Born in 1945, Harry Chatten Boyte is a political organizer and writer on socialist theory and organization. As a young man, he worked for such organizations as the National Youth Administration, the Red Cross, and the American Friends Service Committee. He also did volunteer work for the Urban League and the Council for Human Relations. In 1963 he took a job with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where he served as an assistant to Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1971 Boyte among the conveners of the first national conference of the New American Movement.
In 1980 Boyte published his best-known work, The Backyard Revolution, which examined and promoted the teachings of Saul Alinsky and other radicals of an earlier day. The book was dedicated to Heather Booth, Ernie Cortes, Si Kahn, and Steve Max.
In the summer of 1984 Boyte helped organize the founding meeting (at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota) of U.S. Greens, which later became known as the Green Party USA.
In 1986 Boyte partnered with Heather Booth and Steve Max to author a book titled Citizen Action and the New American Populism.
In his 2010 book Radical in Chief, author Stanley Kurtz writes the following about Boyte's efforts to influence the fledgling Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in the 1980s:
time, Boyte seems to have decided that even Michael Harrington’s
non-revolutionary form of socialism would be rejected by the vast
majority of Americans. So Boyte formed a 'communitarian caucus'
within Harrington’s Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The
communitarians wanted to use the language and ethos of traditional
American communities—including religious language—to promote a 'populist' version of socialism. Portraying heartless
corporations as enemies of traditional communities, thought Boyte,
was the only way to build a quasi-socialist mass movement in the
United States. Socialists could quietly help direct such a movement,
Boyte believed, but openly highlighting socialist ideology would only
drive converts away.
"In effect, Boyte was calling on DSA to
drop its public professions of socialism and start referring to
itself as 'communitarian' instead. That was too much for DSA to
accept. Without at least some level of public socialist affirmation,
most DSAers worried that socialism itself would eventually disappear.
Boyte’s opponents also argued that secret socialism would not
remain secret forever: 'We can call ourselves communitarians,
but the word will get out. Better to be out of the closet; humble,
Boyte failed to convince DSA to package itself as 'communitarian'
rather than socialist, Boyte’s stealthy ways certainly became the
dominant mode within community organizing itself. In fact, Boyte was
a close associate of the leaders of the Midwest Academy, arguably the
most important de facto socialist 'front group' in American
organizing, and a group with close ties to Barack and Michelle Obama." (Source: Stanley Kurtz, Radical in Chief, Chapter 3).