[Marxism] Dorothy Day: Away with all gods
jayroth6 at cox.net
Tue Dec 9 10:16:09 MST 2008
The Diabolical Plot
From April 19, 1933
By Dorothy Day
| Archived Article
I t is when the Communists are good that they are dangerous. And the
trouble with many Catholics is that they do not recognize this dangerous
goodness but think of Communists as characters from E. Phillip
Oppenheim's international mystery novels.
Not long ago a Catholic novel was published by the Macmillan Company,
and it was all about the fiendish Bolsheviks and their international
agents and how refugee women of gentle birth were kidnapped and returned
to Russia to be mated to nobles, in order that they might propagate a
race of supermen.
The story is fantastic. One expects the characters to turn into demons
or angels. One is amazed that such a book could be seriously written. It
should have ended on the fantastic note struck by G. K. Chesterton in
"The Man Who Was Thursday."
The story is obnoxiously class-conscious. Nobles are nobles by nature as
well as by birth, and the lower classes are noble in that, they are the
faithful servitors of those above them. If they are interested in those
of their own class, and in righting the wrongs done them, then they are
And lastly, the story is untrue.
My association with the radical movement began while I was in college
and continued for a decade. I worked for the Socialist paper, the Call,
for the radical monthly, the Masses, for the anti-conscription League,
for the Communist monthly the Liberator, and for the Anti-lmperialist
League, and in these, various jobs I became acquainted with many people
connected with the labor movement, so that I can write from actual
knowledge of the goodness of the people with whom I came in contact.
Leaving friends and acquaintances out of it, however, take the case of
William Z. Foster, the Communist candidate for President, a man
respected and admired, even extolled in the weekly "capitalist" press.
The New Yorker had a long article on Communist organization and Foster's
part in it, and there was another leading article in the New Republic
about the work of this man. From these articles, one could assume that
Foster is a good man, a disciplined man, who lives for his ideals and is
above the venality associated with political figures.
And then there is the case of the boy who lived across the street from
me on East Fifteenth Street, between Avenue A and First Avenue, a
peaceable Communist youth who was killed a few months ago when a
Trotskyite sought to break up a Communist street meeting by hurling
bricks from the roof of an adjoining house. For the last six months I
had lived in this old German-Irish neighborhood just across from where
this boy lived, and after his death I heard a great deal about him.
He had for years been the support of his invalid mother, his unemployed
father, and his schoolgirl sister. The day his body was taken away, the
German and Irish neighbors gathered in front of their stoops and spoke
of him with hushed voices and heavy tears in their eyes.
"He was a good boy, so steady and so clean."
"He took such care of his family, and him so young." " He used to come
into my shop for milk every morning. So polite he was! Such a nice way
of talking! "
"He was a Communist, yes, but he was so good." What they said of him
typifies what I mean. He was not wild eyed, shaggy haired, revolutionary
looking. He was not a hater of the institution of the family. He worked
and served his father and mother and sister. He had courtesy and respect
for his fellow-man, and at night, after his day's work, he studied to
better his condition. His life was actuated by a love of his fellows,
and in his love for his fellow-creatures he forgot his Creator, if
indeed he had ever known Him. Together with other boys on this street,
he had been brought up without any religious training, and in growing
up, he, with high ideals, had espoused the cause of the worker.
The other boys hung around pool rooms, street corners, and clubs, spent
their hours in playing cards and gambling, discussed politics in terms
of graft and rackets.
He went to meetings, discussed the questions of child labor,
workingmen's rights and unemployment, and donated from his own small
earnings towards strike funds to feed the hungry workers, and the
mothers and children of other workers like himself.
It is because of the Communist party's ideals, not because of its
essential anti-religious aspect; because of its love of the ordinary
man, and not because of its hatred towards God, that so many young
people are being attracted towards Communism. And being attracted by
what is good in their natures, and fervently embracing it as a cause,
they come eventually to accept wholeheartedly all the party teaches.
In the Communist movement in America, the question of religion only
comes up when a strike is being carried on in a Southern mill town, for
instance, where the mountaineers are sincerely believers, or in city
factories where the foreign labor is Catholic. In these cases, here are
Lenin's directions in his writings on religion:
A Marxist must place the success of the strike movement above all else,
must definitely oppose the division of the workers in this struggle into
atheists and Christians, must fight resolutely against such a division
.... We must not only admit into the ... party all those workers who
still retain faith in God, we must redouble our efforts to recruit them.
Weare absolutely opposed to the slightest affront to these workers'
religious convictions .... We do not declare, and must not declare in
our program that we are "atheists."
It is the predictions of Engels and Lenin in their writing which
disclose the "diabolic plot," the ultimate establishment of atheism, and
one can only feel that the freeing of the masses from oppression is a
means to an end, and not an end in itself.
"No books, no preaching, can possibly enlighten the proletariat, unless
it is enlightened by its struggle against the dark forces of
capitalism." "The roots of modern religion are deeply embedded in the
social oppression of the working masses"; so relieve this oppression
first in order to get at the roots!
Again and again Lenin urges that the fight against religion be
postponed, and addressing those frantic ones who wish to rush into the
battle at once, he reminds them that the bourgeois liberals are only too
anxious to foment religious disputes in order to distract the attention
of the people from the class struggle, and these religious wars lead
only to a victory for the Church.
Those who have not gone to the root of dialectical materialism [i.e. of
the philosophy of Marx and Engels] may not be able to understand this
[necessity for delay] ... What! subordinate ideological propaganda, the
propaganda of definite ideas? Subordinate the struggle against religion,
the thousand-year-old enemy of culture and progress, to the class
struggle, to the struggle for transient practical economic and political
To draw a hard and fast line between the theoretical propagation of
atheism, between breaking down the religious beliefs of certain sections
of the proletariat, and the effect, the development, the general
implications of the class struggle of these sections, is to reason
non-dialectically; to transform a variable, relative boundary into an
absolute one. It is a forcible tearing asunder of that which is
indissolubly connected in reality.
I do not know whether the boy across the street knew what he was
doing--that he was working with the distinct end in view of tearing down
the Church. I do know that the good Irish and German neighbors didn't
know it. They said sadly: "He was a good boy, a fine boy," and they wept
at his passing
*Dorothy Day* (1897-1980) is the author of /The Long Loneliness /and
other works. Day used proceeds from her writings for *America* to help
found the Catholic Worker movement in 1933.
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