One of the most prominent and influential leaders of the American left will begin a speaking tour of Britain next week, during what is appropriately Black History Month. Jarvis Tyner has been a tireless fighter for civil rights since the campaigns of his youth in his native Philadelphia.

Today he is one of the most prominent black figures in the US peace, labour and anti-racist movements. His experience shows how the dimensions of race, class and anti-imperialism can be combined in revolutionary action.

Fresh out of high school in 1959, Jarvis Tyner joined the struggle against discrimination in employment, housing and local services. When the black students sat in to protest against Woolworth’s segregated meal counters in Greensboro, North Carolina, he helped organise a boycott of the company’s ‘five and dime’ stores in Pennsylvania.

Then he joined the picket line called by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People outside the whites-only Girard College in the middle of northern Philadelphia’s largest black ghetto.

Tyner put his organising skills to work when his own American Lithographers Union struck for several weeks in 1962, after which white workmates elected him as their shop steward. Subsequently laid off, he later found work in a furniture factory where he led a successful battle to bring in the Teamsters Union.

He participated in one of the great moments of 20th century history, bringing busloads of Philly youth to hear Martin Luther King deliver his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Washington DC in August 1963. By this time, too, Jarvis was rising through the ranks of the Negro American Labor Council and the Du Bois Clubs of America movement, named after NAACP founder William Du Bois.

In 1961, both the then 20-year old Jarvis Tyner and the 93-year old Du Bois had joined the US Communist Party.

Tyner’s activites in the black power and anti-Vietnam War movements brought him increasingly into direct confrontation with the state. On May Day 1964, he was arrested at a rally against extreme right-wing Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, although a mass campaign led to charges being dropped.

Elected national chairman of the Du Bois Clubs of America four years later, Jarvis moved to New York where he played a key role in uniting black and Latino workers with the anti-war movement. As leader of the Young Workers Liberation League, he helped organise a 16,000-strong rally at Madison Square Gardens to welcome Angela Davis following her acquittal in 1970 on charges including homicide in aid of the Black Panthers.

Naturally, he played a major part in the campaign against South African apartheid and for the release of Nelson Mandela, as well as taking US contingents to the World Youth Festivals in Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic. The international involvement continues to the present day, including participation in the recent World Social Forum in Mumbai.

Jarvis Tyner also maintains his work in the Black Radical Congress which he helped to found, and in the US Communist Party as its executive vice-chair.

But his writings and lectures influence even broader sections of the left and progressive movements in the US and beyond.

In a memorable phrase, he once described globalisation as ‘imperialism on speed’. His pamphlet on ‘The Republican Campaign to Suppress the Black Vote’ laid bare the racism of US institutions and the Bush administration before a wide audience.

Now trade unionists, socialists, black activists and peace campaigners in Britain have the opportunity to hear and discuss his views at first hand.

As well as addressing meetings organised by the NUT and the South-East Region and Northern TUCs, he will be speaking at Black History Month events in Newcastle (October 18 at Northumbria University, 5pm), Glasgow (October 20 at the STUC, 7pm) and Birmingham (October 26 at Handsworth Community Fire Station, 6pm) and for the Morning Star in Gateshead (October 28 at the Civic Centre from 10.30am) and Keele University (October 31 at 5pm).

COMMUNIST PARTY Public events – all welcome


Oct. 18 NEWCASTLE TUC Building, 4 Cloth Market 7.30pm
Oct. 21 EDINBURGH Word Power Bookshop, 43 West Nicolson St ED1, 2pm
Oct. 22 GLASGOW Communist University of Scotland, STUC, 333 Woodlands Rd 11 am-4 pm
Oct. 23 LONDON Bread & Roses, Clapham Manor St, Clapham 7pm
Oct. 25 LIVERPOOL The Crown, Lime St. 7pm
Oct. 30 SHEFFIELD Marcus Garvey Hall, SADACCA, 48 Wicker, S1 7.30pm
Nov. 1 LEEDS West Indian Centre, Chapeltown 7.30pm
Nov. 2 CARDIFF Red November dinner (phone Dominic 07866 556342)
Nov.3-5 LONDON Communist University of Britain, Ruskin House, Croydon

Morning Star, Britain’s only socialist daily, .