James Larkin was a leading Irish labor movement figure and an important activist in Irish history. Born in 1874, in Liverpool England, he did not have a privileged childhood. He spent his young, formative years working to add to the family income. He did not have time for a formal education due to this work. Throughout his youth, he worked at a variety of jobs, eventually becoming foreman at the Liverpool Docks.
This would continue until his early thirties. A socialist, James Larkin would find that his fellow workers were being exploited and oppressed. In 1905, Larkin would join the National Union of Dock Labourers and become a full-time labor activist and activist. Larkin’s time at the NUDL was tense.. His militant tactics worried and alarmed the union leadership. Larkin eventually found himself transferred to Dublin.
In Ireland, James Larkin would found the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, which was a “One Big Union”-style organization, open to both skilled and unskilled labor. This organization would be highly successful, both due to the paper, Irish Worker, and their labor actions.
From 1910 to 1914, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union would be one of the major players and it’s membership would triple, growing from five thousand to fifteen thousand. The 1913 Dublin Lockout would cement the both the union and James Larkin as leaders of the Irish labor movement. Read more: Jim Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
After labor’s defeat in the Great Labour Unrest, and during the outbreak of the First World War, James Larkin found himself in America. He was attempting to raise money and support for the Easter Rising in support of Clan na Gael and their fight against Britain. However, as World War One raged, his pro-Germany stance would alienate himself from the American Left and draw American ire.
Eventually, James Larkin would be arrested and spend three years in prison before being pardoned and deported back to Ireland. His reputation in tatters, he would spend the rest of his life trying to rebuild himself to where he once was, but wouldn’t achieve the same kind of international or even national renown.
Learn more about Jim Larkin: