‘Sweet Years of Protest’

January 24, 2023

From the January-February 2023 issue of News & Letters

Séamas Cain allowed himself two boasts in Sweet Years of Protest: 1990-2021; A Chronicle of Actions, Ideas, and Events, published by Oyster Moon Press, Berkeley, Calif. He proudly includes himself in the “ugly Anarchists” denounced by Trump in June 2020: protesters enraged by the murder of George Floyd who held off police in Seattle (a moving poem he wrote is included).

He refers to himself, when living near Duluth, as the last person in Northern Minnesota who had actually met Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement in 1933, and worked under her.

The articles, essays and poems that Cain, a long-time correspondent of News & Letters, has collected were published in Freedom, founded by Peter Kropotkin in 1886, and in N&L and other journals. Topics span the world, but his coverage of labor and freedom struggles and those who would obstruct them has a Minnesota focus.


Preserved here are coverage of steelworkers locked out of MEI-CSI in 2000, of the homophobic firing of highly successful women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller at Minnesota-Duluth, and of mass firing of union staffers by a Stalinist Steelworkers Union official, employing corporate union-busting techniques.

We have met many “Marxists” like that union official. Karl Marx as Secretary of the International Workingmen’s Association in 1871 crossed out the names of trade unionists who rejected the Paris Commune and wrote in the names of Communards, even though not all of them would have considered themselves Marxist. Other “anti-imperialists” today justify Putin’s massacres in Syria and Ukraine.


The dialogue between Marxist-Humanists and Cain and other anarchists has continued for decades. Our own founder Raya Dunayevskaya and other comrades have crossed paths with most of the anarchists cited here or in Laurens Otter’s Introduction, such as Dorothy Day; Fred Thompson, author of The IWW: Its First 50 Years; and Franklin Rosemont, who re-established Charles H. Kerr, the original publishers of Marx’s Capital in the U.S.

When there is a shared attention to the voices of the oppressed and the freedom movements they create, with a suspicion of bosses of companies or states or parties, there is a basis for dialogue and debate. Séamas Cain’s new book—whether recording the voices in the 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion or Occupy Wall Street or labor actions and critiquing them all, or fighting the battle of ideas in literature—is a welcome contribution.

—Bob McGuire

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