Relations with the USSR

Published in 1913, 20th Century Social Perspectives, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (July-August 2013), Volume 21

Above: Larkin with the Transcaucasus delegation at the seventh All-USSR Local Transport Congress, 1929. He broke with the Soviets soon after.

Above: Larkin with the Transcaucasus delegation at the seventh All-USSR Local Transport Congress, 1929. He broke with the Soviets soon after.

Since his release from Sing Sing, Big Jim had been thinking of a commercial deal with Moscow. A sinecure in a Soviet-backed cooperative in Dublin or a Soviet–Irish shipping line would allow him to survive comfortably in Ireland as a freelance agitator. The Soviets were very interested, provided that Jim would lead an Irish communist party. In 1922 they had him elected to the Moscow Soviet, and in 1924 he was made a candidate-member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. Returning from Moscow in August 1924, he reluctantly became general secretary of the WUI and promised to turn his soapbox, the Irish Worker League, into a Leninist party. But the WUI was nearly bankrupted by wildcat strikes encouraged by Peter. The Irish Worker League made a good showing in the June 1927 elections, and Big Jim became the only communist ever elected to Dáil Éireann. But he could never turn the League into a real Leninist party, knowing that the party would be used to constrain him and make him accountable. Without a party, the Soviets refused to cut him into their commercial operations with the Free State. In 1929 Jim broke with Moscow.

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