By Karl Nerenberg | March 31, 2015 | rabble.ca
Ninety-two year old Harry Leslie Smith is not your usual idea of a political superstar.
Late last Saturday afternoon, however, at the closing session of the Broadbent Institute’s third annual Progress Summit, Smith was the star.
Smith has lived in Canada since the 1950s; but last Saturday he spoke to the Ottawa Summit via video link from Britain, his home country.
He told the story of his life, which is intertwined with the history of the last century.
Smith was brought up in circumstances of Dickensian poverty, and like many Dickens characters went to work as a child.
He delivered ale, pulling a cart on foot from pub-to-pub.
The Great Depression hit him and his family hard, although they did not have much to lose. Smith tells of being on the verge of starvation and rooting through garbage for food.
Smith was 18 in September of 1939 when Hitler marched into Poland, launching the Second World War. He signed up right away
Britain’s highly stratified class society had not been kind to Harry and his ilk. But Smith believed, nonetheless, that the German dictator was a deadly enemy and had to be defeated.
He served with distinction in the Royal Air Force. At the end of the War, he says, “together with so many others of my generation, I resolved to create a more equal society to end the class system forever.”
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In Britain, that resolve resulted in the defeat of wartime leader Churchill and the ascent to power of Clement Attlee as head of Britain’s first-ever majority Labour government.