An Overview of the Life and Career of Jim Larkin

James Larkin (Big Jim) as he was often referred to was an Irish Labor activist and organizer. He was born and raised in the slums at Liverpool, England to his Irish parents on January 21, 1876.

Jim Larkin had a little formal education and took up a number of manual jobs before he was installed as the foreman based at Liverpool Docks. Jim was a socialist from the start and was wholly committed at getting fairer conditions for the workers. This saw him join the National Union of Dock Laborers (NUDL). In 1905, he became a permanent trade union organizer.

Strike Methods

Jim Larkin favored militant strike techniques that raised alarm. The NUDL were not fond of the strike methods Jim preferred and he was eventually moved to Dublin back in 1907. While in Dublin, Jim established his union known as Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU).

His main aim was for the Irish industrial workers whether skilled or unskilled to belong to a single union that would champion for their welfare.

ITGWU’s Political Programme

In 1908, Jim Larkin outlined the political programme of ITGWU. The programme involved officially authorized eight hours for a working day as well as the provision of work for all the unemployed persons. The programme also pushed for pension for all workers aged 60 years.

Other programmes included adult suffrage, obligatory courts of arbitration, nationalization of railways, canals as well as all the other means of transport. Lastly, ITGWU wanted the land of Ireland to belong to the people.

Establishment of the Irish Labor Party

In 1912, Jim and James Connolly established the Irish Labor party. Jim led a lot of strikes via the party with the 1913 Dublin Lockout being the most significant of them all.

The unskilled staff working in Dublin then had very few rights. The strike that dragged on for over seven months by workers in excess of 100,000 in number eventually became victorious as it ended with the attainment of the right to fair treatment.

Jim Larkin had his own methods that included sympathetic strikes as well as calling for the boycotting of certain goods. He never favored a violent approach to the strike-breakers. Jim had realized early that he would be incapable of building a huge trade union if he wrecked the firms where a majority of his members earned their daily bread. Larkin together with his union faced opposition from the Irish press.

However, he had a number of notable supporters like William Butler Yeats, Constance Markievicz and Patrick Pearse. When the First World War broke out, Larkin organized huge anti-war demonstrations in Dublin calling upon the Irishmen to avoid playing a part in the war.

Visit to America

In 1914, Jim Larkin visited America for purposes of a lecture tour as well as raising funds to battle the British. He joined the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party of America. James Connolly passed on during the Easter Rising in 1916.

Larkin established the James Connolly Socialist Club, New York. In 1920, he faced criminal anarchy and communism charges, received a pardon after three years before being deported to Ireland.

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