“Though I am not an historian, I am history.”
As you may know I don’t generally review books on here. In fact I question the value of all reviews, our tastes in all manner of things being so different. But I do want to briefly recommend something extraordinary that I’ve just finished reading, so here goes.
‘Harry’s Last Stand’ is a 91 year old man’s testament about growing up in the great depression of the 1920s and 30s, fighting Nazism in the Second World War, and finally creating a green and pleasant land in Britain with the NHS and the social welfare safety net in the 1940s and beyond.
And how that all began to be unravelled from the 1980s onwards.
“In two short generations the tides of corporatism without conscience began to roll in and washed away the blood, sweat and tears of a hundred years of industrial workers’ rights. Now, a nation that once had the courage to refigure society, to create the NHS and the modern welfare state, elects governments that are in lock-step with big business whose overriding aim is profit for the few at the expense of the many. We have gone from a nation that defied Hitler while the rest of Europe lay subjugated under his boot to a country that is timorous around tycoons and their untaxed offshore wealth.”
Harry Leslie Smith talks graphically about the miseries of growing up in grinding poverty and how he sees the same politics of division and blame being used now.
“The middle classes are so afraid that they will become as dispossessed as the poor that they have allowed the government to use austerity as a weapon against them and their comfortable way of life. But hospital closures, bad roads and stagnant wages, along with stern cutbacks to the social welfare system affect us all – not just the indigent. I have been through all this before, and I don’t want future generations to suffer as we did.”
So the book then sets out his thoughts about what we should do to get our society out of the hole its been put into. By a more honest system of taxation that even the big corporates pay into. That will allow us to build the decent housing our growing generations now need and protect the social welfare system that did so much to regenerate the nation after the depression and the wars of the 20th century. And how we might get more people out of food banks and apathy and engaged in a democracy that is relevant to us, rather than to the class of career politicians of left and right content to appease the oligarchs of the corporate world in the way their predecessors of the thirties appeased Hitler.
It’s strong stuff, forthrightly said and ended up making me think we might all yet be able to co-operate our way through to a better world for all of us.
So thank you Harry for writing your short but heartfelt book. This is my small contribution to encouraging as many people as possible to read it. And then, as you say, do something more to engage with the things you suggest than just ‘Like’ the book or ‘Favourite’ it on Facebook or Twitter.
You can buy ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ here and also see a short film of Harry talking about his book. My copy, as you might expect, came from Liverpool City Council libraries and will soon be going back there.