Use your loaf: the politics of bread

It is 121 years since the anarchist Peter Kropotkin first published his recipe for revolutionary transformation: La Conquête du Pain (The Conquest of Bread). Spurred by the fall of the Paris Commune, Kropotkin believed fervently that social transformation that dealt in ideals alone was destined to fail. A new society, he stressed, must be built on its ability to provide sustenance for all. More than a century later, bread is still the trigger for, and the stuff of, revolution and revolutionary metaphor.

Read our full article on the politics of bread in Red Pepper

Delve beneath the crust and the metaphor is rich in meaning. In the fermentation that begins when flour meets water, we find inspiration for the self-organising systems that are the foundation of anarchist thinking. In the bakeries springing up throughout the global north we find a rejection of the impoverishment of industrialised production, and in the process of making we find beauty and meaning too.

We find social injustice in the nutritional apocalypse that has accompanied the rise of ‘cheap’ food over the past 60 or so years. In the global north cheap has meant hollowing out the nutritional value of a range of staple foodstuffs, while in the south structural adjustment programmes and IMF conditions have forced the withdrawal of support that guaranteed basic nutrition for all. This in the name of economic ‘modernisation’.

Taking back the production of our daily bread is not only metaphorically powerful; it is a practical step towards far more wide-reaching change. Bake our own bread – together – and it becomes clear how much more we can do for ourselves.

Read the full article on Red Pepper