We must make 2023 a year of Good Trouble because it is our last chance to resist the tyranny of the 1%

With your help, I want to make February 25, 2023, a day of Good Trouble because the rebel Harry Leslie Smith was born on it a hundred years ago. It was big news four years ago when my dad Harry Leslie Smith died at 95. His death was covered by major English news media outlets in Britain, Canada, the USA, as well as Australia and New Zealand. The New York Times, Guardian, Mirror and Toronto Star eulogised him as the World’s Oldest Rebel. Public memorials were held for Harry in London and Toronto, where hundreds attended, and thousands watched the events on live streaming feeds.

Harry Leslie Smith deserved the eulogies spoken upon his death because he was the real deal. He wasn’t a politician, a journalist, or a member of the entitled class. Harry was just an old man that lived through enough history to know when things were going pear-shaped again for the average citizen.

In 2009, Harry’s son Peter died at the age of 50. The grief from that death inspired Harry to speak out against austerity, the rise of fascism, and the privatisation of public healthcare. Harry was not an overnight success and, for the first three years of his last stand was ignored by most of the news media and the political parties of the left.

It was through grit earned by growing up rough in the Great Depression and my support that pushed my dad on through those wilderness years. Over time, he built a following on social media platforms like Twitter that brought him to the attention of the gatekeepers of the news media, publishing and left-wing politics.

At 91, Harry became a regular contributor of essays on politics and life before the Welfare State to newspapers, like the Guardian. Between the years 2010 and 2017, Smith created 5 books that combined history, memoir and politics. It was an attempt to define the struggles of ordinary people in pursuit of a life worth living in a world where capitalism had run amok in the 1930s and the 21st century.

In 2014 Harry Leslie Smith gave perhaps the greatest speech to a Labour Party conference on why the NHS is so vital to maintaining democracy and a society that has everyone’s back. That speech has been viewed over five million times online because it resonates even today with ordinary people.

Harry Leslie Smith addressed the Oxford Union, rallies for the junior doctor’s strike, and toured refugee camps in Europe. He spoke to small groups in libraries and to large crowds at demonstrations. Television and radio clamoured for interviews with Harry, which he gladly accepted because he was an eyewitness to history. My father wanted the world to know the economic and political storms ahead would not be survived under our current system that benefited the few over the many.

My dad was born in a Barnsley slum in February 1923 which made him understand; today’s inequalities are as pernicious as yesterday’s. The struggles of the young in the 21st century were for Harry Leslie Smith as perilous as his struggles as a young man in Great Depression Britain.

In 1941, as a young man, Harry volunteered for the RAF to do his bit in the war against fascism and Hitler. In old age, he sacrificed his golden years to not make his past our future. Harry Leslie Smith wanted to mobilise the disenfranchised and make them remember that the Welfare State was their birthright bequeathed to them from the Greatest Generation.

Four years on from his death, Harry Leslie Smith, his books, and his determination are at risk of being forgotten. The tide from living in uncertain times that have seen the world-changing pandemic of covid and war in Ukraine is erasing his warning to not make his past our future.

Forgetting the struggles of my dad and his generation to make better lives for themselves through the collective action of trade unionism, the welfare state and socialist politics ensures democracy won’t survive into the next decade. We must do better- or else what awaits us all not born to wealth will be worse than what my father and the poor experienced in 1930s Yorkshire. We will be enslaved from womb to tomb to keep profits rolling in for the 1%.

Harry Leslie Smith deserves remembrance, commemoration and Good Trouble done in his name on February 25, 2023, as it would have been his 100th birthday. I am looking for suggestions, promotion and your help on how best to mark the event from you.

Thank you for reading this. As Elon Musk is running Twitter- I have no idea how long the platform can survive. It is why I put together on substack the Tweets from the week my father lay dying in a hospital in November 2018. I want to preserve all those thousands of tweets made on the Harry’s Last Stand account because they speak of a time and a place when we could have stopped fascism. It is his history, my history and your history in many ways too. Your solidarity with me as a subscriber to my substack is so appreciated.

Take care, John.

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