do nothing, although his strong-boxes are full of gold.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“In our civilized societies we are rich. Why then are the many poor? Why this painful drudgery for the masses? Why, even to the best-paid workman, this uncertainty for the morrow, in the midst of all the wealth inherited from the past, and in spite of the powerful means of production, which could ensure comfort to all, in return for a few hours of daily toil?
The socialists have said it and repeated it unwearyingly. Daily they reiterate it, demonstrating it by arguments taken from all the sciences. It is because all that is necessary for production — the land, the mines, the highways, machinery, food, shelter, education, knowledge — all have been seized by the few in the course of that long story of robbery, enforced migration and wars, of ignorance and oppression, which has been the life of the human race before it had learned to subdue the forces of Nature. It is because, taking advantage of alleged rights acquired in the past, these few appropriate today two-thirds of the products of human labour, and then squander them in the most stupid and shameful way. It is because, having reduced the masses to a point at which they have not the means of subsistence for a month, or even for a week in advance, the few can allow the many to work, only on the condition of themselves receiving the lion’s share. It is because these few prevent the remainder of men from producing the things they need, and force them to produce, not the necessaries of life for all, but whatever offers the greatest profits to the monopolists. In this is the substance of all socialism.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“What interest, in fact, can this depressing work have for the worker, when he knows that the fate awaiting him from the cradle to the grave will be to live in mediocrity, poverty, and insecurity of the morrow? Therefore, when we see the immense majority of men take up their wretched task every morning, we feel surprised at their perseverance, at their zeal for work, at the habit that enables them, like machines blindly obeying an impetus given, to lead this life of misery without hope for the morrow; without foreseeing ever so vaguely that some day they, or at least their children, will be part of a humanity rich in all the treasures of a bountiful nature, in all the enjoyments of knowledge, scientific and artistic creation, reserved to-day to a few privileged favourites.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Shoddy pay—shoddy work!”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“But capital goes wherever there are men, poor enough to be exploited.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“And if you talk to the workmen themselves, you will soon learn that the rule in such factories is—never to do your best. "Shoddy pay—shoddy work!" this is the advice which the working man receives from his comrades upon entering such a factory.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Very often the idler is but a man to whom it is repugnant to spend all his life making the eighteenth part of a pin, or the hundredth part of a watch, while he feels he has exuberant energy which he would like to expend elsewhere. Often, too, he is a rebel who cannot submit to being fixed all his life to a work-bench in order to procure a thousand pleasures for his employer, while knowing himself to be far the less stupid of the two, and knowing his only fault to be that of having been born in a hovel instead of coming into the world in a castle.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Each of the atoms composing what we call the Wealth of Nations owes its value to the fact that it is a part of the great whole. [. . .] Millions of human beings have laboured to create this civilization on which we pride ourselves to-day. Other millions, scattered through the globe, labour to maintain it. Without them nothing would be left in fifty years but ruins. [. . .] Science and industry, knowledge and application, discovery and practical realization leading to new discoveries, cunning of brain and of hand, toil of mind and muscle — all work together. Each discovery, each advance, each increase in the sum of human riches, owes its being to the physical and mental travail of the past and the present. By what right then can any one whatever appropriate the least morsel of this immense whole and say — This is mine, not yours?”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Built up by the middle classes to hold their own against royalty, sanctioning, and, at the same time strengthening, their sway over the workers, parliamentary rule is pre-eminently a middle-class rule. The upholders of this system have never seriously maintained that a parliament or a municipal council represent a nation or a city. The most intelligent among them know that this is impossible. The middle classes have simply used the parliamentary system to raise a protecting barrier against the pretensions of royalty, without giving the people liberty. But gradually, as the people become conscious of their real interests, and the variety of their interests is growing, the system can no longer work. Therefore democrats of all countries vainly imagine various palliatives. The Referendum is tried and found to be a failure; proportional representation is spoken of, the representation of minorities, and other parliamentary Utopias. In a word, they strive to find what is not to be found, and after each new experiment they are bound to recognize that it was a failure; so that confidence in Representative Government vanishes more and more.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“If a society, a city, or a territory, were to guarantee the necessaries of life to its inhabitants (and we shall see how the conception of the necessaries of life can be so extended as to include luxuries), it would be compelled to take possession of what is absolutely needed for production; that is to say — land, machinery, factories, means of transport, etc. Capital in the hands of private owners would be expropriated and returned to the community. The great harm done by bourgeois society, as we have already mentioned, is not only that capitalists seize a large share of the profits of each industrial and commercial enterprise, thus enabling them to live without working, but that all production has taken a wrong direction, as it is not carried on with a view to securing well-being to all. For this reason we condemn it. Moreover, it is impossible to carry on mercantile production in everybody’s interest. To wish it would be to expect the capitalist to go beyond his province and to fulfill duties that he cannot fulfill without ceasing to be what he is — a private manufacturer seeking his own enrichment. Capitalist organization, based on the personal interest of each individual trader, has given all that could be expected of it to society — it has increased the productive force of work. The capitalist, profiting by the revolution effected in industry by steam, by the sudden development of chemistry and machinery, and by other inventions of our century, has endeavoured in his own interest to increase the yield of work, and in a great measure he has succeeded. But to attribute other duties to him would be unreasonable. For example, to expect that he should use this superior yield of work in the interest of society as a whole, would be to ask philanthropy and charity of him, and a capitalist enterprise cannot be based on charity.”
Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“We cry shame on the feudal baron who forbade the peasant to turn a clod of earth unless he surrendered to his lord a fourth of his crop. We called those barbarous times. But if the forms have changed, the relations have remained the same, and the worker is forced, under the name of free contract, to accept feudal obligations. For, turn where he will, he can find no better conditions. Everything has become private property, and he must accept, or die or hunger.
The result of this state of things is that all our production tends in a wrong direction. Enterprise takes no thought for the needs of the community. Its only aim is to increase the gains of the speculator. Hence the constant fluctuations of trade, the periodical industrial crises, each of which throws scores of thousands of workers on the streets.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“The working people cannot purchase with their wages the wealth which they have produced,”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“If middle-class society is decaying, if we have got into a blind alley from which we cannot emerge without attacking past institutions with torch and hatchet, it is precisely because we have given too much to counting. It is because we have let ourselves be influenced into giving only to receive. It is because we have aimed at turning society into a commercial company based on debit and credit.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“That we are utopians is well known. So utopian are we that we go the length of believing that the revolution can and ought to assure shelter, food and clothes to all – an idea extremely displeasing to middle-class citizens, whatever their party colour, for they are quite alive to the fact that it is not easy to keep the upper hand of a people whose hunger is satisfied.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“But today the united city has ceased to exist; there is no more communion of ideas. The town is a chance agglomeration of people who do not know one another, who have no common interest, save that of enriching themselves at the expense of one another.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Man is not a being whose exclusive purpose in life is eating, drinking, and providing a shelter for himself. As soon as his material wants are satisfied, other needs, which, generally speaking, may be described as of an artistic character, will thrust themselves forward. These needs are of the greatest variety; they vary with each and every individual; and the more society is civilized, the more will individuality be developed, and the more will desires be varied.
Even today we see men and women denying themselves necessaries to acquire mere trifles, to obtain some particular gratification, or some intellectual or material enjoyment. A Christian or an ascetic may disapprove of these desires for luxury; but it is precisely these trifles that break the monotony of existence and make it agreeable. Would life, with all its inevitable drudge and sorrows, be worth living, if, besides daily work, man could never obtain a single pleasure according to his individual tastes?”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“Wage-work is serf-work; it cannot, it must not, produce all that it could produce. And it is high time to disbelieve the legend which represents wagedom as the best incentive to productive work. If industry nowadays brings in a hundred times more than it did in the days of our grandfathers, it is due to the sudden awakening of physical and chemical sciences towards the end of last century; not to the capitalist organization of wagedom, but in spite of that organization.”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
“In virtue of this monstrous system, the son of the worker, on entering life, finds no field which he may till, no machine which he may tend, no mine in which he may dig, without accepting to leave a great part of what he will produce to a master. He must sell his labour for a scant and uncertain wage. His father and his grandfather have toiled to drain this field, to build this mill, to perfect this machine. They gave to the work the full measure of their strength, and what more could they give?”
Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread

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