declared, 'have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the labouring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself'.2
But the encyclical equally fiercely defended the right to private property, against its socialist detractors, though not to the selfish use of that property: here, as in taxation, there was room for state activity. Moreover families deserve a subsistence wage, and encouragement is given to workers to organise in unions, along with other forms of association intermediate between the state and family, with a backward glance to the medieval guilds.
Leo's teaching shared with conventional socialism its high doctrine of the state, its anti-individualism and its communitarianism. But he thought that property was best protected where it was most widely distributed; hence the word 'distributism' to describe the English version of his doctrine, arising from his reference to a justice distributive to all. His ideal society most closely resembled those of northern Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and parts of Germany and Austria, with an abundance of small property owners of farms and homes and businesses, whereas socialism and unbridled capitalism both defied social harmony and the natural law.
Catholic electorates and politicians had now been given a fighting practical working guide to Catholicism as a third way which was neither socialist nor liberal. The scheme had its ironies: it was only partly applicable in Italy, where Catholics were forbidden under the non expedit of 1867 rule to vote in elections, or to co-operate with the spoliatory Italian state. Leo's hostility to revolution ignored a right affirmed in the Catholic medieval tradition, as some Irish rebels pointed out, and it owed its growth to the extension of the very democracy which, at best, it regarded as one possible system among a number.
The political context of this teaching was Leo's attempt to restore relations with the great European states. This was most successful in Germany, where it was in Bismarck's interest to cultivate relations with the Catholic party, the Zentrum, and bring the Kulturkampf to an end. The 1880s, however, saw a new anticlerical attack upon the French church's role in public life, especially in education, and Leo's efforts to 'rally' the monarchist French Catholics to the Third Republic fell foul of the resurgence of anticlericalism over the Dreyfus affair, and could not prevent the dissolution or expulsion of the French religious orders in 1901. Leo also ineffectively intervened at British prompting in Ireland.
This, however, was intelligent conservatism, not liberalism. Leo was bold in giving John Henry Newman a cardinal's hat in 1879, at the behest of Newman's
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