By Barry Mellows
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Dublin lockouts. A lot has changed in the Irish labour movements since the time of Larkin and Connolly. The Trade union that was created by Jim Larkin to organise the workers to fight back at the bosses for better pay and working conditions, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union has been taken over by Bureaucrats. The now S.I.P.T.U instead of protecting the worker against the greed of capital it would now appear that S.I.P.T.U is protecting the interests of capital instead of the worker. A lot has changed since 1913. Larkin and his comrades were imprisoned many times for the their involvement in strikes and trade union activity. Larkin and Connolly were influenced from revolutionary philosophies like marxism and syndicalism. Syndicalism promotes workers control of the work place. I don’t think there are many trade union leaders these days that would risk imprisonment or their big wage and position. In Larkin’s day apayed trade unionist would get payed the average industrial wage. Now they get payed three, four, five, six times the average industrial wage.
It was things like militant unionism, socialism and strong labour political action that inspired the I.T.G.W.U.
Now its leadership is inspired by money corruption and greed. What has happened to militant unionism, support for socialism and strong labour political action?
This what Lenin said about Larkin:
It has found a talented leader in the person of Comrade Larkin, the secretary of the Irish Transport workers Union. Possessing remarkable oratorical talent, a man of seething Irish energy, Larkin has performed miracles among the unskilled workers…
From the establishment of the I.T.G.W.U. it was heavily involved in strikes all over the country. The big capitalists created their own organization called “Employers Federation” to combat the treat of what was called Larrikinism.
In August 1913, William Martin Murphy began to smash the I.T.G.W.U. He told workers in the dispatch department of his newspaper Company that they had to leave the I.T.G.W.U. or they would be fired. The I.T.G.W.U. picked any shop that sold the Irish Independent news paper. The I.T.G.W.U. members were locked out on the 26 August.700 workers from William Martin Murphy Tramway Company went on strike. William Martin Murphy called a meeting of the Dublin Employers Federation. On 3 September 400 big capitalists in Dublin locked out all their workers. By 22 September 25,000 workers had been locked out, including the workers families one third of the population of Dublin. There was to be a public meeting in support of the strikers to be held for Sunday the 31 august at O’ Connell street. It was to be addressed by Larkin. On the Thursday 28 august Larkin and others from I.T.G.W.U. were arrested. They were given bail on the understanding that they would not break the law.
On the Friday the public meeting was banned. But the meeting went ahead. Larkin was arrested when he appeared at a window of one of William Martin Murphy hotels to address the crowed. Then the police began to baton the crowed. Two people were killed and hundreds were injured. It was known as bloody Sunday.
This what Lenin said about bloody Sunday “In Dublin, the capital of Ireland a city of not a highly industrial type, with a population of half a million the class struggle, which permeates the whole life of the capitalist society everywhere, has become accentuated to the point of class war. The police have gone positively wild; drunken policemen assault peaceful workers, break into houses, torment the aged, women and children. Hundreds of workers (over 400) have been injured and two killed- such are the casualties of this war. All prominent leaders of the workers have been arrested. People are thrown into prison for making the most peaceful speeches. The city is like an armed camp”
Connolly was also arrested and was sentenced to three months because he wouldn’t recognise the court. He was released after a week because he went on hunger strike. On 3 of September 50,000 workers marched behind the coffin of James Nolan, one of the workers murdered by the police. Men from the I.T.G.W.U guarded the crowed with make sift arms this was the start of the Irish Citizen Army. The police were not to be seen anywhere near the funeral.
This what Lenin said;
On Thursday, September 4, Nolan’s funeral took place. The proletariat of Dublin followed in a procession 50,000 strong behind the body of their comrade. The police brutes lay low, not daring to irritate the crowed and exemplary order prevailed….
When Larkin got released he went to England and Scotland to look for support from the British trade union congress. But the leader ship would not give the strikers any support. A few trade unions donated money to the strikers and their families. A few thousand workers came out on strike in support of the Dublin strikers.
The Dublin strike committee appealed to the British trade union congress for financial aid so the strikers and their families didn’t starve. They would not give any aid.
On 27 October Larkin was jailed for seven months. He was released after 17 days because of the public outcry. Larkin then went on “fiery cross campaign of public meetings” all over England, Scotland and Wales. Thousands came to here Larkin speak. Larkin appealed to the workers for a general strike. But the British trade union congress was against the strike, I.T.G.W.U. and Larkin. The leadership of the British trade unions would not support the Dublin strikers. The British trade union leaders betrayed the Dublin workers. The strike was eventually lost. The Dublin workers and their families were staffed into submission.
The strike was not a total failure; the Dublin workers showed the world their revolutionary strength and courage. And the Dublin workers created the first workers militia, the Irish Citizen Army. The Irish Citizen Army would go on to play a major leading role in the Easter Rising.
The lock out showed the reactionary bourgeois character of Sinn Fein. Arthur Griffith supported and defended the capitalists. The lockout broth revolutionary republicanism and labour together. All the men that signed the proclamation of the 1916 rising were in support of the strikers during the lockout.
There is no comparison in the trade unions of today compeered to Larkin’s trade unionism for helping to organize the workers so they can fight back at the greedy capitalist. Now the trade union leaders are the protectors and the lackeys of capitalism.
I understood thoroughly what syndicalism has become, when the big boss of one of Hungary’s biggest Union’s refused to disclose to the press his hefty salary paid… by exactly by the state owned industry which managed to mass an astronomical debt by paying insane packages of wages and bonuses to incompetent executives rotated every year by the political parties they were supporting in the shadows. Union leaders should be paid from membership fees collected from members on behalf of proven activity…
Otherwise they’re just “another brick in the wall” between ruthless extortionists and the underpaid masses of slaves…
I’m glad you’re back, Rom. Union bureaucrats tend to collaborate with the bourgeoisie, by accepting deals that are rather poor. They tend to not want to confront the ruling class and the employers- these are ‘yellow’ unions. The ‘red’ unions like the IWW do not may their leaders massive amounts, and challenge the employers to get the best possible for their members. We all know which side of the barricades the yellow unions will be on…
Another great article!