James “Jim” Larkin is a name that will bring out a variety of emotions in any Irishman. Jim is known as one of the forefathers for the Irish socialism movement in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Larkin grew up in a very blue collar family and from the age of eleven onward worked very blue collar jobs himself. He eventually would find work as a foreman of ships at the local docks. From this job he would go on to join the National Union of Dock Laborers. Read more: The Definite Biography of Big Jim Larkin
His practices for this union were seen as too extreme even by fellow union members and thus he moved to Dublin. The grueling long hours of physical labor quickly gave him quite the disdain for the wealthy and ultimately led to his utter hatred of the way capitalism has workers in constant competition with one another as opposed to working together towards one common goal.
This way of thinking would ultimately lead to Jim Larkin’s forming Ireland’s largest union of the time. What came to be know as the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) fought for many of the same things unions today are still fighting for which include but are not limited to fair wages, safe working conditions and benefits to help support their families back home.
“Big Jim Larkin” got this nickname for obvious reasons. His size is said to have been one of the reasons he was looked at as a leader and his powerful presence often commanded the attention of the room. Later in life Larkin went on to help bring the Irish Labor Party to the forefront of Irish politics and again helped both stage strikes for the better treatment and fair compensation of workers.
Jim Larkin and the Labor Party also were firm opponents of World War I and frequently held protest for the war in downtown Dublin. Throughout his entire life Larkin was a firm believer that he needed to lead by example. Because of this mindset he never took on any vices.
Larkin neither drank nor smoked in the hopes that his own actions would inspire a generation after him to follow in his footsteps and fight for the causes that meant something to them. Many Irish and other international activists, whether they know it or not, can trace their causes all the way back to the same fights James Larkin was having over one hundred years ago.