2013 will be an important year for the socialist and workers’ movement in Ireland as we celebrate the courageous sacrifice displayed by the Dublin working class in their battle against the bosses in the 1913 lockout.
Four hundred employers attempted to starve 25,000 and their families into submission in a brutal attempt to smash the Irish Transport General & Workers Union (ITGWU) led by its socialist leaders Jim Larkin and James Connolly.
Of course this will also be an opportunity to debate the legacy and lessons of the lockout and how the ITGWU was built as a powerful force that was seen as a mortal threat by Irish capitalism. Incredibly, Jack O’Connor, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is using Larkin’s legacy to justify the criminal surrender of ICTU to the troika and government’s programme of austerity.
Speaking at the 66th anniversary of Larkin’s death, O’Connor said:
“But the reality was that, no less than any leader, and he [Larkin] was a brilliant leader, he would not choose to lead vulnerable men and women into a head-on collision with overwhelmingly superior forces”.
While Larkin did not start the lockout he was prepared to engage in an all out battle to defend the rights of working class people once the capitalist class went on the offensive. This stands in stark contrast to the likes of Jack O’Connor who have flatly refused to wage a battle to oppose the juggernaut of cutbacks and draconian taxes such as the property tax.
He never regarded the capitalist class and its allies in the state as representing “overwhelmingly superior forces” but could be defeated by mobilising the power of the working class. This could have been done in the lockout had it not been of the treachery of the leadership of the British trade union movement who refused to blacken goods coming from Dublin.
The present leaders of ICTU can be summed up in the words of Larkin when he spoke of the labour leaders in Britain in 1913:
“The official labour leaders are standing in our road and, like the engine to the cow, we’ve got to bump them out of it. The Labour Party could wrap themselves up in cloth tomorrow and they would be just as useful as the mummies in the museum”.
Jim Larkin statue
O’Connell St. Dublin
Sun 24 Feb 2pm