Biography of Irish Labor Activist, James Larkin

James Larkin is an Irish labor organizer and activist. Growing up in the slums of Liverpool where he was born in 1874, James had little proper education and worked through many jobs as a young man to help in the family income. He eventually rose to the rank of a supervisor at the Liverpool docks witnessing the unfair treatment of employees.


The committed socialist later joined (NUDL) National Union of Dock Laborers before he chose to be a regular union organizer. He used militant methods in organizing strikes and got moved to Dublin. Here, he formed the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) with the aim of uniting all workers into a single organization. He later founded the Irish Labor Party that led to the famed Dublin Lockout in 1913. The strike went on for eight months with 100,000 workers taking part which resulted in them getting right to equal and fair treatment.


When World War 1 broke out, he led big anti-war demos and went overseas to the US giving lectures and drumming for money to fight against Britain. James Larkin was arrested in the red scare of 1919 when he tried to turn the Socialist party to Communist party. He got convicted of communism as well as political anarchy since he was a fervent Marxist and imprisoned in Sing Sing. However, he was exonerated of the charges three years later and banished back to Ireland. Communist International recognized James Larkin after he formed the Worker’s Union of Ireland in 1924. He was a workers rights activist until his death in January 1947.


James Larkin’s life was riddled with insecurity, a fact that led to him falling out with key members and allies in the Labor party and ITGWU as well as his wife, Elizabeth. This was triggered by the deportation making him frustrated where he indulged in outrageous behavior. The Dublin Lockout had made him an egomaniac who could not take criticism.