Category Archives: Activists

James Larkin Devoted His Life to Ireland’s Labor Movement

As a labor leader, Jim Larkin’s devotion to members of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGW) was beyond question. Larkin established the ITGW in 1907. In dealing with union officers he was sometimes paranoid about plots to usurp his power. His closest lieutenant James Connolly was a particular subject of his suspicions. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/books/the-definitive-biography-of-big-jim-larkin-372254.html and http://spartacus-educational.com/IRElarkin.htm

Both men were Marxist, pro-union, and Irish nationalist. Despite Connolly being hanged for his role in the 1916 Easter Rebellion Larkin felt Connolly had undermined him. Connolly’s execution made him a national labor hero in Ireland. A role James Larkin apparently coveted.

James Larkin had an arch nemesis to worry about, but not within the ITGW. It was William M. Murphy the chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company. To break the labor movement Murphy convinced 300 employers to lock out their employees replacing them with strikebreakers.

The six month long Dublin Lockout of 1913 was a reverse for labor. Murphy’s strategy all but destroyed the ITGWU. Following the lockout, Larkin embarked on what was supposed to be a world speaking tour.

His first stop was the United States. When news of the Easter Rebellion reached him Larkin had been in the US for two years. While living in New York City James Larkin joined the Socialist Party.

Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution he set about converting the Socialist Party into the Communist Party. Read more: Jim Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

This was during the height of the Red Scare when people were being sent to prison for espousing Communism. Convicted of “criminal anarchy” in 1919 for four years James Larkin was Sing Sing inmate number 50945.

After his 1923 deportment to England James Larkin returned to Ireland. After that, the man who coined the phrase, “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” resumed his work on behalf of Irish labor. James Larkin’s death on January 30, 1947, had a sad touch of irony.

The man who was born in a Liverpool slum January 21, 1876, lost his life after falling through the floor of the headquarters of the Workers’ Union of Ireland. The WUI was the last union Larkin organized.

Learn more about Jim Larkin:

Big Jim Larkin: Hero and Wrecker