The Conquest of Bread is an book by the Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin. . The Conquest of Bread, in PDF, Epub, and Audio Format; The Conquest of Bread entry at the Anarchy Archives · The Conquest of Bread entry at. The Conquest of Bread () by Peter Kropotkin · Sister Projects. sister projects: Wikipedia article, Commons category, Wikidata item. G. P. Putnam's Sons. Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the public and we .
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Preface. One of the current objections to Communism and Socialism altogether, is that the idea is so old, and yet it could never be realized. Schemes of ideal. citizens can provide foodstuffs for anesi.info arethe nec- essary provisions to be obtained if the nation as a whole has. The Conquest of Bread. Mar 21, Peter Kropotkin's "The Conquest of Bread", along with his "Fields Factories and Peter Kropotkin- The Conquest of anesi.info, MB.
Ppi If it's your first time on the site, or you're looking for something specific, it can be difficult to know where to start. What is to be done to provide these multitudes with bread? Kropotkin further argues that with the level of production output being so high people should not have to work more than five hours a day and they should be able to reduce that as much as possible, giving them free time to work on innovations that would reduce their labor. Thus, although the population of England has only increased from to by 62 per cent, its production has grown, to say the least, at double that rate — to wit, by per cent. There are not two ways of becoming a millionaire. Chapter 7:
Topics librivox , audiobooks , politics , philosophy , economics , agriculture. Read in English by AudibleAnarchist In this work, Kropotkin points out what he considers to be the defects of the economic systems of feudalism and capitalism, and how he believes they thrive on and maintain poverty and scarcity, as symbol for richness and in spite of being in a time of abundance thanks to technology, while promoting privilege.
He goes on to propose a more decentralised economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation, asserting that the tendencies for this kind of organisation already exist, both in evolution and in human society.
He also talks about details of revolution and expropriation in order not to end in a reactionary way. For more free audio books or to become a volunteer reader, visit LibriVox. M4B Audiobook MB. Ppi We have all been brought up from our childhood to regard the State as a sort of Providence; all our education, the Roman history we learned at school, the Byzantine code which we studied later under the name of Roman law, and the various sciences taught at the universities, accustom us to believe in Government and in the virtues of the State providential.
From the cradle to the grave all our actions are guided by this principle. Open any book on sociology or jurisprudence, and you will find there the Government, its organization, its acts, filling so large a place that we come to believe that there is nothing outside the Government and the world of statesmen.
The press teaches us the same in every conceivable way. Whole columns are devoted to parliamentary debates and to political intrigues. And when you read these newspapers, you 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.
And yet as soon as we pass from printed matter; to life itself, as soon as we throw a glance at society, we are struck by the infinitesimal part played by the Government. Balzac already remarked how millions of peasants spend the whole of their lives without knowing anything about the State, save the heavy taxes they are compelled to pay.
Every day millions of transactions are made without Government intervention, and the greatest of them — those of commerce and of the Exchange — are carried on in such a way that the Government could not be appealed to if one of the contracting parties had the intention of not fulfilling his agreement.
Should you speak to a man who understands commerce he will tell you that the everyday business transacted by merchants would be absolutely impossible were it not based on mutual confidence. The habit of keeping his word, the desire not to lose his credit, amply suffice to maintain this relative honesty.
The man who does not feel the slightest remorse when poisoning his customers with noxious drugs covered with pompous labels thinks he is in honour bound to keep his engagements. Another striking fact, which especially characterizes our generation, speaks still more in favour of our ideas. It is the continual extension of the field of enterprise due to private initiative, and the prodigious development of free groups of all kinds.
We shall discuss this more at length in the chapter devoted to Free Agreement. Suffice it to mention that the facts are so numerous and so customary that they are the essence of the second half of the nineteenth century, even though political and socialist writers ignore them, always preferring to talk to us about the functions of Government. These organizations, free and infinitely varied, are so natural an outcome of our civilization; they expand so rapidly and group themselves with so much ease; they are so necessary a result of the continual growth of the needs of civilized man; and lastly, they so advantageously replace governmental interference that we must recognize in them a factor of growing importance in the life of societies.
If they do not yet spread over the whole of the manifestations of life, it is that they find an insurmountable obstacle in the poverty of the worker, in the casts of present society, in the private appropriation of capital, and in the State. The history of the last fifty years furnishes a living proof that Representative Government is impotent to discharge the functions we have sought to assign to it.
In days to come the nineteenth century will be quoted as having witnessed the failure of parliamentarianism. But this impotence is becoming evident to all; the faults of parliamentarianism, and the inherent vices of the representative principle, are self-evident, and the few thinkers who have made a critical study of them J.
Mill and Leverdays did but give literary form to the popular dissatisfaction. We are beginning to see that government by majorities means abandoning all the affairs of the country to the tide-waiters who make up the majorities in the House and in election committees; to those, in a word, who have no opinion of their own. But mankind is seeking and already finding new issues. The International Postal Union, the railway unions, and the learned societies give us examples of solutions based on free agreement in place and stead of law.
To-day, when groups scattered far and wide wish to organize themselves for some object or other, they no longer elect an international parliament of Jacks-of-all-trades. No, where it is not possible to meet directly or come to an agreement by correspondence, delegates versed in the question at issue are sent to treat, with the instructions: Such is the method of the great industrial companies, the learned societies, and the associations of every description, which already cover Europe and the United States.
And such should be the method of an emancipated society. While bringing about expropriation, society cannot continue to organize itself on the principle of parliamentary representation. A society founded on serfdom is in keeping with absolute monarchy; a society based on the wage system and the exploitation of the masses by the capitalists finds its political expression in parliamentarianism.
But a free society, regaining possession of the common inheritance, must seek, in free groups and free federations of groups, a new organization, in harmony with the new economic phase of history.
Every economic phase has a political phase corresponding to it, and it would be impossible to touch property without finding at the same time a new mode of political life. It is told of Rothschild that, seeing his fortune threatened by the Revolution of , he hit upon the following stratagem: Very well, then, I undertake to render to each his five shillings if he asks me for it.
Having given due publicity to his promise, our millionaire proceeded as usual to stroll quietly through the streets of Frankfort. Three or four passers-by asked for their five shillings, which he disbursed with a sardonic smile.
His stratagem succeeded, and the family of the millionaire is still in possession of its wealth. I know what that means. You take all the overcoats and lay them in a heap, and every one is free to help himself and fight for the best. But such jests are irrelevant as well as flippant. What we want is not a redistribution of overcoats, although it must be said that even in such a case, the shivering folk would see advantage in it. Nor do we want to divide up the wealth of the Rothschilds.
As to the wealth held by the Rothschilds or the Vanderbilts, it will serve us to organize our system of communal production.
The day when the labourer may till the ground without paying away half of what he produces, the day when the machines necessary to prepare the soil for rich harvests are at the free disposal of the cultivators, the day when the worker in the factory produces for the community and not the monopolist — that day will see the workers clothed and fed, and there will be no more Rothschilds or other exploiters.
No one will then have to sell his working power for a wage that only represents a fraction of what he produces.
How are you to prevent a person from amassing millions in China and then settling amongst you? How are you going to prevent such a one from surrounding himself with lackeys and wage-slaves — from exploiting them and enriching himself at their expense?
Well, then, are you going to establish custom-houses on your frontiers to search all who enter your country and confiscate the money they bring with them? But at the root of this argument there is a great error.
Those who propound it have never paused to inquire whence come the fortunes of the rich. A little thought would, however, suffice to show them that these fortunes have their beginnings in the poverty of the poor.
When there are no longer any destitute there will no longer be any rich to exploit them. A feudal baron seizes on a fertile valley. But as long as the fertile valley is empty of folk our baron is not rich.
His land brings him in nothing; he might as well possess a property in the moon. If every peasant-farmer had a piece of land, free from rent and taxes, if he had in addition the tools and the stock necessary for farm labour, who would plough the lands of the baron?
Everyone would look after his own. But there are thousands of destitute persons ruined by wars, or drought, or pestilence. They have neither horse nor plough. Iron was costly in the Middle Ages, and a draughthorse still more so. All these destitute creatures are trying to better their condition. The number of years is represented by so many crosses on the sign-board, and the peasant understands the meaning of these crosses. In nine years he begins to tax them. Five years later he increases the rent.
Then he doubles it.
And it is not only the lord of the manor who preys upon him. A whole host of usurers swoop down upon the villages, multiplying as the wretchedness of the peasants increases. That is how things went in the Middle Ages. And to-day is it not still the same thing?
Would he burden himself with a lease which absorbed a third of the produce? But he has nothing. So he will accept any conditions, if only he can keep body and soul together, while he tills the soil and enriches the landlord. So in the nineteenth century, just as in the Middle Ages, the poverty of the peasant is a source of wealth to the landed proprietor.
The landlord owes his riches to the poverty of the peasants, and the wealth of the capitalist comes from the same source. But then he would have nothing left at the end of ten years. This is very easy in our society, for the good reason that the towns and villages swarm with workers who have not the wherewithal to live for a month, or even a fortnight. So our worthy citizen starts a factory. If all the men and women in the country-side had their daily bread sure and their daily needs already satisfied, who would work for our capitalist at a wage of half a crown a day, while the commodities one produces in a day sell in the market for a crown or more?
Unhappily — we know it all too well — the poor quarters of our towns and the neighbouring villages are full of needy wretches, whose children clamour for bread. So, before the factory is well finished, the workers hasten to offer themselves. So he becomes a personage of importance. He can afford to give dinners to others personages — to the local magnates, the civic, legal, and political dignitaries.
His gold breeds gold; till at last a war, or even a rumour of war, or a speculation on the Stock Exchange, gives him his great opportunity.
In Europe, nine-tenths of the fortunes made in our monarchies and republics have the same origin. There are not two ways of becoming a millionaire. This is the secret of wealth; find the starving and destitute, pay them half a crown, and make them produce five shillings worth in the day, amass a fortune by these means, and then increase it by some lucky hit, made with the help of the State. Need we go on to speak of small fortunes attributed by the economists to forethought and frugality, when we know that mere saving in itself brings in nothing, so long as the pence saved are not used to exploit the famishing?
Take a shoemaker, for instance. Grant that his work is well paid, that he has plenty of custom, and that by dint of strict frugality he contrives to lay by from eighteen pence to two shillings a day, perhaps two pounds a month.
Grant that our shoemaker is never ill, that he does not half starve himself, in spite of his passion for economy; that he does not marry or that he has no children; that he does not die of consumption; suppose anything and everything you please! Assuredly this is not how great fortunes are made. Then our shoemaker takes an apprentice, the child of some poor wretch, who will think himself lucky if in five years time his son has learned the trade and is able to earn his living.
Meanwhile our shoemaker does not lose by him, and if trade is brisk he soon takes a second, and then a third apprentice. He can then enlarge his business. He will gradually become rich, and no longer have any need to stint himself in the necessaries of life. He will leave a snug little fortune to his son. Commerce seems an exception to this rule. He has exploited nobody. Nevertheless the case is analogous. If our merchant had carried his bales on his back, well and good! In early medieval times that was exactly how foreign trade was conducted, and so no one reached such giddy heights of fortune as in our days.
Very few and very hardly earned were the gold coins which the medieval merchant gained from a long and dangerous voyage. It was less the love of money than the thirst of travel and adventure that inspired his undertakings. Nowadays the method is simpler. A merchant who has some capital need not stir from his desk to become wealthy. He telegraphs to an agent telling him to buy a hundred tons of tea; he freights a ship, and in a few weeks, in three months if it is a sailing ship, the vessel brings him his cargo.
He does not even take the risks of the voyage, for his tea and his vessel are insured, and if he has expended four thousand pounds he will receive more than five thousand; that is to say, if he has not attempted to speculate in some novel commodities, in which case he runs a chance of either doubling his fortune or losing it altogether. Now, how could he find men willing to cross the sea, to travel to China and back, to endure hardship and slavish toil and to risk their lives for a miserable pittance?
Because they are needy and starving. Go to the seaports, visit the cook-shops and taverns on the quays, and look at these men who have come to hire themselves, crowding round the dock-gates, which they besiege from early dawn, hoping to be allowed to work on the vessels.
Look at these sailors, happy to be hired for a long voyage, after weeks and months of waiting. All their lives long they have gone to the sea in ships, and they will sail in others still, until they have perished in the waves. Multiply examples, choose them where you will, consider the origin of all fortunes, large or small, whether arising out of commerce, finance, manufactures, or the land. Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor.
This is why an anarchist society need not fear the advent of a Rothschild who would settle in its midst. If every member of the community knows that after a few hours of productive toil he will have a right to all the pleasures that civilization procures, and to those deeper sources of enjoyment which art and science offer to all who seek them, he will not sell his strength for a starvation wage.
No one will volunteer to work for the enrichment of your Rothschild. His golden guineas will be only so many pieces of metal — useful for various purposes, but incapable of breeding more. In answering the above objection we have at the same time indicated the scope of Expropriation.
Our formula is simple and comprehensive. We do not want to rob any one of his coat, but we wish to give to the workers all those things the lack of which makes them fall an easy prey to the exploiter, and we will do our utmost that none shall lack aught, that not a single man shall be forced to sell the strength of his right arm to obtain a bare subsistence for himself and his babes.
This is what we mean when we talk of Expropriation; this will be our duty during the Revolution, for whose coming we look, not two hundred years hence, but soon, very soon. The ideas of Anarchism in general and of Expropriation in particular find much more sympathy than we are apt to imagine among men of independent character, and those for whom idleness is not the supreme ideal.
Humanity cannot be changed in a day, so do not be in too great a hurry with your schemes of Expropriation and Anarchy, or you will be in danger of achieving no permanent result. Now, what we fear with regard to Expropriation is exactly the contrary.
We are afraid of not going far enough, of carrying out Expropriation on too small a scale to be lasting. We would not have the revolutionary impulse arrested in mid-career, to exhaust itself in half measures, which would content no one, and while producing a tremendous confusion in society, and stopping its customary activities, would have no vital power — would merely spread general discontent and inevitably prepare the way for the triumph of reaction.
There are, in fact, in a modern State established relations which it is practically impossible to modify if one attacks them only in detail. There are wheels within wheels in our economic organization — the machinery is so complex and interdependent that no one part can be modified without disturbing the whole.
This becomes clear as soon as an attempt is made to expropriate anything. Let us suppose that in a certain country a limited form of expropriation is effected. For example, that, as it has been suggested more than once, only the property of the great landlords is socialized, whilst the factories are left untouched; or that, in a certain city, house property is taken over by the Commune, but everything else is left in private ownership; or that, in some manufacturing centre, the factories are communalized, but the land is not interfered with.
The same result would follow in each case — a terrible shattering of the industrial system, without the means of reorganizing it on new lines. Industry and finance would be at a deadlock, yet a return to the first principles of justice would not have been achieved, and society would find itself powerless to construct a harmonious whole.
If agriculture could free itself from great landowners, while industry still remained the bondslave of the capitalist, the merchant, and the banker, nothing would be accomplished. The peasant suffers to-day not only in having to pay rent to the landlord; he is oppressed on all hands by existing conditions. He is exploited by the tradesman, who makes him pay half a crown for a spade which, measured by tile labour spent on it, is not worth more than sixpence.
He is taxed by the State, which cannot do without its formidable hierarchy of officials, and finds it necessary to maintain an expensive army, because the traders of all nations are perpetually fighting for the markets, and any day a little quarrel arising from the exploitation of some part of Asia or Africa may result in war.
Then again the peasant suffers from the depopulation of country places: The artificial protection of industry, the industrial exploitation of foreign countries, the prevalence of stock-jobbing, the difficulty of improving the soil and the machinery of production — all these agencies combine nowadays to work against agriculture, which is burdened not only by rent, but by the whole complex of conditions in a society based on exploitation.
Thus, even if the expropriation of land were accomplished, and every one were free to till the soil and cultivate it to the best advantage, without paying rent, agriculture, even though it should enjoy — which can by no means be taken for granted — a momentary prosperity, would soon fall back into the slough in which it finds itself to-day. The whole thing would have to be begun over again, with increased difficulties. The same holds true of industry. Take the converse case: Abolish the master-manufacturers, but leave the landlord his land, the banker his money, the merchant his Exchange, maintain the swarm of idlers who live on the toil of the workmen, the thousand and one middlemen, the State with its numberless officials, and industry would come to a standstill.
Finding no purchasers in the mass of peasants who would remain poor; not possessing the raw material, and unable to export their produce, partly on account of the stoppage of trade, and still more so because industries spread all over the world, the manufacturers would feel unable to struggle, and thousands of workers would be thrown upon the streets.
These starving crowds would be ready and willing to submit to the first schemer who came to exploit them; they would even consent to return to the old slavery, if only under promise of work. Or, finally, suppose you oust the landowners, and hand over the mills and factories to the worker, without interfering with the swarm of middlemen who drain the product of our manufacturers, and speculate in corn and flour, meat and groceries, in our great centres of commerce.
Then, as soon as exchange is arrested, the great cities are left without bread, and others find no buyers for their articles of luxury, a terrible counter-revolution will take place — a counter-revolution treading upon the slain, sweeping the towns and villages with shot and shell; there would be proscriptions, panic, flight, tend all the terrors of the guillotine, as it was in France in , , and All is interdependent in a civilized society; it is impossible to reform any one thing without altering the whole.
Therefore, on the day we strike at private property, under any one of its forms, territorial or industrial, we shall be obliged to attack them all. The very success of the Revolution will demand it.
Besides, we could not, if we would, confine ourselves to a partial expropriation. The great city would be obliged to put itself in touch with the rural districts, and its influence would inevitably urge the peasants to free themselves from the landowner. It would be necessary to communalize the railways, that the citizens might get food and work, and lastly, to prevent the waste of supplies, and to guard against the trust of corn-speculators, like those to whom the Commune of fell a prey, it would have to place in the hands of the City the work of stocking its warehouses with commodities, and apportioning the produce.
Nevertheless, some Socialists still seek to establish a distinction. But articles of consumption — food, clothes, and dwellings — should remain private property. Popular common sense has got the better of this subtle distinction. We are not savages who can live in the woods, without other shelter than the branches. The civilized man needs a roof, a room, a hearth, and a bed. It is true that the bed, the room, and the house is a home of idleness for the non-producer.
But for the worker, a room, properly heated and lighted, is as much an instrument of production as the tool or the machine. It is the place where the nerves and sinews gather strength for the work of the morrow.
The rest of the workman is the daily repairing of the machine. The same argument applies even more obviously to food.
The so-called economists of whom we speak would hardly deny that the coal burnt in a machine is as necessary to production as the raw material itself.
How then can food, without which the human machine could do no work, be excluded from the list of things indispensable to the producer? Can this be a relic of religious metaphysics? The same with clothing. If the economists who draw this distinction between articles of production and of consumption dressed themselves in the fashion of New Guinea, we could understand their objection.
But men who could not write a word without a shirt on their back are not in a position to draw such a hard and fast line between their shirt and their pen. And though the dainty gowns of their dames must certainly rank as objects of luxury, there is nevertheless a certain quantity of linen, cotton, and woollen stuff which is a necessity of life to the producer.
Whether we like it or not, this is what the people mean by a revolution. As soon as they have made a clean sweep of the Government, they will seek first of all to ensure to themselves decent dwellings and sufficient food and clothes — free of capitalist rent. And the people will be right. The methods of the people will be much more in accordance with science than those of the economists who draw so many distinctions between instruments of production and articles of consumption.
If the coming Revolution is to be a Social Revolution it will be distinguished from all former uprisings not only by its aim, but also by its methods. To attain a new end, new means are required. The three great popular movements which we have seen in France during the last hundred years differ from each other in many ways, but they have one common feature. Then, after having borne the brunt of the battle, they sank again into obscurity.
A Government, composed of men more or less honest, was formed and undertook to organize — the Republic in , Labour in , and the Free Commune in Imbued with Jacobin ideas, this Government occupied itself first of all with political questions, such as the reorganization of the machinery of government, the purifying of the administration, the separation of Church and State, civic liberty, and such matters.
But even in these clubs, whether the leaders belonged to the middle or to the working classes, it was always middle-class ideas which prevailed. They discussed various political questions at great length, but forgot to discuss the question of bread. Great ideas sprang up at such times, ideas that have moved the world; words were spoken which still stir our hearts, at the interval of a century.
But the people were starving in the slums. From the very commencement of the Revolution industry inevitably came to a stop — the circulation of produce was checked, and capital concealed itself. The master — the employer — had nothing to fear at such times, he battened on his dividends, if indeed he did not speculate on the wretchedness around; but the wage-earner was reduced to live from hand to mouth.
Want knocked at the door. The Commune indeed concerned itself with the question of bread, and made heroic efforts to feed Paris. The town councils made great efforts to procure corn; the bakers who hoarded flour were hanged — and still the people lacked bread.
Then they turned on the royalist conspirators and laid the blame at their door. They guillotined a dozen or fifteen a day — servants and duchesses alike, especially servants, for the duchesses had gone to Coblentz. But if they had guillotined a hundred dukes and viscounts every day, it would have been equally hopeless.
The want only grew. For the wage-earner can not live without his wage, and the wage was not forthcoming. What difference could a thousand corpses more or less make to him?
Then the people began to grow weary. And little by little the rich took courage, emerged from their hiding-places, and flaunted their luxury in the face of the starving multitude. They dressed up like scented fops and said to the workers: What have you gained by rebellion? Sick at heart, his patience at an end, the revolutionary had at last to admit to himself that the cause was lost once more.
He retreated into his hovel and awaited the worst. Then reaction proudly asserted itself, and accomplished a politic stroke. The Revolution dead, nothing remained but to trample its corpse under foot. The White Terror began. Blood flowed like water, the guillotine was never idle, the prisons were crowded, while the pageant of rank and fashion resumed its old course, and went on as merrily as before.
This picture is typical of all our revolutions. In the Commune perished for lack of combatants. It had taken measures for the separation of Church and State, but it neglected, alas, until too late, to take measures for providing the people with bread. At last the Commune saw its mistake, and opened communal kitchens. But it was too late. Its days were already numbered, and the troops of Versailles were on the ramparts.
Let others spend their time in issuing pompous proclamations, in decorating themselves lavishly with official gold lace, and in talking about political liberty!
Be it ours to see, from the first day of the Revolution to the last, in all the provinces fighting for freedom, that there is not a single man who lacks bread, not a single woman compelled to stand with the weariful crowd outside the bake-house-door, that haply a coarse loaf may be thrown to her in charity, not a single child pining for want of food.
The idea of the people will be to provide bread for all. We have the temerity to declare that all have a right to bread, that there is bread enough for all, and that with this watchword of Bread for All the Revolution will triumph. 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.
All the same, we maintain our contention: If it is settled in the interests of the people, the Revolution will be on the right road; for in solving the question of Bread we must accept the principle of equality, which will force itself upon us to the exclusion of every other solution.
It is certain that the coming Revolution — like in that respect to the Revolution of — will burst upon us in the middle of a great industrial crisis.
Things have been seething for half a century now, and can only go from bad to worse. National debts, the insecurity of the morrow, and huge colonial undertakings in every corner of the globe. There are millions of unemployed workers in Europe at this moment.
It will be still worse when Revolution has burst upon us and spread like fire laid to a train of gunpowder. The number of the out-of-works will be doubled as soon as barricades are erected in Europe and the United States. What is to be done to provide these multitudes with bread? What need to rack our brains when we have the time-honoured method of the Pharaohs at our disposal? In , when the national workshops were opened on February 27, the unemployed of Paris numbered only ; a fortnight later they had already increased to 49, They would soon have been ,, without counting those who crowded in from the provinces.
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Usage Public Domain Mark 1. Language English. Kropotkin lays out the heart of his anarchist beliefs—beliefs that surged around the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and that have a renewed relevance and poignancy today.
Humane and thoughtful, but also a devastating critique of how modern society is organized with the brutal, narrow few clinging onto their wealth and privileges at the expense of the many. The Conquest of Bread is Peter Kropotkin's most detailed description of the ideal society, embodying anarchist communism, and of the social revolution that was to achieve it.