The Conquest of Bread
by Peter Kropotkin
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The great Revolution of 1793 abounds in examples of this kind, and it is always during such times of spiritual revival—as natural to societies as to individuals—that the spring-tide of enthusiasm sweeps humanity onwards.

We do not wish to exaggerate the part played by such noble passions, nor is it upon them that we would found our ideal of society. But we are not asking too much if we expect their aid in tiding over the first and most difficult moments. We cannot hope that our daily life will be continuously inspired by such exalted enthusiasms, but we may expect their aid at the first, and that is all we need.

It is just to wash the earth clean, to sweep away the shards and refuse, accumulated by centuries of slavery and oppression, that the new anarchist society will have need of this wave of brotherly love. Later on it can exist without appealing to the spirit of self-sacrifice, because it will have eliminated oppression, and thus created a new world instinct with all the feelings of solidarity.

Besides, should the character of the Revolution be such as we have sketched here, the free initiative of individuals would find an extensive field of action in thwarting the efforts of the egotists. Groups would spring up in every street and quarter to undertake the charge of the clothing. They would make inventories of all that the city possessed, and would find out approximately what were the resources at their disposal. It is more than likely that in the matter of clothing the citizens would adopt the same principle as in the matter of provisions—that is to say, they would offer freely from the common store everything which was to be found in abundance, and dole out whatever was limited in quantity.

Not being able to offer to each man a sable-lined coat and to every woman a velvet gown, society would probably distinguish between the superfluous and the necessary, and, provisionally at least class sable and velvet among the superfluities of life, ready to let time prove whether what is a luxury to-day may not become common to all to-morrow. While the necessary clothing would be guaranteed to each inhabitant of the anarchist city, it would be left to private activity to provide for the sick and feeble those things, provisionally considered as luxuries, and to procure for the less robust such special articles, as would not enter into the daily consumption of ordinary citizens.

"But," it may be urged, "this means grey uniformity and the end of everything beautiful in life and art."

"Certainly not," we reply. And, still basing our reasonings on what already exists, we are going to show how an Anarchist society could satisfy the most artistic tastes of its citizens without allowing them to amass the fortunes of millionaires.




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, to be 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 themselves 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. There is the reason why it must be condemned.

It is absolutely impossible that mercantile production should be carried on in the interest of all. To desire it would be to expect the capitalist to go beyond his province and to fulfil duties that he cannot fulfil without ceasing to be what he is—a private manufacturer seeking his own enrichment. Capitalist organization, based on the personal interest of each individual employer of labour, has given to society all that could be expected of it: it has increased the productive force of Labour. 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 worked in his own interest to increase the yield of human labour, and in a great measure he has succeeded so far. But to attribute other duties to him would be unreasonable. For example, to expect that he should use this superior yield of labour 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.

It now remains for society, first, to extend this greater productivity, which is limited to certain industries, and to apply it to the general good. But it is evident that to utilize this high productivity of labour, so as to guarantee well-being to all, Society must itself take possession of all means of production.

Economists, as is their wont, will not fail to remind us of the comparative well-being of a certain category of young robust workmen, skilled in certain special branches of industry which has been obtained under the present system. It is always this minority that is pointed out to us with pride. But even this well-being, which is the exclusive right of a few, is it secure? To-morrow, maybe, negligence, improvidence, or the greed of their employers, will deprive these privileged men of their work, and they will pay for the period of comfort they have enjoyed with months and years of poverty or destitution. How many important industries—the textiles, iron, sugar, etc.—without mentioning all sorts of short-lived trades, have we not seen decline or come to a standstill on account of speculations, or in consequence of natural displacement of work, or from the effects of competition amongst the capitalists themselves! If the chief textile and mechanical industries had to pass through such a crisis as they have passed through in 1886, we hardly need mention the small trades, all of which have their periods of standstill.

What, too, shall we say to the price which is paid for the relative well-being of certain categories of workmen? Unfortunately, it is paid for by the ruin of agriculture, the shameless exploitation of the peasants, the misery of the masses. In comparison with the feeble minority of workers who enjoy a certain comfort, how many millions of human beings live from hand to mouth, without a secure wage, ready to go wherever they are wanted; how many peasants work fourteen hours a day for a poor pittance! Capital depopulates the country, exploits the colonies and the countries where industries are but little developed, dooms the immense majority of workmen to remain without technical education, to remain mediocre even in their own trade.

This is not merely accidental, it is a necessity of the capitalist system. In order well to remunerate certain classes of workmen, peasants must become the beasts of burden of society; the country must be deserted for the town; small trades must agglomerate in the foul suburbs of large cities, and manufacture a thousand little things for next to nothing, so as to bring the goods of the greater industries within reach of buyers with small salaries. That bad cloth may be sold to ill-paid workers, garments are made by tailors who are satisfied with a starvation wage! Eastern lands in a backward state are exploited by the West, in order that, under the capitalist system, workers in a few privileged industries may obtain certain limited comforts of life.

The evil of the present system is therefore not that the "surplus-value" of production goes to the capitalist, as Rodbertus and Marx said, thus narrowing the Socialist conception and the general view of the capitalist system; the surplus-value itself is but a consequence of deeper causes. The evil lies in the possibility of a surplus-value existing, instead of a simple surplus not consumed by each generation; for, that a surplus-value should exist, means that men, women and children are compelled by hunger to sell their labour for a small part of what this labour produces, and still more so, of what their labour is capable of producing: But this evil will last as long as the instruments of production belong to the few. As long as men are compelled to pay a heavy tribute to property holders for the right of cultivating land or putting machinery into action, and the owners of the land and the machine are free to produce what bids fair to bring them in the largest profits—rather than the greatest amount of useful commodities—well-being can only be temporarily guaranteed to a very few; it is only to be bought by the poverty of a large section of society. It is not sufficient to distribute the profits realized by a trade in equal parts, if at the same time thousands of other workers are exploited. It is a case of PRODUCING THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF GOODS NECESSARY TO THE WELL-BEING OF ALL, WITH THE LEAST POSSIBLE WASTE OF HUMAN ENERGY.

This generalized aim cannot be the aim of a private owner; and this is why society as a whole, if it takes this view of production as its ideal, will be compelled to expropriate all that enhances well-being while producing wealth. It will have to take possession of land, factories, mines, means of communication, etc., and besides, it will have to study what products will promote general well-being, as well as the ways and means of an adequate production.


How many hours a day will man have to work to produce nourishing food, a comfortable home, and necessary clothing for his family? This question has often preoccupied Socialists, and they generally came to the conclusion that four or five hours a day would suffice, on condition, be it well understood, that all men work. At the end of last century, Benjamin Franklin fixed the limit at five hours; and if the need of comfort is greater now, the power of production has augmented too, and far more rapidly.

In speaking of agriculture further on, we shall see what the earth can be made to yield to man when he cultivates it in a reasonable way, instead of throwing seed haphazard in a badly ploughed soil as he mostly does to-day. In the great farms of Western America, some of which cover 30 square miles, but have a poorer soil than the manured soil of civilized countries, only 10 to 15 English bushels per English acre are obtained; that is to say, half the yield of European farms or of American farms in the Eastern States. And nevertheless, thanks to machines which enable 2 men to plough 4 English acres a day, 100 men can produce in a year all that is necessary to deliver the bread of 10,000 people at their homes during a whole year.

Thus it would suffice for a man to work under the same conditions for 30 hours, say 6 half-days of five hours each, to have bread for a whole year; and to work 30 half-days to guarantee the same to a family of 5 people.

We shall also prove by results obtained nowadays, that if we took recourse to intensive agriculture, less than 6 half-days' work could procure bread, meat, vegetables, and even luxurious fruit for a whole family.

Again, if we study the cost of workmen's dwellings, built in large towns to-day, we can ascertain that to obtain, in a large English city, a semi-detached little house, as they are built for workmen for L250, from 1400 to 1800 half-days' work of 5 hours would be sufficient. And as a house of that kind lasts 50 years at least, it follows that 28 to 36 half-days' work a year would provide well-furnished, healthy quarters, with all necessary comfort for a family. Whereas when hiring the same apartment from an employer, a workman pays from 75 to 100 days' work per year.

Mark that these figures represent the maximum of what a house costs in England to-day, being given the defective organization of our societies. In Belgium, workmen's houses in the cites ouvrieres have been built at a much smaller cost. So that, taking everything into consideration, we are justified in affirming that in a well-organized society 30 or 40 half-days' work a year will suffice to guarantee a perfectly comfortable home.

There now remains clothing, the exact value of which is almost impossible to fix, because the profits realized by a swarm of middlemen cannot be estimated. Let us take cloth, for example, and add up all the tribute levied on every yard of it by the landowners, the sheep owners, the wool merchants, and all their intermediate agents, then by the railway companies, mill-owners, weavers, dealers in ready-made clothes, sellers and commission agents, and we shall get then an idea of what we pay to a whole swarm of capitalists for each article of clothing. That is why it is perfectly impossible to say how many days' work an overcoat that you pay L3 or L4 for in a large London shop represents.

What is certain is that with present machinery it is possible to manufacture an incredible amount of goods both cheaply and quickly.

A few examples will suffice. Thus in the United States, in 751 cotton mills (for spinning and weaving), 175,000 men and women produce 2,033,000,000 yards of cotton goods, besides a great quantity of thread. On the average, more than 12,000 yards of cotton goods alone are obtained by a 300 days' work of nine and one-half hours each, say 40 yards of cotton in 10 hours. Admitting that a family needs 200 yards a year at most, this would be equivalent to 50 hours' work, say 10 half-days of 5 hours each. And we should have thread besides; that is to say, cotton to sew with, and thread to weave cloth with, so as to manufacture woolen stuffs mixed with cotton.

As to the results obtained by weaving alone, the official statistics of the United States teach us that in 1870, if workmen worked 13 or 14 hours a day, they made 10,000 yards of white cotton goods in a year; sixteen years later (1886) they wove 30,000 yards by working only 55 hours a week.

Even in printed cotton goods they obtained, weaving and printing included, 32,000 yards in 2670 hours of work a year—say about 12 yards an hour. Thus to have your 200 yards of white and printed cotton goods 17 hours' work a year would suffice. It is necessary to remark that raw material reaches these factories in about the same state as it comes from the fields, and that the transformations gone through by the piece before it is converted into goods are completed in the course of these 17 hours. But to buy these 200 yards from the tradesman, a well-paid workman must give at the very least 10 to 15 days' work of 10 hours each, say 100 to 150 hours. And as to the English peasant, he would have to toil for a month, or a little more, to obtain this luxury.

By this example we already see that by working 50 half-days per year in a well-organized society we could dress better than the lower middle classes do to-day.

But with all this we have only required 60 half-days' work of 5 hours each to obtain the fruits of the earth, 40 for housing, and 50 for clothing, which only makes half a year's work, as the year consists of 300 working-days if we deduct holidays.

There remain still 150 half-days' work which could be made use of for other necessaries of life—wine, sugar, coffee, tea, furniture, transport, etc., etc.

It is evident that these calculations are only approximative, but they can also be proved in another way. When we take into account how many, in the so-called civilized nations, produce nothing, how many work at harmful trades, doomed to disappear, and lastly, how many are only useless middlemen, we see that in each nation the number of real producers could be doubled. And if, instead of every 10 men, 20 were occupied in producing useful commodities, and if society took the trouble to economize human energy, those 20 people would only have to work 5 hours a day without production decreasing. And it would suffice to reduce the waste of human energy which is going on in the rich families with the scores of useless servants, or in the administrations which occupy one official to every ten or even six inhabitants, and to utilize those forces, to augment immensely the productivity of a nation. In fact, work could be reduced to four or even three hours a day, to produce all the goods that are produced now.

After studying all these facts together, we may arrive, then, at the following conclusion: Imagine a society, comprising a few million inhabitants, engaged in agriculture and a great variety of industries—Paris, for example, with the Department of Seine-et-Oise. Suppose that in this society all children learn to work with their hands as well as with their brains. Admit that all adults, save women, engaged in the education of their children, bind themselves to work 5 hours a day from the age of twenty or twenty-two to forty-five or fifty, and that they follow occupations they have chosen themselves in any one of those branches of human work which in this city are considered necessary. Such a society could in return guarantee well-being to all its members, a well-being more substantial than that enjoyed to-day by the middle classes. And, moreover, each worker belonging to this society would have at his disposal at least 5 hours a day which he could devote to science, art, and individual needs which do not come under the category of necessities, but will probably do so later on, when man's productivity will have augmented, and those objects will no longer appear luxurious or inaccessible.




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 to-day 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?

If we wish for a Social Revolution, it is no doubt, first of all, to give bread to everyone; to transform this execrable society, in which we can every day see capable workmen dangling their arms for want of an employer who will exploit them; women and children wandering shelterless at night; whole families reduced to dry bread; men, women, and children dying for want of care and even for want of food. It is to put an end to these iniquities that we rebel.

But we expect more from the Revolution. We see that the worker, compelled to struggle painfully for bare existence, is reduced to ignore the higher delights, the highest within man's reach, of science, and especially of scientific discovery; of art, and especially of artistic creation. It is in order to obtain for all of us joys that are now reserved to a few; in order to give leisure and the possibility of developing everyone's intellectual capacities, that the social revolution must guarantee daily bread to all. After bread has been secured, leisure is the supreme aim.

No doubt, nowadays, when hundreds and thousands of human beings are in need of bread, coal, clothing, and shelter, luxury is a crime; to satisfy it, the worker's child must go without bread! But in a society in which all have the necessary food and shelter, the needs which we consider luxuries to-day will be the more keenly felt. And as all men do not and cannot resemble one another (the variety of tastes and needs is the chief guarantee of human progress) there will always be, and it is desirable that there should always be, men and women whose desire will go beyond those of ordinary individuals in some particular direction.

Everybody does not need a telescope, because, even if learning were general, there are people who prefer to examine things through a microscope to studying the starry heavens. Some like statues, some like pictures. A particular individual has no other ambition than to possess a good piano, while another is pleased with an accordion. The tastes vary, but the artistic needs exist in all. In our present, poor capitalistic society, the man who has artistic needs cannot satisfy them unless he is heir to a large fortune, or by dint of hard work appropriates to himself an intellectual capital which will enable him to take up a liberal profession. Still he cherishes the hope of some day satisfying his tastes more or less, and for this reason he reproaches the idealist Communist societies with having the material life of each individual as their sole aim. "In your communal stores you may perhaps have bread for all," he says to us, "but you will not have beautiful pictures, optical instruments, luxurious furniture, artistic jewelry—in short, the many things that minister to the infinite variety of human tastes. And you suppress the possibility of obtaining anything besides the bread and meat which the commune can offer to all, and the drab linen in which all your lady citizens will be dressed."

These are the objections which all communist systems have to consider, and which the founders of new societies, established in American deserts, never understood. They believed that if the community could procure sufficient cloth to dress all its members, a music-room in which the "brothers" could strum a piece of music, or act a play from time to time, it was enough. They forgot that the feeling for art existed in the agriculturist as well as in the burgher, and, notwithstanding that the expression of artistic feeling varies according to the difference in culture, in the main it remains the same. In vain did the community guarantee the common necessaries of life, in vain did it suppress all education that would tend to develop individuality, in vain did it eliminate all reading save the Bible. Individual tastes broke forth, and caused general discontent; quarrels arose when somebody proposed to buy a piano or scientific instruments; and the elements of progress flagged. The society could only exist on condition that it crushed all individual feeling, all artistic tendency, and all development.

Will the anarchist Commune be impelled by the same direction?—Evidently not, if it understands that while it produces all that is necessary to material life, it must also strive to satisfy all manifestations of the human mind.


We frankly confess that when we think of the abyss of poverty and suffering that surrounds us, when we hear the heartrending cry of the worker walking the streets begging for work, we are loth to discuss the question: How will men act in a society, whose members are properly fed, to satisfy certain individuals desirous of possessing a piece of Sevres china or a velvet dress?

We are tempted to answer: Let us make sure of bread to begin with, we shall see to china and velvet later on.

But as we must recognize that man has other needs besides food, and as the strength of Anarchy lies precisely in that that it understands all human faculties and all passions, and ignores none, we shall, in a few words, explain how man can contrive to satisfy all his intellectual and artistic needs.

We have already mentioned that by working 4 or 5 hours a day till the age of forty-five or fifty, man could easily produce all that is necessary to guarantee comfort to society.

But the day's work of a man accustomed to toil does not consist of 5 hours; it is a 10 hours' day for 300 days a year, and lasts all his life. Of course, when a man is harnessed to a machine, his health is soon undermined and his intelligence is blunted; but when man has the possibility of varying occupations, and especially of alternating manual with intellectual work, he can remain occupied without fatigue, and even with pleasure, for 10 or 12 hours a day. Consequently, the man who will have done the 4 or 5 hours of manual work that are necessary for his existence, will have before him 5 or 6 hours which he will seek to employ according to his tastes. And these 5 or 6 hours a day will fully enable him to procure for himself, if he associates with others, all he wishes for, in addition to the necessaries guaranteed to all.

He will discharge first his task in the field, the factory, and so on, which he owes to society as his contribution to the general production. And he will employ the second half of his day, his week, or his year, to satisfy his artistic or scientific needs, or his hobbies.

Thousands of societies will spring up to gratify every taste and every possible fancy.

Some, for example, will give their hours of leisure to literature. They will then form groups comprising authors, compositors, printers, engravers, draughtsmen, all pursuing a common aim—the propagation of ideas that are dear to them.

Nowadays an author knows that there is a beast of burden, the worker, to whom, for the sum of a few shillings a day, he can entrust the printing of his books; but he hardly cares to know what a printing office is like. If the compositor suffers from lead-poisoning, and if the child who sees to the machine dies of anaemia, are there not other poor wretches to replace them?

But when there will be no more starvelings ready to sell their work for a pittance, when the exploited worker of to-day will be educated, and will have his own ideas to put down in black and white and to communicate to others, then the authors and scientific men will be compelled to combine among themselves and with the printers, in order to bring out their prose and their poetry.

So long as men consider fustian and manual labour a mark of inferiority, it will appear amazing to them to see an author setting up his own book in type, for has he not a gymnasium or games by way of diversion? But when the opprobrium connected with manual labor has disappeared, when all will have to work with their hands, there being no one to do it for them, then the authors as well as their admirers will soon learn the art of handling composing-sticks and type; they will know the pleasure of coming together—all admirers of the work to be printed—to set up the type, to shape it into pages, to take it in its virginal purity from the press. These beautiful machines, instruments of torture to the child who attends on them from morn till night, will be a source of enjoyment for those who will make use of them in order to give voice to the thoughts of their favourite author.

Will literature lose by it? Will the poet be less a poet after having worked out of doors or helped with his hands to multiply his work? Will the novelist lose his knowledge of human nature after having rubbed shoulders with other men in the forest or the factory, in the laying out of a road or on a railway line? Can there be two answers to these questions?

Maybe some books will be less voluminous; but then, more will be said on fewer pages. Maybe fewer waste-sheets will be published; but the matter printed will be more attentively read and more appreciated. The book will appeal to a larger circle of better educated readers, who will be more competent to judge.

Moreover, the art of printing, that has so little progressed since Gutenberg, is still in its infancy. It takes two hours to compose in type what is written in ten minutes, but more expeditious methods of multiplying thought are being sought after and will be discovered.[6]

What a pity every author does not have to take his share in the printing of his works! What progress printing would have already made! We should no longer be using movable letters, as in the seventeenth century.


Is it a dream to conceive a society in which—all having become producers, all having received an education that enables them to cultivate science or art, and all having leisure to do so—men would combine to publish the works of their choice, by contributing each his share of manual work? We have already hundreds of learned, literary, and other societies; and these societies are nothing but voluntary groups of men, interested in certain branches of learning, and associated for the purpose of publishing their works. The authors who write for the periodicals of these societies are not paid, and the periodicals, apart from a limited number of copies, are not for sale; they are sent gratis to all quarters of the globe, to other societies, cultivating the same branches of learning. This member of the Society may insert in its review a one-page note summarizing his observations; another may publish therein an extensive work, the results of long years of study; while others will confine themselves to consulting the review as a starting-point for further research. It does not matter: all these authors and readers are associated for the production of works in which all of them take an interest.

It is true that a learned society, like the individual author, goes to a printing office where workmen are engaged to do the printing. Nowadays, those who belong to the learned societies despise manual labour which indeed is carried on under very bad conditions; but a community which would give a generous philosophic and scientific education to all its members, would know how to organize manual labour in such a way that it would be the pride of humanity. Its learned societies would become associations of explorers, lovers of science, and workers—all knowing a manual trade and all interested in science.

If, for example, the Society is studying geology, all will contribute to the exploration of the earth's strata; each member will take his share in research, and ten thousand observers, where we have now only a hundred, will do more in a year than we can do in twenty years. And when their works are to be published, ten thousand men and women, skilled in different trades, will be ready to draw maps, engrave designs, compose, and print the books. With gladness will they give their leisure—in summer to exploration, in winter to indoor work. And when their works appear, they will find not only a hundred, but ten thousand readers interested in their common work.

This is the direction in which progress is already moving. Even to-day, when England felt the need of a complete dictionary of the English language, the birth of a Littre, who would devote his life to this work, was not waited for. Volunteers were appealed to, and a thousand men offered their services, spontaneously and gratuitously, to ransack the libraries, to take notes, and to accomplish in a few years a work which one man could not complete in his lifetime. In all branches of human intelligence the same spirit is breaking forth, and we should have a very limited knowledge of humanity could we not guess that the future is announcing itself in such tentative co-operation, which is gradually taking the place of individual work.

For this dictionary to be a really collective work, it would have been necessary that many volunteer authors, printers, and printers' readers should have worked in common; but something in this direction is done already in the Socialist Press, which offers us examples of manual and intellectual work combined. It happens in our newspapers that a Socialist author composes in lead his own article. True, such attempts are rare, but they indicate in which direction evolution is going.

They show the road of liberty. In future, when a man will have something useful to say—a word that goes beyond the thoughts of his century, he will not have to look for an editor who might advance the necessary capital. He will look for collaborators among those who know the printing trade, and who approve the idea of his new work. Together they will publish the new book or journal.

Literature and journalism will cease to be a means of money-making and living at the cost of others. But is there any one who knows literature and journalism from within, and who does not ardently desire that literature should at last be able to free itself from those who formerly protected it, and who now exploit it, and from the multitude, which, with rare exceptions, pays for it in proportion to its mediocrity, or to the ease with which it adapts itself to the bad taste oL the greater number?

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.


Literature, science, and art must be cultivated by free men. Only on this condition will they succeed in emancipating themselves from the yoke of the State, of Capital, and of the bourgeois mediocrity which stifles them.

What means has the scientist of to-day to make researches that interest him? Should he ask help of the State, which can only be given to one candidate in a hundred, and which only he may obtain who promises ostensibly to keep to the beaten track? Let us remember how the Academy of Sciences of France repudiated Darwin, how the Academy of St. Petersburg treated Mendeleeff with contempt, and how the Royal Society of London refused to publish Joule's paper, in which he determined the mechanical equivalent of heat, finding it "unscientific."[7]

It was why all great researches, all discoveries revolutionizing science, have been made outside academies and universities, either by men rich enough to remain independent, like Darwin and Lyell, or by men who undermined their health by working in poverty, and often in great straits, losing endless time for want of a laboratory, and unable to procure the instruments or books necessary to continue their researches, but persevering against hope, and often dying before they had reached the end in view. Their name is legion.

Altogether, the system of help granted by the State is so bad that science has always endeavoured to emancipate itself from it. For this very reason there are thousands of learned societies organized and maintained by volunteers in Europe and America,—some having developed to such a degree that all the resources of subventioned societies, and all the wealth of millionaires, would not buy their treasures. No governmental institution is as rich as the Zoological Society of London, which is supported by voluntary contributions.

It does not buy the animals which in thousands people its gardens: they are sent by other societies and by collectors of the entire world. The Zoological Society of Bombay will send an elephant as a gift; another time a hippopotamus or a rhinoceros is offered by Egyptian naturalists. And these magnificent presents are pouring in every day, arriving from all quarters of the globe—birds, reptiles, collections of insects, etc. Such consignments often comprise animals that could not be bought for all the gold in the world; thus a traveller who has captured an animal at life's peril, and now loves it as he would love a child, will give it to the Society because he is sure it will be cared for. The entrance fee paid by visitors, and they are numberless, suffices for the maintenance of that immense institution.

What is defective in the Zoological Society of London, and in other kindred societies, is that the member's fee cannot be paid in work; that the keepers and numerous employes of this large institution are not recognized as members of the Society, while many have no other incentive to joining the society than to put the cabalistic letters F.Z.S (Fellow of the Zoological Society) on their cards. In a word, what is needed is a more perfect co-operation.

We may say the same about inventors, that we have said of scientists. Who does not know what sufferings nearly all great inventions have cost? Sleepless nights, families deprived of bread, want of tools and materials for experiments, this is the history of nearly all those who have enriched industry with inventions which are the truly legitimate pride of our civilization.

But what are we to do to alter the conditions that everybody is convinced are bad? Patents have been tried, and we know with what results. The inventor sells his patent for a few pounds, and the man who has only lent the capital pockets the enormous profits often resulting from the invention. Besides, patents isolate the inventor. They compel him to keep secret his researches which therefore end in failure; whereas the simplest suggestion, coming from a brain less absorbed in the fundamental idea, sometimes suffices to fertilize the invention and make it practical. Like all State control, patents hamper the progress of industry. Thought being incapable of being patented, patents are a crying injustice in theory, and in practice they result in one of the great obstacles to the rapid development of invention.

What is needed to promote the spirit of invention is, first of all, the awakening of thought, the boldness of conception, which our entire education causes to languish; it is the spreading of a scientific education, which would increase the number of inquirers a hundredfold; it is faith that humanity is going to take a step forward, because it is enthusiasm, the hope of doing good, that has inspired all the great inventors. The Social Revolution alone can give this impulse to thought, this boldness, this knowledge, this conviction of working for all.

Then we shall have vast institutes supplied with motor-power and tools of all sorts, immense industrial laboratories open to all inquirers, where men will be able to work out their dreams, after having acquitted themselves of their duty towards society; machinery palaces where they will spend their five or six hours of leisure; where they will make their experiments; where they will find other comrades, experts in other branches of industry, likewise coming to study some difficult problem, and therefore able to help and enlighten each other,—the encounter of their ideas and experience causing the longed-for solution to be found. And yet again, this is no dream. Solanoy Gorodok, in Petersburg, has already partially realized it as regards technical matters. It is a factory well furnished with tools and free to all; tools and motor-power are supplied gratis, only metals and wood are charged for at cost price. Unfortunately workmen only go there at night when worn out by ten hours' labour in the workshop. Moreover, they carefully hide their inventions from each other, as they are hampered by patents and Capitalism—that bane of present society, that stumbling-block in the path of intellectual and moral progress.


And what about art? From all sides we hear lamentations about the decadence of art. We are, indeed, far behind the great masters of the Renaissance. The technicalities of art have recently made great progress; thousands of people gifted with a certain amount of talent cultivate every branch, but art seems to fly from civilization! Technicalities make headway, but inspiration frequents artists' studios less than ever.

Where, indeed, should it come from? Only a grand idea can inspire art. Art is in our ideal synonymous with creation, it must look ahead; but save a few rare, very rare exceptions, the professional artist remains too philistine to perceive new horizons.

Moreover, this inspiration cannot come from books; it must be drawn from life, and present society cannot arouse it.

Raphael and Murillo painted at a time when the search of a new ideal could be pursued while retaining the old religious traditions. They painted to decorate churches which themselves represented the pious work of several generations of a given city. The basilic with its mysterious aspect, its grandeur, was connected with the life itself of the city, and could inspire a painter. He worked for a popular monument; he spoke to his fellow-citizens, and in return he received inspiration; he appealed to the multitude in the same way as did the nave, the pillars, the stained windows, the statues, and the carved doors. Nowadays the greatest honour a painter can aspire to is to see his canvas, framed in gilded wood, hung in a museum, a sort of old curiosity shop, where you see, as in the Prado, Murillo's Ascension next to a beggar of Velasquez and the dogs of Philip II. Poor Velasquez and poor Murillo! Poor Greek statues which lived in the Acropolis of their cities, and are now stifled beneath the red cloth hangings of the Louvre!

When a Greek sculptor chiseled his marble he endeavored to express the spirit and heart of the city. All its passions, all its traditions of glory, were to live again in the work. But to-day 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. The fatherland does not exist.... What fatherland can the international banker and the rag-picker have in common? Only when cities, territories, nations, or groups of nations, will have renewed their harmonious life, will art be able to draw its inspiration from ideals held in common. Then will the architect conceive the city's monument which will no longer be a temple, a prison, or a fortress; then will the painter, the sculptor, the carver, the ornament-worker know where to put their canvases, their statues, and their decoration; deriving their power of execution from the same vital source, and gloriously marching all together towards the future.

But till then art can only vegetate. The best canvases of modern artists are those that represent nature, villages, valleys, the sea with its dangers, the mountain with its splendours. But how can the painter express the poetry of work in the fields if he has only contemplated it, imagined it, if he has never delighted in it himself? If he only knows it as a bird of passage knows the country he soars over in his migrations? If, in the vigour of early youth, he has not followed the plough at dawn, and enjoyed mowing grass with a large sweep of the scythe next to hardy haymakers vying in energy with lively young girls who fill the air with their songs? The love of the soil and of what grows on it is not acquired by sketching with a paint-brush—it is only in its service; and without loving it, how paint it? This is why all that the best painters have produced in this direction is still so imperfect, not true to life, nearly always merely sentimental. There is no strength in it.

You must have seen a sunset when returning from work. You must have been a peasant among peasants to keep the splendour of it in your eye. You must have been at sea with fishermen at all hours of the day and night, have fished yourself, struggled with the waves, faced the storm, and after rough work experienced the joy of hauling a heavy net, or the disappointment of seeing it empty, to understand the poetry of fishing. You must have spent time in a factory, known the fatigues and the joys of creative work, forged metals by the vivid light of a blast furnace, have felt the life in a machine, to understand the power of man and to express it in a work of art. You must, in fact, be permeated with popular feelings, to describe them.

Besides, the works of future artists who will have lived the life of the people, like the great artists of the past, will not be destined for sale. They will be an integral part of a living whole that would not be complete without them, any more than they would be complete without it. Men will go to the artist's own city to gaze at his work, and the spirited and serene beauty of such creations will produce its beneficial effect on heart and mind.

Art, in order to develop, must be bound up with industry by a thousand intermediate degrees, blended, so to say, as Ruskin and the great Socialist poet Morris have proved so often and so well. Everything that surrounds man, in the street, in the interior and exterior of public monuments, must be of a pure artistic form.

But this can only be realized in a society in which all enjoy comfort and leisure. Then only shall we see art associations, of which each member will find room for his capacity; for art cannot dispense with an infinity of purely manual and technical supplementary works. These artistic associations will undertake to embellish the houses of their members, as those kind volunteers, the young painters of Edinburgh, did in decorating the walls and ceilings of the great hospital for the poor in their city.

A painter or sculptor who has produced a work of personal feeling will offer it to the woman he loves, or to a friend. Executed for love's sake,—will his work, inspired by love, be inferior to the art that to-day satisfies the vanity of the philistine, because it has cost much money?

The same will be done as regards all pleasures not comprised in the necessaries of life. He who wishes for a grand piano will enter the association of musical instrument makers. And by giving the association part of his half-days' leisure, he will soon possess the piano of his dreams. If he is fond of astronomical studies he will join the association of astronomers, with its philosophers, its observers, its calculators, with its artists in astronomical instruments, its scientists and amateurs, and he will have the telescope he desires by taking his share of the associated work, for it is especially the rough work that is needed in an astronomical observatory—bricklayer's, carpenter's, founder's, mechanic's work, the last touch being given to the instrument of precision by the artist.

In short, the five or seven hours a day which each will have at his disposal, after having consecrated several hours to the production of necessities, would amply suffice to satisfy all longings for luxury, however varied. Thousands of associations would undertake to supply them. What is now the privilege of an insignificant minority would be accessible to all. Luxury, ceasing to be a foolish and ostentatious display of the bourgeois class, would become an artistic pleasure.

Everyone would be the happier for it. In collective work, performed with a light heart to attain a desired end, a book, a work of art, or an object of luxury, each will find an incentive and the necessary relaxation that makes life pleasant.

In working to put an end to the division between master and slave, we work for the happiness of both, for the happiness of humanity.


[6] They have already been discovered since the above lines were written.

[7] We know this from Playfair, who mentioned it at Joule's death.




When Socialists maintain that a society, freed from the rule of the capitalists, would make work agreeable, and would suppress all repugnant and unhealthy drudgery, they are laughed at. And yet even to-day we can see the striking progress that is being made in this direction; and wherever this progress has been achieved, employers congratulate themselves on the economy of energy obtained thereby.

It is evident that a factory could be made as healthy and pleasant as a scientific laboratory. And it is no less evident that it would be advantageous to make it so. In a spacious and well-ventilated factory the work is better; it is easy to introduce many small ameliorations, of which each represents an economy of time or of manual labour. And if most of the workshops we know are foul and unhealthy, it is because the workers are of no account in the organization of factories, and because the most absurd waste of human energy is the distinctive feature of the present industrial organization.

Nevertheless, now and again, we already find, even now, some factories so well managed that it would be a real pleasure to work in them, if the work, be it well understood, were not to last more than four or five hours a day, and if every one had the possibility of varying it according to his tastes.

There are immense works, which I know, in one of the Midland counties, unfortunately consecrated to engines of war. They are perfect as regards sanitary and intelligent organization. They occupy fifty English acres of land, fifteen of which are roofed with glass. The pavement of fire-proof bricks is as clean as that of a miner's cottage, and the glass roof is carefully cleaned by a gang of workmen who do nothing else. In these works are forged steel ingots or blooms weighing as much as twenty tons; and when you stand thirty feet from the immense furnace, whose flames have a temperature of more than a thousand degrees, you do not guess its presence save when its great doors open to let out a steel monster. And the monster is handled by only three or four workmen, who now here, now there, open a tap causing immense cranes to move one way or another by the pressure of water.

You enter these works expecting to hear the deafening noise of stampers, and you find that there are no stampers. The immense hundred-ton guns and the crank-shafts of transatlantic steamers are forged by hydraulic pressure, and the worker has but to turn a tap to give shape to the immense mass of steel, which makes a far more homogeneous metal, without crack or flaw, of the blooms, whatever be their thickness.

I expected an infernal grating, and I saw machines which cut blocks of steel thirty feet long with no more noise than is needed to cut cheese. And when I expressed my admiration to the engineer who showed us round, he answered—

"A mere question of economy! This machine, that planes steel, has been in use for forty-two years. It would not have lasted ten years if its parts, badly adjusted, 'interfered' and creaked at each movement of the plane!

"And the blast-furnaces? It would be a waste to let heat escape instead of utilizing it. Why roast the founders, when heat lost by radiation represents tons of coal?

"The stampers that made buildings shake five leagues off were also waste. Is it not better to forge by pressure than by impact, and it costs less—there is less loss.

"In these works, light, cleanliness, the space allotted to each bench, are but a simple question of economy. Work is better done when you can see what you do, and have elbow-room.

"It is true," he said, "we were very cramped before coming here. Land is so expensive in the vicinity of large towns—landlords are so grasping!"

It is even so in mines. We know what mines are like nowadays from Zola's descriptions and from newspaper reports. But the mine of the future will be well ventilated, with a temperature as easily regulated as that of a library; there will be no horses doomed to die below the earth: underground traction will be carried on by means of an automatic cable put into motion at the pit's mouth. Ventilators will be always working, and there will never be explosions. This is no dream, such a mine is already to be seen in England; I went down it. Here again the excellent organization is simply a question of economy. The mine of which I speak, in spite of its immense depth (466 yards), has an output of a thousand tons of coal a day, with only two hundred miners—five tons a day per each worker, whereas the average for the two thousand pits in England at the time I visited this mine in the early 'nineties, was hardly three hundred tons a year per man.

If necessary, it would be easy to multiply examples proving that as regards the material organization Fourier's dream was not a Utopia.

This question has, however, been so frequently discussed in Socialist newspapers that public opinion should already be educated on this point. Factory, forge and mine can be as healthy and magnificent as the finest laboratories in modern universities, and the better the organization the more will man's labour produce.

If it be so, can we doubt that work will become a pleasure and a relaxation in a society of equals, in which "hands" will not be compelled to sell themselves to toil, and to accept work under any conditions? Repugnant tasks will disappear, because it is evident that these unhealthy conditions are harmful to society as a whole. Slaves can submit to them, but free men will create new conditions, and their work will be pleasant and infinitely more productive. The exceptions of to-day will be the rule of to-morrow.

The same will come to pass as regards domestic work, which to-day society lays on the shoulders of that drudge of humanity—woman.


A society regenerated by the Revolution will make domestic slavery disappear—this last form of slavery, perhaps the most tenacious, because it is also the most ancient. Only it will not come about in the way dreamt of by Phalansterians, nor in the manner often imagined by authoritarian Communists.

Phalansteries are repugnant to millions of human beings. The most reserved man certainly feels the necessity of meeting his fellows for the purpose of common work, which becomes the more attractive the more he feels himself a part of an immense whole. But it is not so for the hours of leisure, reserved for rest and intimacy. The phalanstery and the familystery do not take this into account, or else they endeavour to supply this need by artificial groupings.

A phalanstery, which is in fact nothing but an immense hotel, can please some, and even all at a certain period of their life, but the great mass prefers family life (family life of the future, be it understood). They prefer isolated apartments, Anglo-Saxons even going as far as to prefer houses of from six to eight rooms, in which the family, or an agglomeration of friends, can live apart. Sometimes a phalanstery is a necessity, but it would be hateful, were it the general rule. Isolation, alternating with time spent in society, is the normal desire of human nature. This is why one of the greatest tortures in prison is the impossibility of isolation, much as solitary confinement becomes torture in its turn, when not alternated with hours of social life.

As to considerations of economy, which are sometimes laid stress on in favour of phalansteries, they are those of a petty tradesman. The most important economy, the only reasonable one, is to make life pleasant for all, because the man who is satisfied with his life produces infinitely more than the man who curses his surroundings.[8]

Other Socialists reject the phalanstery. But when you ask them how domestic work can be organized, they answer: "Each can do 'his own work.' My wife manages the house; the wives of bourgeois will do as much." And if it is a bourgeois playing at Socialism who speaks, he will add, with a gracious smile to his wife: "Is it not true, darling, that you would do without a servant in the Socialist society? You would work like the wife of our good comrade Paul or the wife of John the carpenter?"

Servant or wife, man always reckons on woman to do the house-work.

But woman, too, at last claims her share in the emancipation of humanity. She no longer wants to be the beast of burden of the house. She considers it sufficient work to give many years of her life to the rearing of her children. She no longer wants to be the cook, the mender, the sweeper of the house! And, owing to American women taking the lead in obtaining their claims, there is a general complaint of the dearth of women who will condescend to domestic work in the United States. My lady prefers art, politics, literature, or the gaming tables; as to the work-girls, they are few, those who consent to submit to apron-slavery, and servants are only found with difficulty in the States. Consequently, the solution, a very simple one, is pointed out by life itself. Machinery undertakes three-quarters of the household cares.

You black your boots, and you know how ridiculous this work is. What can be more stupid than rubbing a boot twenty or thirty times with a brush? A tenth of the European population must be compelled to sell itself in exchange for a miserable shelter and insufficient food, and woman must consider herself a slave, in order that millions of her sex should go through this performance every morning.

But hairdressers have already machines for brushing glossy or woolly heads of hair. Why should we not apply, then, the same principle to the other extremity? So it has been done, and nowadays the machine for blacking boots is in general use in big American and European hotels. Its use is spreading outside hotels. In large English schools, where the pupils are boarding in the houses of the teachers, it has been found easier to have one single establishment which undertakes to brush a thousand pairs of boots every morning.

As to washing up! Where can we find a housewife who has not a horror of this long and dirty work, that is usually done by hand, solely because the work of the domestic slave is of no account.

In America they do better. There are already a number of cities in which hot water is conveyed to the houses as cold water is in Europe. Under these conditions the problem was a simple one, and a woman—Mrs. Cochrane—solved it. Her machine washes twelve dozen plates or dishes, wipes them and dries them, in less than three minutes. A factory in Illinois manufactures these machines and sells them at a price within reach of the average middle-class purse. And why should not small households send their crockery to an establishment as well as their boots? It is even probable that the two functions, brushing and washing up, will be undertaken by the same association.

Cleaning, rubbing the skin off your hands when washing and wringing linen; sweeping floors and brushing carpets, thereby raising clouds of dust which afterwards occasion much trouble to dislodge from the places where they have settled down, all this work is still done because woman remains a slave, but it tends to disappear as it can be infinitely better done by machinery. Machines of all kinds will be introduced into households, and the distribution of motor-power in private houses will enable people to work them without muscular effort.

Such machines cost little to manufacture. If we still pay very much for them, it is because they are not in general use, and chiefly because an exorbitant tax is levied upon every machine by the gentlemen who wish to live in grand style and who have speculated on land, raw material, manufacture, sale, patents, and duties.

But emancipation from domestic toil will not be brought about by small machines only. Households are emerging from their present state of isolation; they begin to associate with other households to do in common what they did separately.

In fact, in the future we shall not have a brushing machine, a machine for washing up plates, a third for washing linen, and so on, in each house. To the future, on the contrary, belongs the common heating apparatus that sends heat into each room of a whole district and spares the lighting of fires. It is already so in a few American cities. A great central furnace supplies all houses and all rooms with hot water, which circulates in pipes; and to regulate the temperature you need only turn a tap. And should you care to have a blazing fire in any particular room you can light the gas specially supplied for heating purposes from a central reservoir. All the immense work of cleaning chimneys and keeping up fires—and woman knows what time it takes—is disappearing.

Candles, lamps, and even gas have had their day. There are entire cities in which it is sufficient to press a button for light to burst forth, and, indeed, it is a simple question of economy and of knowledge to give yourself the luxury of electric light. And lastly, also in America, they speak of forming societies for the almost complete suppression of household work. It would only be necessary to create a department for every block of houses. A cart would come to each door and take the boots to be blacked, the crockery to be washed up, the linen to be washed, the small things to be mended (if it were worth while), the carpets to be brushed, and the next morning would bring back the things entrusted to it, all well cleaned. A few hours later your hot coffee and your eggs done to a nicety would appear on your table. It is a fact that between twelve and two o'clock there are more than twenty million Americans and as many Englishmen who eat roast beef or mutton, boiled pork, potatoes and a seasonable vegetable. And at the lowest figure eight million fires burn during two or three hours to roast this meat and cook these vegetables; eight million women spend their time preparing a meal which, taking all households, represents at most a dozen different dishes.

"Fifty fires burn," wrote an American woman the other day, "where one would suffice!" Dine at home, at your own table, with your children, if you like; but only think yourself, why should these fifty women waste their whole morning to prepare a few cups of coffee and a simple meal! Why fifty fires, when two people and one single fire would suffice to cook all these pieces of meat and all these vegetables? Choose your own beef or mutton to be roasted if you are particular. Season the vegetables to your taste if you prefer a particular sauce! But have a single kitchen with a single fire and organize it as beautifully as you are able to.

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.

To emancipate woman, is not only to open the gates of the university, the law courts, or the parliaments to her, for the "emancipated" woman will always throw her domestic toil on to another woman. To emancipate woman is to free her from the brutalizing toil of kitchen and washhouse; it is to organize your household in such a way as to enable her to rear her children, if she be so minded, while still retaining sufficient leisure to take her share of social life.

It will come. As we have said, things are already improving. Only let us fully understand that 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.


[8] It seems that the Communists of Young Icaria had understood the importance of a free choice in their daily relations apart from work. The ideal of religious Communists has always been to have meals in common; it is by meals in common that early Christians manifested their adhesion to Christianity. Communion is still a vestige of it. Young Icarians had given up this religious tradition. They dined in a common dining room, but at small separate tables, at which they sat according to the attractions of the moment. The Communists of Anama have each their house and dine at home, while taking their provisions at will at the communal stores.




Accustomed as we are by heredity prejudices and our unsound education and training to represent ourselves the beneficial hand of Government, legislation and magistracy everywhere, we have come to believe that man would tear his fellow-man to pieces like a wild beast the day the police took his eye off him; that absolute chaos would come about if authority were overthrown during a revolution. And with our eyes shut we pass by thousands and thousands of human groupings which form themselves freely, without any intervention of the law, and attain results infinitely superior to those achieved under governmental tutelage.

If you open a daily paper you find that its pages are entirely devoted to Government transactions and to political jobbery. A man from another world, reading it, would believe that, with the exception of the Stock Exchange transactions, nothing gets done in Europe save by order of some master. You find nothing in the paper about institutions that spring up, grow up, and develop without ministerial prescription! Nothing—or almost nothing! Even where there is a heading, "Sundry Events" (Faits divers, a favorite column in the French papers), it is because they are connected with the police. A family drama, an act of rebellion, will only be mentioned if the police have appeared on the scene.

Three hundred and fifty million Europeans love or hate one another, work, or live on their incomes; but, apart from literature, theatre, or sport, their lives remain ignored by newspapers if Governments have not intervened in it in some way or other. It is even so with history. We know the least details of the life of a king or of a parliament; all good and bad speeches pronounced by the politicians have been preserved: "speeches that have never had the least influence on the vote of a single member," as an old parliamentarian said. Royal visits, the good or bad humour of politicians, their jokes and intrigues, are all carefully recorded for posterity. But we have the greatest difficulty to reconstitute a city of the Middle Ages, to understand the mechanism of that immense commerce that was carried on between Hanseatic cities, or to know how the city of Rouen built its cathedral. If a scholar spends his life in studying these questions, his works remain unknown, and parliamentary histories—that is to say, the defective ones, as they only treat of one side of social life—multiply; they are circulated, they are taught in schools.

In this way we do not even perceive the prodigious work, accomplished every day by spontaneous groups of men, which constitutes the chief work of our century.

We therefore propose to point out some of these most striking manifestations, and to show how men, as soon as their interests do not absolutely clash, act in concert, harmoniously, and perform collective work of a very complex nature.

It is evident that in present society, based on individual property—that is to say, on plunder, and on a narrow-minded, and therefore foolish individualism—facts of this kind are necessarily limited; agreements are not always perfectly free, and often they have a mean, if not execrable aim.

But what concerns us is not to give examples which might be blindly followed, and which, moreover, present society could not possibly give us. What we have to do is to show that, in spite of the authoritarian individualism which stifles us, there remains in our life, taken as a whole, a very great part in which we only act by free agreement; and that therefore it would be much easier than is usually thought, to dispense with Government.

In support of our view we have already mentioned railways, and we will now return to them.

We know that Europe has a system of railways, over 175,000 miles long, and that on this network you can nowadays travel from north to south, from east to west, from Madrid to Petersburg, and from Calais to Constantinople, without delays, without even changing carriages (when you travel by express). More than that: a parcel deposited at a station will find its addressee anywhere, in Turkey or in Central Asia, without more formality needed for sending it than writing its destination on a bit of paper.

This result might have been obtained in two ways. A Napoleon, a Bismarck, or some potentate having conquered Europe, would from Paris, Berlin, or Rome, draw a railway map and regulate the hours of the trains. The Russian Tsar Nicholas I. dreamt of such a power. When he was shown rough drafts of railways between Moscow and Petersburg, he seized a ruler and drew on the map of Russia a straight line between these two capitals, saying, "Here is the plan." And the road was built in a straight line, filling in deep ravines, building bridges of a giddy height, which had to be abandoned a few years later, after the railway had cost about L120,000 to L150,000 per English mile.

This is one way, but happily things were managed differently. Railways were constructed piece by piece, the pieces were joined together, and the hundred different companies, to whom these pieces belonged, gradually came to an understanding concerning the arrival and departure of their trains, and the running of carriages on their rails, from all countries, without unloading merchandise as it passes from one network to another.

All this was done by free agreement, by exchange of letters and proposals, and by congresses at which delegates met to discuss well specified special points, and to come to an agreement about them, but not to make laws. After the congress was over, the delegates returned to their respective companies, not with a law, but with the draft of a contract to be accepted or rejected.

Of course difficulties were met in the way. There were obstinate men who would not be convinced. But a common interest compelled them to agree in the end, without invoking the help of armies against the refractory members.

This immense network of railways connected together, and the enormous traffic it has given rise to, no doubt constitutes the most striking trait of the nineteenth century; and it is the result of free agreement. If somebody had foretold it eighty years ago, our grandfathers would have thought him idiotic or mad. They would have said: "Never will you be able to make the shareholders of a hundred companies listen to reason! It is a Utopia, a fairy tale. A central Government, with an 'iron' dictator, can alone enforce it."

And the most interesting thing in this organization is, that there is no European Central Government of Railways! Nothing! No minister of railways, no dictator, not even a continental parliament, not even a directing committee! Everything is done by free agreement.

So we ask the believers in the State, who pretend that "we can never do without a central Government, were it only for regulating the traffic," we ask them: "But how do European railways manage without them? How do they continue to convey millions of travellers and mountains of luggage across a continent? If companies owning railways have been able to agree, why should railway workers, who would take possession of railways, not agree likewise? And if the Petersburg-Warsaw Company and that of Paris-Belfort can act in harmony, without giving themselves the luxury of a common commander, why, in the midst of our societies, consisting of groups of free workers, should we need a Government?"


When we endeavour to prove by examples that even to-day, in spite of the iniquitous organization of society as a whole, men, provided their interests be not diametrically opposed, agree without the intervention of authority, we do not ignore the objections that will be put forth.

All such examples have their defective side, because it is impossible to quote a single organization exempt from the exploitation of the weak by the strong, the poor by the rich. This is why the Statists will not fail to tell us with their wonted logic: "You see that the intervention of the State is necessary to put an end to this exploitation!"

Only they forget the lessons of history; they do not tell us to what extent the State itself has contributed towards the existing order by creating proletarians and delivering them up to exploiters. They forget to prove us that it is possible to put an end to exploitation while the primal causes—private capital and poverty, two-thirds of which are artificially created by the State—continue to exist.

When we speak of the accord established among the railway companies, we expect them, the worshippers of the bourgeois State, to say to us: "Do you not see how the railway companies oppress and ill-use their employees and the travellers! The only way is, that the State should intervene to protect the workers and the public!"

But have we not said and repeated over and over again, that as long as there are capitalists, these abuses of power will be perpetuated? It is precisely the State, the would-be benefactor, that has given to the companies that monopoly and those rights upon us which they possess to-day. Has it not created concessions, guarantees? Has it not sent its soldiers against railwaymen on strike? And during the first trials (quite lately we saw it still in Russia), has it not extended the privilege of the railway magnates as far as to forbid the Press to mention railway accidents, so as not to depreciate the shares it guaranteed? Has it not favoured the monopoly which has anointed the Vanderbilts and the Polyakoffs, the directors of the P.L.M., the C.P.R., the St. Gothard, "the kings of our days"?

Therefore, if we give as an example the tacit agreement come to between railway companies, it is by no means as an ideal of economical management, nor even an ideal of technical organization. It is to show that if capitalists, without any other aim than that of augmenting their dividends at other people's expense, can exploit railways successfully without establishing an International Department,—societies of working men will be able to do it just as well, and even better, without nominating a Ministry of European railways.

Another objection is raised that is more serious at first sight. We may be told that the agreement we speak of is not perfectly free, that the large companies lay down the law to the small ones. It might be mentioned, for example, that a certain rich German company, supported by the State, compel travellers who go from Berlin to Bale to pass via Cologne and Frankfort, instead of taking the Leipzig route; or that such a company carries goods a hundred and thirty miles in a roundabout way (on a long distance) to favour its influential shareholders, and thus ruins the secondary lines. In the United States travellers and goods are sometimes compelled to travel impossibly circuitous routes so that dollars may flow into the pocket of a Vanderbilt.

Our answer will be the same: As long as Capital exists, the Greater Capital will oppress the lesser. But oppression does not result from Capital only. It is also owing to the support given them by the State, to monopoly created by the State in their favour, that the large companies oppress the small ones.

The early English and French Socialists have shown long since how English legislation did all in its power to ruin the small industries, drive the peasant to poverty, and deliver over to wealthy industrial employers battalions of men, compelled to work for no matter what salary. Railway legislation did exactly the same. Strategic lines, subsidized lines, companies which received the International Mail monopoly, everything was brought into play to forward the interests of wealthy financiers. When Rothschild, creditor to all European States, puts capital in a railway, his faithful subjects, the ministers, will do their best to make him earn more.

In the United States, in the Democracy that authoritarians hold up to us as an ideal, the most scandalous fraudulency has crept into everything that concerns railroads. Thus, if a company ruins its competitors by cheap fares, it is often enabled to do so because it is reimbursed by land given to it by the State for a gratuity. Documents recently published concerning the American wheat trade have fully shown up the part played by the State in the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Here, too, the power of accumulated capital has increased tenfold and a hundredfold by means of State help. So that, when we see syndicates of railway companies (a product of free agreement) succeeding in protecting their small companies against big ones, we are astonished at the intrinsic force of free agreement that can hold its own against all-powerful Capital favoured by the State.

It is a fact that little companies exist, in spite of the State's partiality. If in France, land of centralization, we only see five or six large companies, there are more than a hundred and ten in Great Britain who agree remarkably well, and who are certainly better organized for the rapid transit of travellers and goods than the French and German companies.

Moreover, that is not the question. Large Capital, favoured by the State, can always, if it be to its advantage, crush the lesser one. What is of importance to us is this: The agreement between hundreds of capitalist companies to whom the railways of Europe belong, was established without intervention of a central government to lay down the law to the divers societies; it has subsisted by means of congresses composed of delegates, who discuss among themselves, and submit proposals, not laws, to their constituents. It is a new principle that differs completely from all governmental principle, monarchical or republican, absolute or parliamentarian. It is an innovation that has been timidly introduced into the customs of Europe, but has come to stay.


How often have we not read in the writings of State-loving Socialists: "Who, then, will undertake the regulation of canal traffic in the future society? Should it enter the mind of one of your Anarchist 'comrades' to put his barge across a canal and obstruct thousands of boats, who will force him to reason?"

Let us confess the supposition to be somewhat fanciful. Still, it might be said, for instance: "Should a certain commune, or a group of communes, want to make their barges pass before others, they might perhaps block the canal in order to carry stones, while wheat, needed in another commune, would have to stand by. Who, then, would regulate the traffic if not the Government?"

But real life has again demonstrated that Government can be very well dispensed with here as elsewhere. Free agreement, free organization, replace that noxious and costly system, and do better.

We know what canals mean to Holland. They are its highways. We also know how much traffic there is on the canals. What is carried along our highroads and railroads is transported on canal-boats in Holland. There you could find cause to fight, in order to make your boats pass before others. There the Government might really interfere to keep the traffic in order.

Yet it is not so. The Dutch settled matters in a more practical way, long ago, by founding guilds, or syndicates of boatmen. These were free associations sprung from the very needs of navigation. The right of way for the boats was adjusted by the order of inscription in a navigation register; they had to follow one another in turn. Nobody was allowed to get ahead of the others under pain of being excluded from the guild. None could station more than a certain number of days along the quay; and if the owner found no goods to carry during that time, so much the worse for him; he had to depart with his empty barge to leave room for newcomers. Obstruction was thus avoided, even though the competition between the private owners of the boats continued to exist. Were the latter suppressed, the agreement would have been only the more cordial.

It is unnecessary to add that the shipowners could adhere or not to the syndicate. That was their business, but most of them elected to join it. Moreover, these syndicates offered such great advantages that they spread also along the Rhine, the Weser, the Oder, and as far as Berlin. The boatmen did not wait for a great Bismarck to annex Holland to Germany, and to appoint an Ober Haupt General Staats Canal Navigation's Rath (Supreme Head Councillor of the General States Canal Navigation), with a number of gold stripes on his sleeves, corresponding to the length of the title. They preferred coming to an international understanding. Besides, a number of shipowners, whose sailing-vessels ply between Germany and Scandinavia, as well as Russia, have also joined these syndicates, in order to regulate traffic in the Baltic, and to bring about a certain harmony in the chasse-croise of vessels. These associations have sprung up freely, recruiting volunteer adherents, and have nought in common with governments.

It is, however, more than probable that here too greater capital oppresses lesser. Maybe the syndicate has also a tendency to become a monopoly, especially where it receives the precious patronage of the State that surely did not fail to interfere with it. Let us not forget either, that these syndicates represent associations whose members have only private interests at stake, and that if at the same time each shipowner were compelled—by the socializing of production, consumption, and exchange—to belong to federated Communes, or to a hundred other associations for the satisfying of his needs, things would have a different aspect. A group of shipowners, powerful on sea, would feel weak on land, and they would be obliged to lessen their claims in order to come to terms with railways, factories, and other groups.

At any rate, without discussing the future, here is another spontaneous association that has dispensed with Government. Let us quote more examples.

As we are talking of ships and boats, let us mention one of the most splendid organizations that the nineteenth century has brought forth, one of those we may with right be proud of—the English Lifeboat Association.

It is known that every year more than a thousand ships are wrecked on the shores of England. At sea a good ship seldom fears a storm. It is near the coasts that danger threatens—rough seas that shatter her stern-post, squalls that carry off her masts and sails, currents that render her unmanageable, reefs and sand banks on which she runs aground.

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