James Larkin was born into the slums of Liverpool, England on January 21, 1874. He spent several years of his life working several jobs, finally landing a position as a foreman at the docks, in order to help take care of his family.
Through this experience he realized how unfairly workers were treated and joined the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL). At the age of 32, in 1905, he became a well-known socialist when he stepped into the role as a trade union organizer.
Due to his alarming militant strike methods, Larkin was transferred to Dublin two short years later, where he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). The mission was to become the union in which all Irish industrial workers could rally together. In 1911 he spearheaded a paper called the Irish Worker, which found great success. Just a few short weeks after the launch of the Worker came Ireland’s ‘Great Labour Unrest’. Read more: James Larkin | Biography
This threw ITGWU into the forefront of the firing lines. Due to Jim’s welcoming the challenge the union became the primary player in the Irish Trades Union Congress, quickly growing from 5,000 to 15,000 members strong.
Eventually, the Irish Labour Party was to be born from this movement, which was the first sight of change the people were able to witness. In 1913, James Larkin’s efforts were fully recognized. Due to a strike dubbed the Dublin Lockout, in which 404 workers went on strike for eight months against 20,000 workers, wreckage was left behind. The world was forced to realize how much Larkinism had grown. Jim Larkin had become a labour champion.
At this time, Jim Larkin traveled to America to where he soon became a Socialist speaker. However, he got himself into hot water through his attempts to turn the socialist party into a communist party and found himself arrested during the red scare of 1919. He was soon imprisoned and convicted of ‘criminal anarchy’.
At this point, Larkin attempted to get a passport to return to Ireland. While the people still believed in him, they were under a new order.
His wife was of no assistance, refusing to sign a campaign to have him released from jail. In 1923 he was pardoned for his crimes and deported to England. Due to how radical he had become in his efforts, it had become impossible for him to return to a leading role within the ITGWU that he had created.
The years of unraveling led to Larkin being left alone in the end. He met his demise at the age of 72 on January 30, 1947.
Learn more about Jim Larkin: