Denis O'Hearn was born in New Mexico and is of Irish and Native Alaskan (Aleut) ancestry. He moved to Belfast in the 1970s, when his articles for In These Times and the Guardian introduced the Irish 'H-Blocks' prison conflict to the broad audience of progressives in the US.
He has been a community activist in Belfast, serving for many years as chair of the West Belfast Economic Forum and on the Board of Governors of the Irish-language primary school Scoil na Fuisoige. He taught at the University of Wisconsin and Queens University in Belfast and was a Fulbright Scholar at University College Dublin in 1991-92. He is now professor of sociology at the University of Binghamton in New York. Among his previous work, The Atlantic Economy: Britain, the US and Ireland won the 2002 Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association and his widely praised biography of the hunger striker Bobby Sands, Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation (Nation Books and Pluto Books) has gone through multiple printings. He also published (with Laurence McKeown, former hunger striker) a biography of Bobby Sands for young people, I Awoke This Morning (Belfast, Beyond the Pale) and the Irish language version D’éirigh mé ar maidin: Beathaisnéis Roibeaird Uí Sheachnasaigh do Léitheoirí Níos Óige (Dublin Coiscéim). He lived for a time in the zapatista community oventic and while there spoke on "la lucha en irlanda" to the Escuela Secundaria Rebelde Autónoma Zapatista “Primero de Enero,” and he now lives in Belfast and Binghamton.
Praise for Denis O’Hearn, Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation, New York, Nation Books.
'An excellent book. ... [Bobby is] alive and vibrant on every page. Most importantly, the book traces the development of an ordinary boy from a working class background to the highly politicised, articulate revolutionary that he became in later years.'
--Dr Laurence McKeown, author, playwright and former IRA prisoner who joined the hunger strike led by Bobby Sands
'The life of a truly remarkable young man ... how he grew from a plucky lad into a deeply committed, sensitive, anti-imperialist revolutionary. [This book] has a message that will find interest everywhere.'
'Denis O'Hearn in his gripping, heart stopping, exhilarating sometimes sad book, Bobby Sands, tells an extraordinary story of life, love and noble death. ... A grand and inspiring book by a grand and inspiring writer.'
'Bobby Sands, as this magnificent biography reminds us, was a hero for the whole world and yet broad Belfast to the core. We cried when he died, but he laughed in the face of tyranny and taught us the deepest meaning of comradeship.'
“The story of Bobby Sands and the Irish hunger strikers is an epic one that should be known to every activist opposed to imperial rule in this generation and generations to come. Denis O’Hearn’s clear and careful history preserves the memory of Bobby Sands against rulers in every country who wish for amnesia rather than new sparks of resistance. The story will shatter stereotypes, cause you to weep and rage, and establish Bobby Sands as a thinker and teacher by example for today’s movements against corporate globalization.”
Wobblies & Zapatistas: Converstions on Anarchism, Marxism, and Radical History
by Staughton Lynd & Andrej Grubacic
With an introduction by Dennis O'Hearn
Published: Sept. 2008
Page Count: 300
Dimensions: 8 by 5
Subjects: History, Politics
Wobblies & Zapatistas offers the reader an encounter between two generations and two traditions. Andrej Grubacic is an anarchist from the Balkans. Staughton Lynd is a lifelong pacifist, influenced by Marxism. They meet in dialogue in an effort to bring together the anarchist and Marxist traditions, to discuss the writing of history by those who make it, and to remind us of the idea that "my country is the world." Encompassing a Left libertarian perspective and an emphatically activist standpoint, these conversations are meant to be read in the clubs and affinity groups of the new Movement.
The authors accompany us on a journey through modern revolutions, direct actions, anti-globalist counter summits, Freedom Schools, Zapatista cooperatives, Haymarket and Petrograd, Hanoi and Belgrade, 'intentional' communities, wildcat strikes, early Protestant communities, Native American democratic practices, the Workers' Solidarity Club of Youngstown, occupied factories, self-organized councils and soviets, the lives of forgotten revolutionaries, Quaker meetings, antiwar movements, and prison rebellions. Neglected and forgotten moments of interracial self-activity are brought to light. The book invites the attention of readers who believe that a better world, on the other side of capitalism and state bureaucracy, may indeed be possible.
“There's no doubt that we've lost much of our history. It's also very clear that those in power in this country like it that way. Here's a book that shows us why. It demonstrates not only that another world is possible, but that it already exists, has existed, and shows an endless potential to burst through the artificial walls and divisions that currently imprison us. An exquisite contribution to the literature of human freedom, and coming not a moment too soon.”
--David Graeber, author of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology and Direct Action: An Ethnography
"In these desperate, often tragic, times, we look backward, forward, even to our dreams to be able to keep imagining a world in which justice may be part of more people's lives. We look to lives lived before ours, to stories and their meanings, to strategies culled from the worlds of politics or ancient wisdoms. We look in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and here in the United States. We are willing to entertain any new idea or revamped strategy. Staughton Lynd's life and work put him in a unique position to seek out someone like Grubacic, ask the pertinent questions, and tell the meaningful stories. Grubacic's experience perfectly compliments Lynd's. Here we have the best of a non-dogmatic Marxism listening to a most creative and humane anarchism. But this book is never weighted down by unforgiving theory. Just the opposite: it is a series of conversations where the reader feels fully present. It provides a marvelous framework for enriching the conversation that's never really stopped: about how we may make this world a better place."
--Margaret Randall, author of Sandino's Daughters, When I Look Into the Mirror and See You, and Narrative of Power
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Denis O'Hearn on Against the Grain: 6.10.14
- Anarchism, Marxism, and Zapatismo: Upside Down World
- Wobblies and Zapatistas: Political Media Review
- Wobblies and Zapatistas: Political Affairs Magazine
- Staughton Lynd Tackles Wobblies and Zapatistas: The Industrial Worker
Anarchism, Marxism, and Zapatismo
By Hans Bennett
Upside Down World
15 July 2009
Wobblies & Zapatistas is highly recommended to both the seasoned fan of books about radical history and theory, and the reader who is just now becoming interested in radical politics. While rooted in the inspirational examples of both the Wobblies and the Zapatistas, this book uses refreshing language and an informal conversational format of Grubacic interviewing Lynd. Their dialogue provides a big picture of global struggles against capitalism, and all forms of oppression. I myself learned for the first time that in the US, both the Haymarket anarchists of the late 1800s, and the anarchist Wobblies of the early 1900s were heavily influenced by Marxism. I also learned that many Marxists, such as Rosa Luxemburg from Germany, were themselves very critical of the anti-democratic and elitist consequences of the vanguard strategy of organizing that has been embraced by so many Marxists.
Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism, and Radical History
Reviewed by Deric Shannon
University of Connecticut
Political Media Review
Wobblies and Zapatistas is basically a long conversation between Grubacic and Lynd about building bridges between the best traditions within anarchism and Marxism written for modern militants, revolutionaries, and working people. It is a series of provocations, led by Grubacic as he asks Lynd probing questions about radical practice contemporarily and historically.
Book Review: Wobblies and Zapatistas
By Ernesto Aguilar
Political Affairs Magazine
From the moment Marxists and anarchists parted ways in 1872, the peculiar and occasionally rancorous tension between the divergent schools of socialism has been the subject of many a debate, study group and protest. For anarchists, as Mikhail Bakunin articulated, Marxism's ascension would virtually necessitate it would become as oppressive as the capitalist state. For Marxists, anarchism's impulse to support no one having power meant the well-connected in-crowd, mostly well-heeled and white, would exert their power in other ways and with the tacit support of the core of the people. From these early conflicts came years of characterizations – as often fair as misguided – of a host of Anarchism's motivations and political aspirations, and about organizing and the lack thereof...
By Paul Bocking
The Industrial Worker
In an opening chapter of Wobblies and Zapatistas, interviewer Andrej Grubacic refers to Staughton Lynd as "something of a guru of the new IWW." The title is apt. Within the grassroots labour movement of North America and beyond, as a labour lawyer and advocate, Lynd has popularized the concept of Solidarity Unionism–building a union through the daily efforts of rank-and-file workers on the shop floor to come together and 'act like a union'. Lynd is the radical antidote to the many prominent union leaders, intellectuals and academics who claim that to address the contemporary challenges of production moving overseas, massive multinational employers and anti-union governments, unions must become more hierarchical, open to 'partnerships' with employers, and increasingly focused on lobbying politicians...