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Peter Fryer (February 18, 1927 - October 31, 2006) was an English Marxist writer and journalist.

Contents

Early life

Peter Fryer joined the Young Communist League in 1942 and the Communist Party in 1945. On leaving school in 1943 he became a reporter on the Yorkshire Post, and was dismissed by the paper in 1947 for refusing to leave the Communist Party. In 1948 he joined the staff of the Daily Worker, becoming its parliamentary correspondent.

Fryer did though cover foreign affairs from near the beginning of his time at the newspaper. In 1949 he reported on the show trial of the Hungarian communist László Rajk, who had falsely confessed to being an agent of Tito and others. He later felt guilt after Rajk's execution and eventual "rehabilitation" early in 1956, for what he felt had been his acquiescence.

Hungarian uprising

In October 1956 he was sent to Hungary to cover the uprising. His dispatches, including a description of the suppression of the uprising by Soviet troops, were either heavily censored or suppressed. He left the paper; his resignation had in fact taken place several months earlier, but he had been persuaded to serve a year's notice. He wrote a book about the uprising (Hungarian Tragedy, 1956) and was expelled from the Communist Party for criticising its suppression in the "capitalist" press. Hungarian Tragedy is in print; the most recent edition also contains some articles he completed after the book, which was published very quickly after the events he witnessed.

Fryer 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. Fryer wrote a weekly column for the Workers Press, the paper of the organisation which had expelled Healy, for several years after 1985. As a socialist journalist, he was inspiring and painstaking, and wrote articles about how to write for the widest political audience, later made into a book called Lucid, Vigorous and Brief (1993).

Empire Windrush

In 1948 Fryer had covered the arrival in Britain of settlers from the Caribbean on the Empire Windrush, which ultimately resulted in Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984). Two short related books, originally given as lectures, are also in print: Aspects of British Black History and The Politics of Windrush.

Whilst critical attention has tended to focus on Hungarian Tragedy and Staying Power, other books by Peter Fryer: Private Case - Public Scandal: Secrets of the British Museum Revealed (1966), Mrs Grundy: studies in English prudery (1963), and The Birth Controllers (1965) were also ground-breaking studies that had significant impacts at the time, opening the subjects to wider debate and helping to change established (and Establishment) attitudes.

His Rhythms of Resistance, about the African musical heritage in Brazil, was published in 2000. Peter Fryer's interest in listening to and playing music came together with his travels in Brazil with his Brazilian son-in-law. 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 Caipirinha jazz bar in north London.

Later life

At the time of his death he was working on a study of life in Mississippi in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, under the working title Behind the Blues. He intended this work to rework black American history and he hoped this would be as influential as Staying Power. He had also just found out that he was to be honoured by the Hungarian government, in recognition of his "continuous support of the Hungarian revolution and freedom fight".[1] Following his death he was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary at a reception at the Hungarian embassy in London.

References

  1. ^ Terry Brotherstone (2006-11-03). "Obituary: Peter Fryer". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1938086,00.html. Retrieved 2006-11-26.  

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