The Life Of The Activist James Larkin
James Larkin was an activist and labor organizer who lived from 1874 to 1947. He was born in Liverpool, England but became known as an Irish activist. He was the founder of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) which grew under his leadership to be the biggest union in Ireland.
In the aftermath of the Dublin Lockout, the ITGWU collapsed and Larkin ended up moving to the United States for a number of years.
While James Larkin moved to the United States in 1914 he was eventually deported due to his being a dedicated Marxist. He was sent back to Ireland where he continued to organize labor. Throughout his life, he wanted to shift the balance of power away from those who ran and owned businesses and towards those who worked for them.
While growing up in Liverpool Larkin’s family was very poor and lived in the slums. He did not receive a formal education and so worked a number of different jobs while growing up. One of his jobs was as a foreman working on the docks of Liverpool.
He saw firsthand that workers were treated very unfairly by management and so he joined a union, the National Union of Dock Labourers, in order to change this. Read more: Jim Larkin – Biography
When joining the union Larkin believed that the best approach to workers rights was through militant strikes. The leaders of the union were aghast at his methods and so in 1907 they transferred him to work on the docks in Dublin. It was in Dublin that he founded the ITGWU with the mission of making all Irish industrial workers, skilled or not, part of the union.
This also led to him establishing the Irish Labour Party. During his time at the ITGWU, James Larkin organized a series of strikes against companies with the biggest one being the 1913 Dublin Lockout. During this lockout over 100,000 employees joined the strike. The strike lasted for nearly eight months and was successful in the strikes aim which was to establish the right to fair employment.
When James Larkin went to the United States it was when World War I began. His reason to go to the US was to obtain money so that he could fight against the British during this war. H
e was in the United States for six years and was deported because he was found guilty during a trial as both a communist and for criminal anarchy. He received a pardon in 1923 and was sent back to Ireland.
After Jim Larkin re-entered Ireland he organized another workers union, the Workers’ Union of Ireland. While he had always been difficult to work with he became even more impossible to deal with after his return.
Eventually, Larkin was expelled from the union in March 1924 due to his attacks on other people, especially the leadership of the union. His end came after a fall through a floor of the Thomas Ashe Hall at WUI. He died a month later in January of 1947.