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Page:Studies in socialism 1906.djvu/75

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Radicals and Private Property

proprietors with a personal property right in their possessions.

During the Middle Ages, from the tenth to the fourteenth century, serfdom was really established as one of the forms of what we call to-day private property. It was the lord who disposed of the labour of the serf. Agricultural serfs, thinly scattered over the great rural domains, and industrial serfs, bakers, smiths, goldsmiths, spinners, and weavers, gathered together in the outbuildings of the seignorial mansion, all these were under the domination of an individual; they were included in his property and sold by him with the estate. They were, like the land itself, like the fields, the vineyards, the cattle, one of the objects upon which the right of private property was exercised.


I understand, of course, that slavery and serfdom have been eliminated from private property. But can the Radicals be certain that every element of servitude, oppression, and injustice has also disappeared? And what right have they to use the phrase "private property" in a general and abstract fashion when the elemental meaning of the words varies with the very advance of history? Formulas like these are the negation of historic evolution. They condemn the party who adopts them to see nothing and to understand nothing. They put it outside the pale of science and of vital action.

Just as in ancient times private property ad-