Will Thorne’s autobiography begins with his working life as a six-year-old child labourer. He describes how his politics were then shaped by his adventures with the tramping navvies, and forged among the roaring furnaces of the Beckton Gasworks in East London. As a semi-skilled industrial labourer, he founded the Gasworkers’ Union, campaigned on behalf of the unemployed and fought for the Eight Hour Day. Eleanor Marx helped him learn to read and write. He eventually became the General Secretary of the General and Municipal Workers’ union, and was an East London MP for forty years.
Along the way, Thorne was an active participant in the early struggles of British socialism and the labour movement. In particular he was a key figure in the development of New Unionism at the end of the nineteenth century.
Published in association with the GMB