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Union and Labour Party Founder Jim Larkin – the Organizer


Joining the NUDL

An Irishman, Jim Larkin was born on January 21, 1876, and lived in the slums of Liverpool, England. He received very little formal education and worked many different jobs until he became a foreman on the Liverpool docks. Read more:Jim Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia

A socialist, he joined the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL), becoming a union organizer in 1905. In 1907 he went to Belfast where he organized a successful strike of dock and transport workers, but the NUDL transferred him to Dublin because of his controversial ways, including organizing sympathy strikes.

Founding the ITGWU and the Labour Party

He left the NUDL in 1908 and started the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), and coined the slogan “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”.

In 1912 he formed the Irish Labour Party with James Connolly, and in 1913 he led the Dublin Lockout, where 100,000 workers went on strike. When the first World War began Jim staged large anti-war demonstrations, writing “Stop at home. Arm for Ireland. Fight for Ireland and no other land.” Learn more about Daniel Taub: http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/books/the-definitive-biography-of-big-jim-larkin-372254.html and http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison

Going to America

In 1914 he went to the United States to raise money to fight the British. While there, he joined the American Socialist Party. But in 1916 James Connolly died in the Easter Rising in Ireland, and Jim formed a club in his honor which became the center of left-wing activities.

In 1919 Jim was arrested for “advocating force, violence and unlawful means to overthrow the government”. He was convicted and sent to Sing Sing to serve a term of five to ten years. He was pardoned and deported in 1923.

Forming the WUI

Back in Dublin in 1923, because of slander against the new union leadership of the ITGWU, Jim was expelled. In 1924 he formed the Workers’ Union of Ireland (WUI) with his brother and his son. More than 2/3 of the Dublin ITGWU quit and joined the WUI.

Throughout the 30’s he began pulling away from the Soviets and began to make peace with the Catholic Church. Jim Larkin served as a Labour Party deputy from 1943 to 1944 and continued fighting for workers’ rights until his death on January 30, 1947.

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