My favorite Dorothy Day quote is the following:
Dorothy Day was not a political theorist, but a broom-pushing, bread-baking, rosary-praying Personalist. You don' have to believe just me: here's 21,000 sources that say the same:
Of course, this is a different perspective than you'd get from "Tradition in Action," the source of a great deal of the anti-Dorothy-Day propaganda. You can see all that at their website --- not that I'd recommend anyone going there, because it is full of shocking attacks on the past five Popes as well.
Saying it doesn’t make it so, Mrs. Don-O. You write: “Dorothy Day’s economic justice ideals were the polar opposite of Communism. Communism stands for Total State Power subsuming and replacing every other institution: family, church, the entirety of civil society. Personalism eschews State power to support voluntary poverty as a basis for voluntary charity.”
If only this were correct. Day never lost her admiration for the economic and social policies of Communist states, although she did leave atheism behind and could not “condone” the violence that achieved these “reforms.” She attempted to create a “Christian communism.” After Pius XII”s “Decree Against Communism” was published, Day declared herself “an ex-Communist,” stating: “Certainly we disagree with the Communist Party, as we disagree with other political parties who are trying to maintain the American way of life. We don’t think it’s worth maintaining. We and the Communists have a common idea that something else is necessary, some other vision of society must be held up to be worked for.” (”Beyond Politics,” “Catholic Worker” [CW,] November 1949). In the same article she wrote: “[Communists] believe, of course, that violence will come. (So do we when it comes down to it, and we are praying it won’t.) They believe that it will be forced upon the workers by the class struggle which is going on all around us now. . . . Class war is a fact and one does not need to advocate it. The Communists point to it as forced upon them, and say that when it comes they will take part in it, and in their plans they want to prepare the ground, and win as many as possible to their point of view and for their side. And where will we be on that day?”
When Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro in January 1962, Day traveled a few months later to Cuba and then wrote several articles on the “social advances” achieved there (CW, September 1962-February 1963). She praised farming communes in Red China. She believed in a compulsory form of “voluntary poverty,” as the aim of the CW is—in her own words—”to MAKE the rich poor and the poor holy” (capitals added).
She consistently attacked “Holy Mother the State” in non-Communist societies such as the US, but accepted her daughter Tamar receiving $360 a month for her children and “something for herself” from the State of Vermont after Tamar and her husband separated (Day notes this in her diary, “The Duty of Delight,” 2011, p.325). Day’s economic theories do not seem to apply to everyday nuclear families not living in communal arrangements. (By the way, she never gave an equivalent term for Marxist countries—Unholy Father Soviet?)
Sadly, Tamar and children also fell away from the Faith, and Day writes in 1967 of being the only one attending Christmas Mass (”Duty of Delight,” p. 427).
Your claim that Day was not a “political theorist” gave me my laugh of the day. She studied Kropotkin as a college student, and then Peter Maurin broadened her knowledge of his works, as she reveals in “From Union Square to Rome” and “The Long Loneliness.” One need only read her CW columns to see how aware she was of movements within the Communist Party and who was who. She often did not bother to inform readers of the details about her Communist friends. She was also an admirer of Saul Alinsky (CW, May 1966) and endorsed his call for a massive public authority similar to the TVA to be set up: “He envisages something like the Tennessee Valley Authority with the use of the billions to build villages, schools, hospitals, roads, and all else needed.”
Most of the articles on Day’s cause are long on praise for her love of the poor, and short on her unchanged Marxist views and other facts. The answer to Day’s fitness is found in her own writings. A “softer, gentler” Dorothy is being fabricated by her admirers (and thankfully is being questioned in the “Comments” to the articles). For example, CW Brian Terrell questioned the veracity of, and publicized his inability to find one of Day’s statements. For your and his information, here is the statement and its source: “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system” (Dorothy Day, from a public speech, “Women on War,” Daniela Gioseffi, ed., 1988, pp. 103, 371).
Similarly, Robert Ellsberg— editor of the CW under Day’s tutelage for five years and now editor of her Selected Writings, Selected Letters, and Diary (cited above)—claims that the matter of the CW changing its name was “not raised again” after Day wrote a conciliatory letter to the New York Chancery (”Duty of Delight,” p. 169). However, CWs Michael Harrington, Ammon Hennacy, and Jim Forest stated that the issue recurred (Carol Byrne, “The Catholic Worker Movement (1933-1980): A Critical Analysis,” 2010, pp. 206-208).
In addition to the homespun quotes you propose, more quotes of Dorothy Day are available at http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day and at http://dorothydayworker.blogspot.com/2012/10/sayings-and-writings-by-dorothy-day.html