Dublin Labour War 1913-14

The Labour War

As trade union struggles re-emerge, we need to bring forward the idea of solidarity too. One of the greatest historical lessons in solidarity in the English-speaking world was the 1913-14 “Labour War” in Dublin. The story is told in the RTE series Strumpet City, part 1 here. At the time James Connolly wrote: “As ships came into the Port of Dublin each ship was held up by the dockers until its crew joined the [seafarers’] union, and signed on under union conditions and rates of pay. The Union up and down the docks preached most energetically the doctrine of the sympathetic strike, and the...

Connolly and the Dublin lockout

Part eight of Michael Johnson’s series on the life and politics of James Connolly. The rest of the series can be found here. While the Home Rule crisis raged in Ulster, the southern Irish labour movement was about to engage in a class battle of unprecedented militancy. Connolly, along with Jim Larkin, would be at the centre of events during the 1913 Dublin Lock-Out. In the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War, Great Britain was convulsed by an unprecedented wave of syndicalist-inspired strike action known as the “Great Unrest”. Dockers and railway workers took prolonged...

A hundred years since Ireland's Easter Rising

By 1916 the history of Ireland had been inextricably linked with that of Britain for seven hundred years, and the connection had not been a happy one. The English (and later, British) imperialists took several centuries to conquer Ireland, in the process committing many atrocities and persecuting the Gaelic Irish. After the religious Reformation, conflict between Catholics and Protestants came to be central in Irish life. There were many uprisings, most significantly that of the United Irishmen in 1798, inspired by the French Revolution. The Irish peasantry were deprived of their land and...

Dublin 1913: the “proletarian army” is born

A hundred years ago (on 26 August 2013) tram workers in Dublin struck after their employer had tried to stop them being members of the Irish Transport and General Workers' union. The strike spread, eventually involving 20,000 workers, and lasted eight months. It was a bitter dispute — bosses locked out the workers [shut up workplaces as a means of resisting workers’ demands] — but socialists at the time admired the militancy and organisation of the Irish workers. Vladimir Lenin praised the “unparalleled animation” of the Dublin labour movement, and marvelled at how a region that had been mired...

The isolation of Dublin

We continue our series of articles by James Connolly about the 1913-14 Labour War in Dublin, and the power of the solidarity strike. On 9 December 1913, a special TUC conference considered a militant motion in favour of solidarity action with Dublin; union leaders opposed it, and won. As Connolly wrote afterwards, Dublin was isolated. It is not necessary, I presume, to remind our readers of the beginnings of the Dublin struggle. Let us, just for convenience sake, take up the fight at the moment it became a subject of national action on the part of the British labour movement. A public meeting...

Dublin 1913

The Dublin Labour War was one of the great battles of the working class. In 1913, under the leadership of Jim Larkin, the working class of Dublin was making Dublin one of the best organised cities in the world. Dublin’s slums were officially admitted to be among the worst in the British Empire. Infant mortality was higher there than in Calcutta. During the 1914-18 war, a British Army recruiting leaflet would tell the workers of Dublin that the war trenches of France were healthier than the slums of Dublin! But now the workers were on the move. The workers had discovered the power of the...

The Dublin Labour War of 1913

Introduction When Margaret Thatcher's Tories outlawed "secondary" or solidarity strikes, they knew what they were doing. The solidarity strike had defeated the ruling class again and again throughout the 1960s and 70s. When they come out in sympathetic strike, workers act on behalf of interests not directly or narrowly their own. This is class action far more advanced than mere sectional trade-union action. Implicitly, and sometimes openly, it challenges capitalist rule in society. That is why the Tories, the Labour leaders and most trade union officials hate the idea of the sympathetic strike...

Jim Larkin: the Irish apostle of labour

In March 1947, an immense crowd of people, 200,000 of them, many of the men bare-headed in freakishly Arctic weather, marched through Dublin behind the coffin of Jim Larkin, the founder of the modern Irish labour movement. He is the greatest figure in Irish labour history. James Connolly, Larkin’s partner between 1910 and 1914, was far more clever and far better educated, but it was Larkin who touched the workers of the slums with the holy fire of righteous indignation, and ignited them in revolt. Larkin was a union organiser in Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin and in the USA — where he was jailed...

James Connolly: An Spailpin Fanach

An Spailpin Fanach (Phrases in italics are James Connolly's) Young nightsoil man who shovels human shit Left in the streets for such as you to lift, Half-starved Hiberno-Scot untouchable Who sign yourself in print 'R. Ascal', Here in the crumbling 'Labour Chronicle' Of Edinburgh and Leith, I find your tracks: A young man's anger stains the page like blood; A thoughtful, humorous, loving, bitter man, In hasty, driven, sometimes muddled work, Still rages, jokes, is fervent: - Hope, and fight! A full free happy life for all, or none! Rage, for a father's useless, broken bones, For childhood in a...

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.