Jack Firestein was born in Leslie Street, Whitechapel, in 1917, he left school when he was 14 to follow his father into the tailoring trade.
His parents, who had come to England as Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, had five other children and it was with his older brother Phil that Jack first became interested in Communist politics during the 1930s. They ran a Communist bookshop called Carters – and Jack discovered a passion for the trade.
Awarded a Military Medal in 1944 after fighting through Italy, he was shot during the battle of Anzio. The bullet passed through his body and he was captured. Treated by a Hungarian doctor and in immense pain, he characteristically argued about the merits of the guerrilla leader, Tito and convinved his captors that his was a fine olf English name!
After the war he went back to book-selling, running a stall at the Unity Theatre and the Unity Folk Club. He managed skiffle groups in the 1950s and was later chauffeur for trade union leader Clive Jenkins.
Leaving the Communist Party in 1956, he joined the Labour Party and, latterly, Respect. He was a key figure in the London Socialist Film Co-op. Just days before he died in 2004, in the spirit which he lived, he kept medical staff entertained with renditions of Red Army and socialist songs.