Peter Fryer

Writer, journalist and influential socialist

PETER Fryer who has died aged 79, was 16 when he joined the Yorkshire Post to train as a reporter after being educated at Hymers College in Hull.

The son of a Hull master mariner he was awarded a scholarship by the college when he was 11.

When he was 15 he joined the Young Communist League, and in 1945 the Communist Party, a fact which did not go down well with the Yorkshire Post's then owners, Yorkshire Conservative Newspapers. He was instructed to resign his party membership, and refusing to do so, was eventually sacked,

His more natural home was the Communist-run Daily Worker which he joined in 1948, becoming its Parliamentary Correspondent. But the Hungarian uprising in 1956 changed everything.

He was sent to cover it but his dispatches, including a description of the crushing of the uprising by Soviet troops, were either heavily censored or suppressed.

Already becoming disenchanted, he left the paper, and in 1956 published Hungarian Tragedy which would become one of the most influential books on the uprising, inspiring fellow Communists to question Party policy, and many to leave.

A worse crime, however, was to criticise Soviet Communism in the capitalist press, and the British Communist Party expelled him.

Peter then became the editor of The Newsletter, the journal of The Club, a Trotskyist organisation led by Gerry Healy, and with Healy was a founder member of the Socialist Labour League.

He parted company with Healy and was delighted when Healy's organisation expelled him in 1985.

For several years after 1985 he wrote a weekly column for the Workers Press, the organ of the group which had itself expelled Healy,

As a socialist journalist, Peter was painstaking, and wrote articles about how to write for the widest political audience, later made into a book Lucid, Vigorous and Brief.

In 1948 he had covered the arrival in Britain of settlers from the Caribbean on the Empire Windrush. In 1984 he wrote Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain.

Peter Fryer's interest in listening to and playing music came together with his travels in Brazil with his Brazilian son-in-law and in 2000 his Rhythms of Resistance, about the African musical heritage in Brazil, was published. As well as a leading authority on blues music, its history and related music in Africa and South America, he was a highly accomplished blues pianist, and was performing regularly until his death.

At the time of his death he was working on a study of life in Mississippi in the 19th and 20th centuries, under the working title "Behind the Blues". He intended this work to rework black American history.