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On the work of the late Willie Thompson




Publishers Lawrence Wishart have made 'a salute to Willie Thompson' free to view. The multi-authored piece gives an overview of his life and work: born in Edinburgh in 1939, he was then brought up on Shetland (maintaining a strong interest and close links to the Islands for the rest of his life).


In 1958, he attended the University of Aberdeen, reading history, becoming chair of the university’s Socialist Society, signing up for the Labour Party Young Socialists (and writing letters ‘home’ to The Shetland Times about the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which caused consternation among the Islands’ clergymen).


On graduation, Thompson moved to Glasgow, trained as a teacher and worked in the city’s schools for three years. He also joined the Young Communist League and the Communist Party of Great Britain, of which he remained a member until its dissolution.


In 1969, he gained his PhD in economic history from the University of Strathclyde with a thesis (anticipating today’s decolonisation agenda) on Commercial Connections between Glasgow and Africa 1870-1900.  In 1971, Thompson took up a post at the newly-established College of Technology, continuing there as the institution became Glasgow Polytechnic and then Glasgow Caledonian University, latterly becoming Professor of Contemporary History.

Amongst many other contributions during three decades as a communist, Willie acted as the Party’s Scottish student organiser; edited Scottish Marxist; was a key member of the Communist Party History Group; and served on the editorial committee of Marxism Today, whilst also often taking on local organisational tasks. After leaving Glasgow Caledonian in 2001, he moved to northeast England, becoming there an active member of the Green Party – in which he characteristically gave much encouragement and consistent support to younger activists.  


The piece covers some of Thompson's writing in depth, including excerpts from an unpublished interview about his one-volume history of the CPGB, and an extended consideration of his final book, Work, Sex and Power.

Published 19 February 2024.

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