A house in certain parts of Paris maybe valued at thousands of pounds sterling, not because thousands of pounds' worth of labor have been expended on that particular house, but because it is in Paris; because for centuries workmen, artists, thinkers and men of learning and letters have contributed to make Paris what it is to-day—a centre of industry, commerce, politics, art and science; because Paris has a past; because, thanks to literature, the names of its streets are household words in foreign countries as well as at home; because it is the fruit of eighteen centuries of toil, the work of fifty generations of the whole French nation.
Who then can appropriate to himself the tiniest plot of ground, or the meanest building, without committing a flagrant injustice? Who then has the right to sell to any bidder the smallest portion of the common heritage?
On that point, as we have said, the workers are agreed. The idea of free dwellings showed its existence very plainly during the siege of Paris, when the cry was that the landlords should remit the rent altogether. It appeared again during the Commune of 1871, when the Paris workmen expected the Communal Council to decide boldly on the abolition of rent. And when the New Revolution comes it will be the first question with which the poor will concern themselves.
Whether in time of Revolution or in time of peace, the worker must be housed somehow or other: he must have some sort of roof over his head. But, however tumble-down and squalid your dwelling may be, there is always a landlord who can evict you. True, during the Revolution he cannot find bailiffs and police-sergeants to throw your rags and chattels into the street, but who knows what the new government will do to-morrow? Who can say that it will not call in the aid of force again, and set the police pack upon you to hound you out of your hovels? We have seen the Commune proclaim the remission of rents due up to the 1st of April only! After that rent had to be paid, though Paris was in a state of chaos and industry at a standstill, so that the revolutionist had absolutely nothing to depend on but his allowance of fifteen pence a day!
Now the worker must be made to see clearly that in refusing to pay rent to a landlord or owner he is not simply profiting by the disorganisation of authority. He must understand that the abolition of rent is a recognised principle, sanctioned, so to speak, by popular assent; that to be housed rent-free is a right proclaimed aloud by the people.
- The decree of the 30th March: by this decree rents due up to October, 1870, and January and April, 1871, quarters were remitted.