In 1919, the First Red Scare began to sweep the United States. It was triggered by the Communist Revolution in Russia and a general fear of anarchism among many sectors of the United States. U.S Government agents reacted by targeting certain individuals whom they considered communist sympathizers and agitators – and a name at the top of the list was that of an Irishman – Jim Larkin.
James “Big Jim” Larkin came to the United States to escape the heat of the many labor strikes and civil unrest he had fomented in his native Ireland. Larkin was an avid union organizer and had played a major role in the infamous 1913 Dublin Lockout.
The Dublin lockout was among the most volatile and painful events in Irish history, pitting some 20,000 workers against the interests of about 300 business owners. After massive strike was finally busted by the wealthy industrial elite, Larkin needed to escape the heat and fled to America.
But if Jim Larkin changed countries, he didn’t change his ways. He joined the Socialist Party of America and became deeply involved with the Industrial Workers of the World union.
This and his open and enthusiastic support for the newly-minted Soviet Union and “agitating” among the American public made him a prime target for U.S. federal agents. Read more; James Larkin | Biography and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
He was eventually arrested and charged with “criminal anarchy,” convicted and sent to Sing Sing prison to serve a five to 10-year sentence. In 1923, he was pardoned by the governor of New York and deported back to Ireland.
Despite his tumultuous times in America, Jim Larkin enjoys the status of folk hero in his native Ireland today. He is remembered as a champion of the labor movement and a voice for poor, exploited and downtrodden workers. Jim Larkin died in Dublin in 1947.
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