repairing a wrong we have been struck by the good sense and instinct for justice which animate the masses. Have we ever known them demand the impossible? Have we ever seen the people of Paris fighting among themselves while waiting for their rations of bread or firewood during the two sieges? The patience and resignation which prevailed among them was constantly held up to admiration by the foreign Press correspondents, and yet these patient waiters knew full well that the last comers would have to pass the day without food or fire.
We do not deny that there are plenty of egoistic instincts in isolated individuals in our societies. We are quite aware of it. But we contend that the very way to revive and nourish these instincts would be to confine such questions as the housing of the people to any board or committee, in fact to the tender mercies of officialism in any shape or form. Then indeed all the evil passions spring up, and it becomes a case of who is the most influential person on the board. The least inquality causes wranglings and recriminations, If the smallest advatage is given to any one a tremendous hue and cry is raised—and not without reason!
But if the people themselves, organised by streets, districts and parishes, undertake to move the inhabitants of the slums into the half-empty dwellings of the middle classes, the trifling inconveniences, the little inequalities will be easily tided over. Barely has appeal been made to the good instincts of the masses—only as a last resort, to save the sinking ship in times of revolution—but, never has such an appeal been made in vain; the heroism, the self devotion, of the toiler has never failed to respond to it. And thus it will be in the coming Revolution.
But when all is said and done, some inequalities, some inevitable injustices will remain. There are individuals in our societies whom no great crisis can lift out of the deep ruts of egoism in which they are sunk. The question, however, is not whether there will be injustices or no, but rather how to limit the number of them.
Now all history, all the experience of the human race, and all social psychology, unite in showing that the best and fairest way is to trust the decision to those whom it concerns most nearly. It is they alone who can consider and allow for the hundred and one details which must necessarily be overlooked in any merely official redistribution.