American right—or is it a left, for praise be the ambidextrous—rnin which Miss Day fits quite nicely. Indeed, I think she is morernat home with these people than she ever was with Manhattanrnsocialists. They are the Agrarians, the Distributists, the heirs tornthe Jeffersonian tradidon. The keener of them —particularlyrnthe Catholics—understood their kinship with Day. Allen Tate,rnthe Southern man of letters and contributor to the 1930 SouthernrnAgrarian manifesto, I’ll Take My Stand, wrote his fellowrnDixie poet Donald Davidson in 1936:rnI also enclose a copy of a remarkable monthly paper. ThernCatholic Worker. The editor, Dorothy Day, has beenrnhere, and is greatly excited by our whole program. |ustrnthree months ago she discovered Til Take My Stand, andrnhas been commenting on it editorially. She is ready tornhammer away in behalf of the new book. Listen to this:rnThe Catholic Worker now has a paid circulation ofrn100,000! [Tate neglects to say that the price is a penny arncopy] .. . She offers her entire mailing list to Houghton-rnMifflin; I’ve just written to Linscott about it. Miss Dayrnmay come by Nashville with us if the conference fallsrnnext weekend. She has been speaking all over the countryrnin Catholic schools and colleges. A very remarkablernwoman. Terrific energy, much practical sense, and a fanaticalrndevohon to the cause of the land!rnThe program that so excited Miss Day was summarized inrnthe statement of principles drawn up at the Nashville meetingrnof Southern Agrarians and Distributists. Mocked as reactionaryrnfor their unwillingness to accept bigness as an inevitable condition,rnthe conferees declared {inter alia):rn—The condition of individual freedom and security isrnthe wide distiibution of active ownership of land and productivernproperty.rn— Population should be decentralized as well asrnownership.rn—Agriculture should be given its rightful recognition asrnthe prime factor in a secure culture.rnThough Day was absent from Nashville, she was to speak thernlanguage of the Southern Agrarians, without the drawl, manyrntimes over the years. “To Christ—To the Land!” Day exclaimedrnin the January 1936 issue. “The Catholic Worker is opposedrnto the wage system but not for the same reason that thernCommunist is. We are opposed to it, because the more wagernearners there are the less owners there are . . . how will they becomernowners if they do not get back to the land.”rnWidespread ownership was the basic tenet of the Agrarians’rnCatholic cousins, the Distributists. The Catholic Worker publishedrnall the major Distributists of the age, among themrnChesterton and Belloc, Vincent McNabb, Father Luigi Ligutti,rnand the Jesuit John C. Rawe (a Nebraska-born “Catholic versionrnof William Jennings Bryan”). On numberless occasionsrnDorothy Day called herself a Distribufist. Thus her gripe withrnthe New Deal: “Security for the worker, not ownership,” was itsrnfalse promise; she despaired in 1945 that “Catholics throughoutrnthe country are again accepting ‘the lesser of two evils’. . . .rnThey fail to see the body of Catholic social teaching of suchrnmen as Fr. Vincent McNabb, G.K. Chesterton, Belloc, EricrnGill and other distributists . . . and lose all sight of The LittlernWay.”rnDorothy Day kept to the little way, and that is why we honorrnher. She understood that if small is not always beautiful, at leastrnit is always human.rnT he Catholic Worker position on economics was expressedrnquite clearly:rn[W]e favor the establishment of a Dish’ibutist economyrnwherein those who have a vocation to the land will workrnon the farms surrounding the village and those who havernother vocations will work in the village itself. In this wayrnwe will have a decentralized economy which will dispensernwith the State as we know it today and will be federationistrnin character.. .. We believe in worker ownershiprnof the means of production and distribution asrndistinguished from nationalization. This to be accomplishedrnby decentialized co-operatives and the eliminationrnof a distinct employer class.rnThe American name for this is Jeffersonianism, and the failurernof Distributism to attract much of a stateside following outsidernof those Mencken derided as “typewriter agrarians” owes in partrnto its Chesterbellocian tincture. “Gothic Catholicism” neverrncould play in Peoria.rnNor could it stand upon the Republican platform. CarryrnWills recalls this exchange during his first visit with William F,rnBuckley, Jr.: “Are you a conservative, then?’ [Buckley asked.] Irnanswered that I did not know. Are Distributists conservative?rnThilip Burnham tells me they are not.’ It was an exchange withrnthe seeds of much later misunderstanding.”rnWere the Distributists conservative? Was Day conservative?rnDepends. Herbert Agar, the Kentucky Agrarian and movementrntheorist, wrote in the American Review (April 1934), “For seventyrnyears, a ‘conservative’ has meant a supporter of Big Business,rnof the politics of plutocracy,” yet “the root of a real conservativernpolicy for the United States must be redistribution ofrnproperty.” Ownership—whether of land, a crossroads store, arnmachine shop—must be made “the normal thing.”rn”Property is proper to man,” insisted Dorothy Day, thoughrnshe and the Distributists —and much of the old Americanrnright—meant by property something rather more substantialrnthan paper shares in a Rockefellerian octopus. “Ownershiprnand control are property,” declared Allen Tate, making a distinctionrnbetween a family farm—or family firm —and a jointstockrncorporation, the artificial spawn of the state.rnLike Tate and the Southern Agrarians, Day was no collectivist,rneager to herd the fellaheen onto manury unromanticrnBlithedales. “The Communists,” she said, sought to build “arnsense of the sacredness and holiness and the dignity of the machinernand of work, in order to content the proletariat with theirrnpropertyless state.” So why, she asked, “do we talk of fightingrncommunism, which we are supposed to oppose because it doesrnaway with private property. We have done that very well ourselvesrnin this country.” The solution: “We must emphasize thernholiness of wor^, and we must emphasize the sacramental qualityrnof property too.” (“An anti-religious agrarian is a contradictionrnin terms,” according to Donald Davidson.)rnDay described the Catholic Worker program as being “forrnownership by the workers of the means of production, the abolitionrnof the assembly line, decentralized factories, the restorationrnof crafts and the ownership of property,” and these were tornbe achieved by libertarian means, through the repeal of state-rn18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn