Jim Larkin's Dublin Lockout

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Dublin Lockout Born in Liverpool in 1874 to Irish parents, Larkin started work as a half-timer at the age of seven years, combining school with work as a milkman’s help. The exploitation involved in child labour had an embittering effect on his personality and was the source, he said, of his want of tact. From a politically conscious family, as a teenager he joined the Social Democratic Federation, a Marxist outfit. Soon afterwards, he became involved with the Clarion movement and the Independent Labour Party (ILP). ‘… Jim was a typical ILP ’er, for whom socialism was a humanist religion, rooted in morality rather than science,’ writes O’Connor. ‘Throughout his life he was essentially a moralist.’ Working as a docker, his…show more content…
Fearing the unionization of unskilled workers, employers went on the offensive, demanding that dock labourers renounce combination and that carter's work with non-union men. At first, Larkin was conciliatory. However, finding the employers unyielding, he raised the stakes by demanding a wage increase for all cross-channel dockers. The employers responded by locking-out their workers, some 2,340 men by mid-July. This was ‘Larkinism’, industrial action by previously unorganized workers, characterized by sympathetic strikes or the refusal to handle goods normally dealt with by striking workers, along with public rallies at which the workers’ cause was elevated and that of the employers condemned in impassioned rhetoric. Alarmed by the violence, the NUDL leadership arrived from Liverpool and persuaded the men to return to work for a lot less than they had demanded. Increasingly wary of their man, the conservative union leadership parted with Larkin, whereupon he founded a new union in Dublin: the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union…show more content…
Politically, it demanded adult suffrage, the nationalization of all means of transport and ‘The land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’. However, the union’s internal structures and procedures were left unspecified. Stung by the treatment he received in the NUDL, a jealous and impatient Larkin, writes O’Connor, intended that ‘the administration of the union would amount to one man rule’. In 1911, industrial unrest engulfed Britain. Influenced by the French concept of syndicalism, which posited that workers should eschew activism in political parties and ‘look instead to trade unions and industrial conflict as the primary instruments of class struggle and ultimately effect the revolution through a general strike’, dock workers and railwaymen went on strike. When the conflict spread to Ireland, the ITGWU was in the thick of the fight. Though some wage increases were secured, a retaliatory lock-out of unionized employees by the Great Southern & Western Railway Company (GSWRC) and other employers stymied
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