Craving for a little Marx for lunch? Or maybe a Engels with ham and cheese? Those are the resonant names of some delicious, cheap (3€ to 5€), and hand-made with organic flour sandwiches at La Conquête du pain, the only self-managed bakery in the Ile-de-France region.
Bread, it is bread that the Revolution needs !
The 19th century libertarian communist philosopher Pyotr Kropotkine (whose book The Conquest of Bread inspired the founders La Conquête du Pain) would have probably travelled across Paris to get his bread at this atypical French bakery.
Libertarian self-management put into practice was the aim behind La Conquête du Pain. Located in the outskirts of Paris in the historical stronghold of the French Communist Party, Montreuil, the bakery was founded by two left wing libertarians and two less political bakers in 2010. It runs today with nine people who earn the same month salary (1 350€) and share benefits made on sales at the end of each month. Simply put, there is no boss and decisions are taken by votes in assemblies.
Their success in the neighborhood is however mainly due to the high quality of the bread and the diverse range of clients are not primarily interested in the political convictions behind the store, the bakers admit:
The bakery runs based on four principles:
- make good and affordable bread that has to be as organic as possible;
- self-management: no boss but general assemblies and democracy;
- communism: put in common, sharing is the new owning;
- libertarian: they feel a deep aversion for authority and equality is nothing without freedom.
They also supply in bread a few squats, strikers, social activists and homeless refugees around the French capital.
In addition to these social activisms, any client suffering of financial problems can ask for a 25% price discount on baguettes without justifying their needs and all the unsold stock is given away for free each evening. Moreover, there exists a system of “pending baguette”: similar to the caffè sospeso in Naples, if you pay one extra euro, another (hungry) person can come ask for the baguette you payed for.
The Conquête du Pain shows by its existence that running a successful business can go along with solidarity and mutual assistance in the neighborhood.
If this bakery is not a socialist’s dream come true, I don’t know what is.