Harry Leslie Smith was born into extreme poverty in Barnsley in 1923. He survived the Great Depression by working as a child labourer and served his country in the RAF during the Second World War. Afterwards he returned to civilian life by marrying and, along with many from his generation, helping to lay the cornerstones of the welfare by becoming an engaged citizen.At ninety-four, Harry is an activist for the poor, the NHS and the preservation of social democracy. He is the author of five books and a frequent contributor to the New Statesman, Daily Mirror and Guardian, for whom his video essay on the refugee crisis was shared over a million times on Facebook and has attracted huge comment and debate. Refusing to go gently into that good night, Harry now hosts a weekly podcast. When not on the road speaking about his life experiences, he divides his time between Yorkshire and Ontario, Canada.
This is a heartfelt, important work which stands both as a fine memoir and a warning to those who have not experienced first-hand the dark and difficult times that shaped the life of author. Harry Leslie Smith is deeply articulate, his words are moving and powerful, and his voice is authentic and sincere. Everyone under 95 should take heed! - Joanne HarrisThis is a wonderful book and a timely reminder that so much of the progress we take for granted came not from the benevolence of the great and good, but from the collective struggles of previous generations of working people. At a time when the need for decent jobs, homes, rights and services is more pressing than ever, Don't Let My Past Be Your Future is a must read for trade unionists, campaigners and everyone on the left. - Frances O Grady, General Secretary, Trades Union CongressHistory, they say, is written by the winners. Harry is a winner. He defied the odds and poor health to beat poverty and inequality to live a long and full life. He has been a tremendous public servant to this country, and his relentless spirit spills from these pages ensuring his service to us all will survive to benefit future generations . . . Don't dismiss these as the dreams of an old man. Harry is our own 'a living bridge' to history. Read this book, cross this bridge. Take a long, good look at what you see on the other side. We must do better than be destined to repeat our history as tragedy. - Len McCluskey, General Secretary, UniteI dipped into the book and then I kept on reading - it's a beautiful, wise and righteous piece of work and truly generous to the coming generation - A.L. KennedyTold with passion and eloquence, Mr Smith's personal story of growing up in a time without social services is a stark reminder of how close we may be (in the UK and the US) to consigning millions of people to a life of abject misery for no other reason than they were born poor. - Gale Anne Hurd, film producer and founder of Valhalla EntertainmentThis is a powerful and deeply moving personal memoir of a Dickensian-like childhood shaped by hunger, suffering and family despair in pre-war Britain. As today's world drifts back towards the extreme inequality that marked Harry Leslie Smith's childhood, we would be crazy to ignore his stirring call-to-arms in defence of the welfare state. - Linda McQuaig