Radical croissants: The anarcho-communist bakers serving the Paris suburbs

By Nerea González

Montreuil, France, Jan 13 (EFE).- A bakery on the outskirts of Paris is combining classic French pastry with anti-capitalist political theory. 


La Conquête du Pain (The Conquest of Bread) takes its name from a text written by one of the most renowned anarcho-communist political analysts, Russian Peter Kropotkin.


“We are the owners of our work, there are no intermediaries or employers that take advantage of it,” Mexican Ricardo Alvarado, one of the six workers currently operating the bakery, tells Efe in an interview. 


Located on a street corner in the town of Montreuil, just over half an hour by public transport from the center of Paris, the bakery was inaugurated in 2010 inspired by the philosophy of Kropotkin.


Thomas Anestoy and Pierre Pawin, founders of the project, wanted to demonstrate how workers can self-manage and master that most basic of human necessities — bread.


“The important thing is to show that the model works, that you can work without a boss and that you can sell bread at prices accessible to everyone (…),” says Bertrand Boulmé, another of the workers.


Anestoy and Pawin no longer work at La Conquête du Pain, but other teams have been taking care of the project. 


“For us, the important thing is not to make money, it’s not to get rich. The goal is to pay the rent, pay the suppliers and pay ourselves. There is no capitalist objective, only cost effectiveness,” says Boulmé.


Montreuil is a traditionally working-class and immigrant area, although workers say it has been gentrified in recent years. 


The bakery offers a “normal” and a “crisis” price list for the same products, making it suitable for those on a limited budget


The French bakery’s star product, the artisanal baguette — recently listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage — has a reduced price of 0.75 euros and one euro for all other customers.


Other businesses sell baguettes for more than 1.20 euros, or even for 1.60 euros, in the most expensive places in Paris, but in the face of inflation, La Conquête du Pain has decided to keep the baguette at one euro.


“For electricity, we were paying a bill of 700-800 euros and the November bill was 1,600 euros,” says Alvarado. 


This Christmas, bakers in France led protests against the government of president Emmanuel Macron for excessive energy prices. 


In response, on January 6, the French president announced relief measures for small businesses, to avoid, among other things, a further rise in the price of bread.


Keeping this “anarchist business” afloat in 2023 is “hard”, the bakers themselves admit, but it is for them a preferable option to being accountable to a boss.EFE

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