Born in Openshaw into a staunchly working class family, Marsden was one of four brother and three sisters. He joined the Communist Party locally in his youth during the 1930s and was a great admirer and personal friend of Harry Pollitt.
A steel erector – or "spiderman" – by trade, Eddie Marsden was his union branch’s president for 25 years. This was the now defunct Construction Engineering Union (see below for a note of union mergers involving the CEU).
Marsden was also a member of its National Executive Council for 15 years representing the North West region on the executive for over ten years (since 1952)
For seven years, he was the full-time organiser for the region of the North West of England. In 1960, he became the union’s general secretary.
He was a member of the Lancashire & Cheshire District Committee of the Communist Party for 30 years and was a parliamentary candidate for Openshaw. He would have been a regular attender at Party district and national congresses but he was certainly at the 27th National Congress of the Communist Party held at St Pancras Town Hall, London in April 1961, as one of the 600 delegates present.
He had been a member of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions Executive for some time when he was re-elected in February 1961 by a majority of two to one.
For period he was the prospective parliamentary candidate for the Communist Party in the Openshaw constituency and also President of the Manchester & Salford Trades Council.
He became a member of the Communist Party’s Executive Committee in 1968, a seat he held until his death.
The union Marsden was general secretary of represented various engineering construction workers, including steel erectors, riggers, crane drivers, scaffolders, fitters and welders, mostly on major engineering projects.
In April 1970, the CEU became the Construction Section of the newly formed federation entitled the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, which also had semi-autonomous sections. Marsden continued as the senior officer of the Construction Section, playing a significant role at the level of the TUC for the whole union in the militant early 1970s. At this time, Marsden’s profile rose enormously.
He was effectively still general secretary for the construction workers owing to the highly federated nature of the AUEW, and held that position until his death in post in 1975.
Sources: Labour Monthly October 1975 and other material
A note on the CEU and union mergers
The AUEW had an Engineering Section (formerly Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers (AUEFW),and a Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Section (formerly DATA), better known as TASS.
TASS left the loose confederation and went on to organise its own super-union, which eventually became the Manufacturing, Science & Financer union (MSF).
A full merger of the engineers and the constructional engineers was achieved in 1986 when the two sections of the federation became the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
The AEU, in turn, merged to form the AEEU, a merger with the EEPTU and then MSF merged with the AEEU in 2002 to form Amicus. Thus, the original aim of the 1970 AUEW merger was finally achieved, but many major white collar unions had been hovered up along the way.
Finally, the lumpy merger of Amicus was resolved when a new union was formed between the T&G and Amicus to form Unite – the union, of which the Construction Sector is a significant part, the old CEU membership now being united with all manner of other construction workers.