The Economics of Anarchy

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A groundbreaking presentation of Mutualist economic and social theory, freed-market anti-capitalism, and an industrialism of worker ownership and mutual exchange.

I have repeatedly been asked to write a brief summary of the aims sought by Anarchists which could be read and discussed in the various clubs that are studying economic questions. With this end in view the following pages are submitted, trusting that they may be a help to those who are earnestly seeking the rationale of the Labor Question. . . .

FREE EXCHANGE . . . would break the monopoly now possessed by currency, the instrument of exchange, and also could open full use of the possession of land. . . . Has the workman equal freedom to compete with the employer of labor? . . . But why not? Because behind the capitalist, as we now find him, privilege lends support which transforms the result of honest industry into a hideous Moloch standing with outstretched arms to receive as sacrificial victims the toilers who have made that capital possible. . . . Capital itself is man’s best friend, the true social savior that opens the march of progress and that has transformed society from warlike to peaceful pursuits. But under the crucifying hands of legalization, where prerogative mocks at penury, its mission is thwarted and it becomes a ravenous beast. . . . Reliance upon militant measures, trying to curb indus­trial discontent by legislative coercion, is reactionary in character. However disguised in twilight mixtures it is the spirit of the old regime seeking to dominate the new; as vain as seeking to check an exhaustless flow of water by damming the stream. The remedy cannot lie in enactments, in the organ­ization of systems, in return to simplicity of structure, for industrial civilization demands plasticity of forms . . . while organization, on the other hand, ever tends to rigidity. . . .

The Economics of Anarchy was published at Chicago in 1890. Dyer D. Lum was a revolutionary anarchist, a labor organizer, and a pioneer of mutualist economics. He became involved in the labor movement through his trade as a bookbinder, and came into contact with Anarchists such as Albert Parsons and August Spies in Chicago. He was closely involved with support for the Hay­mark­et martyrs during the 1880s – he took up the editorship of Albert Parson’s newspaper, The Alarm, after Parson’s death, and it was Lum who smuggled a dynamite cap to Louis Lingg in prison (which Lingg used to commit suicide ahead of the noose). A collaborator and lover of Voltairine de Cleyre’s, and a prolific writer of both books and articles for Anarchist papers such as Twentieth Century, Liberty, and The Alarm, Lum’s Anarchism combined the radical individualism and anti-capitalist market anarchism of the Boston Anarchists, with an emphasis on worker ownership, radical solidarity, and the militant labor organizing of his Chicago revol­ution­ary milieu.

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