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BOB'S BLOG: History repeating itself says crusading author, 91

By Bob Wood
Blogs, News&Views Photo
February 24, 2015 - 0 comments

I finally got around to reading a much recommended book, Harry’s Last Stand.

The author, Harry Leslie Smith, is a 91-year-old who grew up in Yorkshire, England.  He wasn’t educated at “Oxbridge” so those who were will undoubtedly be able to punch holes in his thesis. 

I won’t though.

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

See also: 91-year-old Belleville author galvanizes Toronto youth with his get-political message

At 85 Smith was about to live out a quiet retirement in Algarve, Portugal when the banking crisis hit.  This crisis forced him to begin “a spiritual odyssey of sorts.”  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 experienced in his youth, and sees how 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” are applying the same remedies as 80 years ago.  They are cutting money for services, housing and job creation.

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

Even funerals.  Harry’s own father, who died during the Depression, was buried in a mass grave for paupers.  Now estimates are that 100,000 people in Britain  “will not have the dosh for dying this year.”  

As one who has benefitted from the creation of the welfare state, Smith’s book reminds me that I sometimes fail to appreciate how his generation made it happen.

Visit Smith's website HERE. Below, Smith speaks at a conference in the UK in September. 

Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who has built a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie. He is on Twitter at @timberwood24.

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