James Larkin was an activist and folk hero born in Liverpool England on January 21st, 1876. He was a devout socialist, activist, and labor organizer responsible for organizing the regions first union of an unskilled labor force. It was the largest union in the region known as the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). Learn more about Jim Larkin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62B9_xQpw0A and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8QqK8YbbaI
James Larkin was raised in the ghettos of Liverpool and had a piffling amount of education. As a young man, he helped his family make ends meet by working a wide array of jobs. He was hired to work on the city docks and over time with hard work, he was promoted to the position of foreman. In 1903 James Larkin married Elizabeth Brown and had four sons.
James Larkin identified with the poor and underprivileged. He pledged his life to revolutionary socialism and the fall of capitalism.
He experienced and witnessed daily how the Irish workers were treated unjustly and felt with less than 10% of them being associated with unions that they had to unify in order to change their conditions. Read more: Jim Larkin – Biography
In 1905 he decided to become a member of the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL). Due to militant strikes in 1907, the NUDL became unsettled and Larkin was sent to Dublin where he sparked the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU).
It expanded in three years to become Ireland’s biggest union known for being the most militant. The aim of the ITGWU was to unify all of the Irish industrial workers regardless of skill level into one body or organization.
In 1911 the union found a way for its message to reach the people. They launched a weekly newspaper “The Irish Worker and People’s Advocate” which had a circulation of approximately 20,000 readers.
James Larkin would go on to establish the Irish Labour Party in 1912 in conjunction with James Connolly and William O’Brien. They would be credited with leading various strikes with the most memorable being the Dublin Lockout of 1912 where over 10,000 workers went on strike for over seven months. The lockout severely affected the business in Dublin, with many have to declare bankruptcy. Their efforts would lead to the victory for their right to fair employment and form unions.
Larkin organized anti-war demonstrations in Dublin in response to the eruption of World War I. He visited the United States to gain financial support for the fight against the British.
He was convicted in 1920 for criminal anarchy and communism. He was later pardoned and deported to Ireland where he would organize the Workers’ Union of Ireland. In 1924 they were successful in gaining and securing recognition from Communist Internation and visited the Soviet Union. Larken was forced to shut down The Irish Worker and would later start another paper entitled “Irish Workers’ Voice.” James Larkin passed away in his sleep on January 30th, 1947.
“We have amongst us a man of genius, of splendid vitality, great in his conceptions, magnificent in his courage”. – James Connolly