James Larkin is a historical Irish figure who assumed the roles of activist, labor organizer, and became the founder of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union referred to as the ITGWU. He was born in Liverpool, England on January 21st of 1876. As the creator of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union he received recognition when it became the largest union in the region.
After the Dublin Lockout the ITGWU fell apart which sent James Larkin to the United States in 1914. He did eventually get deported but was a fervent Marxist and his organization of labor continued well into the 1940’s. His death occurred in Dublin, Ireland on January 30th of 1947.
James Larkin spent his youth in Liverpool, England’s slums. He did not receive much in the way of a formal education and had to supplement the income of his family. While he was growing up he worked many different types of jobs until he finally became a foreman at the docks of Liverpool.
James Larkin became committed as a socialist and stood behind the workers he believed were not being treated fairly. This was the reason he became a member of the National Union of Dock Laborers or the NUDL. In 1905 he began to organize the trade unions on a full time basis.
The NUDL became alarmed by the militant strike methods used by James Larkin and in 1907 they transferred him to Dublin. It was during this time he became the founder for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. The union was established with the goal of combining all of the unskilled and skilled industrial workers in Ireland into a single organization.
James Larkin continued in his quest and founded the Irish Labor Party and was directly responsible for being the leader in what became a series of strikes. The most significant strike became known as the Dublin Lockout and occurred in 1913. At this time in excess of 100,000 workers went on strike for a period lasting more than eight months. The strike led to the workers receiving the right to obtain fair employment.
When World War I broke out James Larkin was responsible for the staging of large demonstrations for anti-war in Dublin. He additionally traveled to the United States in the hopes of raising capital to help in the fight against the British. In 1920 James Larkin was convicted of criminal communism and anarchy although he did receive a pardon after three years when he was deported back to Ireland.
This was when he finally secured recognition form Ireland’s Communist International and organized the Workers’ Union of Ireland in 1924. In 1903 James Larkin was married to Elizabeth Brown and the union resulted in the birth of four sons.
Read more: Jim Larkin – Biography