Sunday, March 22, 2015

Harry Leslie Smith Coming to Canada

I just heard that Harry Smith is coming to Canada for a "full-tilt effort" against  Stephen Harper.

This rates as good news on this chilly early spring weekend. .  In case you don't know who Harry Smith is, following is a short piece I did about his book, Harry's Last Stand.  My story appeared recently in Forever Young Information.

I’ve just read a much recommended book, Harry’s Last Stand. How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down.

The author, Harry Leslie Smith, is a 91 year old who grew up in Yorkshire and spent and good portion of his life in Canada.  He wasn’t educated at “Oxbridge,” so those who were will undoubtedly be able to punch holes in his thesis. 
Katrina Clarke Photo

I won’t do that though.

As The RAF veteran emphasizes in the book, he is not an historian but he is history.

At 85, Smith was about to live out a quiet retirement in Algarve, Portugal when the banking crisis hit.  This crisis forced him on “a spiritual odyssey.”  He began to explore and “unravel the anguish that my generation endured before the (post-war) creation of the welfare state.”

The author looks back at the Depression and the brutal poverty he and millions of others experienced in the thirties and makes plain to the reader that history is repeating itself.

“These men. They have the same suits, the same accents, the same smiles,” he observes of decision makers in the United Kingdom.

“These men” in western countries around the world are applying the same remedies as eighty years ago.  They are cutting money for services, housing and job creation. Politicians and leaders of all stripes who champion the austerity mantra are targets of his critique. 

Smith’s cites many examples.  There is workfare, the serious housing crisis and food shortages.  (In England the Red Cross is now, for the first time since WWII, delivering food parcels to destitute families).

Even funerals.  Harry’s own father and ten year old sister, who died during the Depression, were buried in mass graves set aside for paupers.  Today estimates are that 100,000 people in Britain “will not have the dosh for dying this year.” 

I sometimes forget to appreciate how Harry’s generations changed history. The book ensures that I remember as does this video of Harry speaking last November in support of the National Health Services.

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