At the age of 35, Jim Larkin left behind a life of back-breaking labor to become a full-time trade unionist. It was his three decades of toiling for poverty-level wages – including years as a child laborer – that drove Larkin to dedicated his life to making changes for the underclass people of Ireland. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and James Larkin | Ireland Calling
He was destined to become one of the most powerful union men in his country, and in many respects, all of Europe. At the time, the working poor were rising up in countries all over the world, most notably Russia, where the ideas of Karl Marx, Communism and Socialism brought on the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Over in Ireland, Jim Larkin fully embraced the concepts of Socialism. For him, it was just common sense. He had lived the incredible injustice of being mired in poverty while a few elite individuals of society enjoyed immense wealth, privilege and power. For Jim Larkin, striking for a better wage was more than about putting more money in his pocket – it was full-blown class warfare.
Although Jim Larkin had barely earned a grade-school education, he was a natural leader and organizer of men. He was also a gifted public speaker. With the passion of his words he could stir vast numbers of his fellow workers to rise up and demand something better for themselves.
Larkin’s life as a union organizer was not without controversy – in fact, he was often more reviled than admired by many, even among his fellow activists. He found plenty of trouble on his tumultuous journey toward achieving what he called “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”
After the famous Dublin Lockout of 1913 – a massive failed strike by thousands or workers against 300 companies – Larkin found it necessary to flee to the United States. In the United States, his ongoing union activism landed him in a federal prison as a “social anarchist.”
Today, however, the name and reputation of “Big Jim Larkin” is the stuff of Irish honor and legend, and he remains a hero in the judgement of Irish history.