1839 - April 6, 1893
Dyer Daniel Lum was a 19th-century American anarchist, labor activist and poet.A leading anarcho-syndicalist and
a prominent left-wing intellectual of the 1880s,Lum is
best remembered as the lover and mentor of early anarcha-feminist Voltairine de Cleyre.
was a prolific writer who wrote a number of key anarchist texts, and contributed to publications including Mother Earth, Twentieth Century, Liberty (Benjamin Tucker's individualist anarchist journal), The
Alarm (the journal of the International Working People's Association) and The Open Court among others. Following the arrest of Albert Parsons, Lum edited The
Alarm from 1892–1893.
Traditionally portrayed as a "genteel, theoretical anarchist", Lum has recently been recast by the scholarship of Paul Avrich as an "uncompromising rebel thirsty for violence and martyrdom" in the light of his involvement in the Haymarket affair in 1886.
Lum was a descendant of the prominent New England Tappan
family; his grandfather was an American revolutionary.
In hopes of bringing about the end of slavery, he volunteered to fight for the Union Army in the American Civil War.He served as an adjutant in the Fourteenth New York Cavalry, and
later as a brevet captain,
seeing combat in the Red River
Campaign.A bookbinder by trade, Lum became active
in the American labor movement in the aftermath of the war. He served as a secretary to Samuel Gompersand ran for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts on
the Labor Reform ticket of abolitionist Wendell
Phillips in 1870.
He became widely known in 1877 after a period traveling across
the country as secretary to a congressional committee appointed to "inquire into the depression of labor."Between 1880 and 1892, he was an advocate of direct action and trade unionism,and in later years was "the
moving spirit of the American group" which worked for the commutation of Alexander Berkman's sentence for the latter's attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick.Lum
committed suicide in 1893 after suffering from severe depression,although
at the time the cause of death was reported in the anarchist press as "fatty degeneration of the heart."
When Lum met Voltairine de Cleyre in 1888, he was twenty-seven years her elder and had lived a life rich in experience.They forged an "unshakable" friendship,and Lum had a profound influence on Voltairine de Cleyre's political development,which evolved in an opposite direction to his; she started out as an orthodox Tuckerite individualist,
but became increasingly involved with the radical labor movement and ultimately called for a panarchist "anarchism without adjectives" movement.Their
relationship ended after five years of intense involvement, leaving their planned collaborative project — a lengthy social and philosophical anarchist novel — ultimately unpublished.
Lum was closely associated with,
and worked alongside the martyrs of the Haymarket
affair in Chicago in 1886. In an 1891 essay, he wrote that on the afternoon of May 4, August Spies sent word to the militants that they were not to bring arms to the Haymarket.This order was not respected, Lum noted– "one man disobeyed that order; always self-determined, he acted upon his own responsibility, preferring to be prepared
for resistance to onslaught rather than to quietly imitate the spiritual "lamb led to slaughter."Lum asserted that the eight defendants were initially unaware of the bomb-thrower's identity, although it became known to two of them ("but neither Spies nor Parsons…"), believed by Paul Avrich to be George Engel and Adolph Fischer.
In Lum's account, the bomb-thrower's name "was never mentioned in the trial and is today unknown to the public."Paul
Avrich attests that Lum urged Albert Parsons to refuse clemency, and plotted to rescue the anarchists from Cook County Jail by attacking it with explosives.According to de Cleyre, he then assisted the suicide of one of the eight defendants, Louis Lingg, by smuggling into Lingg's prison cell a dynamite cap concealed in a cigar, which Lingg subsequently lit, thereby blowing off half his face and leaving himself lingering
for several hours in torturous pain before dying.
Lum's political philosophy was a fusion of individualist anarchist economics– "a radicalized form oflaissez-faire economics" inspired by the Boston anarchists– with
radical labor organization similar to that of the Chicago anarchists of the time.Lum's
ideas have variously been described as individualist anarchist,syndicalist,mutualist,and anarcho-communist,as well as anarchist without adjectives.Herbert Spencer and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon influenced Lum strongly in his individualist tendency.He developed a "mutualist" theory of unions and as such was active within the Knights of Labor and later promoted anti-political strategies in the American Federation of Labor.Frustration with abolitionism, spiritualism, and labor reform caused Lum to embrace anarchism and radicalize workers,as he came to believe that revolution would inevitably involve a violent struggle between the working class and the employing class.Convinced of the necessity of violence to enact social change he volunteered to fight in the American Civil War, hoping thereby to bring about the end of slavery.Kevin Carson has praised Lum's fusion of individualist laissez-faire economics with radical labor activism as "creative" and described him as "more significant than any in the Boston group".
Lum argued in The Economics of Anarchy that the "labor problem" was a result of intervention by the state in
creating monopolies, with particular
reference to the land and money
monopolies.Lum advocated the destruction of the land monopoly, which
he saw as a government-granted
monopoly, by abolishing land
titles and to allow free access to land, thus making the extraction of rent impossible. Similarly,
mutual banks set up to issue their own currencies would end the state monopoly and undercut the ability of banks and lenders to charge interest.