James Larkin: A Biography of the Socialist Legend and Tireless Labor Organizer

James Larkin, legendary Irish labor activist, socialist and radical republican, was born on January 28, 1874 in the slums of Liverpool, England. Growing up with little in the way of formal education, Larkin was forced to work various menial jobs during his youth in other to help subsidize his family’s income, eventually becoming a foreman at the city docks.

Larkin would maintain socialist views throughout his life, including a conviction that workers were oppressed and needed to actively combat their oppressors.

After losing his job as a foreman when he helped in the organization of a strike, Larkin would join the National Union of Dock Labourers as a part-time organizer before quickly working his way up to a full-time position. Read more: James Larkin – Wikipedia and James Larkin | Ireland Calling

Larkin would be transferred by the NUDL, first to Glasgow, Scotland in 1906, then to Dublin, Ireland in 1907 to aid in the organization of dock workers into unions. Following another in a series of disputes between Larkin and the NUDL, the latter would expel the former.

Jim Larkin would go on shortly after to form what is perhaps his most famous organization, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), which pursued the ambitious goal of unionizing all of Ireland’s industrial workers. The organization would be at the forefront of numerous strikes, including the legendary 1913 Dublin Lockout which saw over 100,000 workers protest subpar working conditions and an inability to unionize by striking for over eight months.

Despite failing to achieve its goals in the aftermath of the strike, ITGWU would grow exponentially in the following decades, and is still in operation today as the Services Industrial Professional & Technical Union, Ireland’s largest labor union.

Larkin would sojourn in the United States following the outbreak of World War I, with the intention of raising money for the Soviet Union, newly formed after the successful overthrowing of the Russian Tsarist government. He would be arrested in New York for his efforts and subsequently deported.

James Larkin would die in his sleep on 30 January, 1947, while being hospitalized. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Brown, and four sons.