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After the tremendous upheaval of the 1913 Dublin Lockout, one of the greatest union and labor upheavals in Irish history, Jim Larkin had finally reached a point where he needed to escape.
The upstart labor organizer and firebrand played a major role in fomenting some 20,000 urban poor to take to the streets and demand higher pay and better working conditions. The Dublin Lockout pitted masses of angry, fed-up people against Ireland’s wealthy elite. It ended up in a busted strike. Labor organizers needed to pull back, lick their wounds and consider their next move. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/profiles/po08.shtml
For “Big Jim” Larkin, that meant bolting the country for the United States. He arrived in America in 1914, but almost immediately picked up where he left off. Larkin quickly made contacts with communists, socialists, anarchist and other labor elements in the United States. He again began organizing and raising money to further his passionate desire to uplift the common working man.
From the day he landed on American soil, Larkin was under close observation by both British spies and American federal agents who were eager to keep a lid on the so-called “Red Scare” – the fear of a communist infiltration of the United States.
Larkin was eventually arrested under charges of fomenting “social anarchy” and sent to one of New York’s toughest prisons – Sing Sing. He was jailed in 1920 and stared down a 10-year sentence. But U.S. officials were eager to get rid of the sticky political problem Jim Larkin represented. They pardoned him in 1924 and deported him back to Ireland.
Larkin’s return to his homeland after almost 10 years in exile confronted a landscape more difficult than ever for those favoring socialist ideals. Larkin found the majority of the Irish body politics to be “incorrigibly conservative,” according to historian Eunan O’Halpin. Larkin returned only to find the Irish Community Party dissolved in 1924.
Larkin realized that much of what he had worked to establish had fallen apart in his absence. His work for a victorious socialist labor movement would have to enter a new phase with new tactics.