The Role of James Larkin in Activism

Born on January 21, 1876, Jim Larkin is an Irish labor organizer and activist. He is the founder of Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union which played a great role in articulating for the rights of Irish industrial workers. Jim began working when still young to supplement his family income since his family was poor. He was not privileged to complete his formal education. He took up several casual labor jobs, and at one point he became a foreman at the Liverpool docks.

In 1905, Jim joined National Union of Dock Labourers where he became a full-time trade union organizer. However, his militant strike approach alarmed the union and led to his transfer to Dublin. He founded ITGWU in 1907 after his transfer to Dublin. He formed ITGWU to bring together all Irish industrial workers both skilled and unskilled into one big organization. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

The union grew into one of the major Unions in the region. In May 1911, he formed the crusading paper known as the Irish Worker which was a great success. Later on, arose the Great Labour Unrest in Britain which extended to Ireland and caught the attention of the union. This scenario made the union more famous, and its members grew to 15,000 making the union a key player in the Irish Trades Union Congress.

Larkin is also the founder of Irish Labour Party which led the 1913 Dublin Lockout. He founded this party together with James Connolly in 1912. It led over 100,000 workers to go on strike for almost eight months and ultimately securing their right to fair employment.

Before that, most unskilled employees from Dublin had few rights. In 1914, Jim traveled to America to raise funds to fight the British and for a lecture tour. While in the US, he joined the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW. Jim lost his friend Connolly in the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland.

In Connolly’s memory, he formed the James Connolly Socialist Club in New York. In 1920, Jim was imprisoned for crime and communism and later on deported to Ireland. He continued to defend workers until his death on January 30, 1947.