Socialist Party
| Print

26 September 2018

Non-fiction: Don't Let My Past Be Your Future

Powerful defence of the welfare state - but blind allegiance won't save it

Mary Finch, East London Socialist Party

Harry Leslie Smith, the World War Two veteran and welfare state campaigner, has crossed the supposed generational divide and issued a "call to arms" to young people to organise to change society.

'Don't Let My Past Be Your Future' paints a powerful and devastating picture of the absolute destitution faced by working class people through the story of his own youth in 1920s Yorkshire.

He describes the dark, damp, dilapidated housing he was born in, and which his family was regularly forced to flee because they couldn't afford the rent.

He was put to work at the age of seven - his family had no other choice. Harry's father had already lost his job and was struggling to find any employment following a serious injury.

1945 is a constant point of reference throughout the book. The sweeping reforms that workers won as a result of the threat of revolutionary struggle transformed lives. The creation of the NHS and the welfare state showed millions of workers where the potential power in society lies.

But although Harry is far-sighted on many issues, his book unfortunately misunderstands some of the key processes shaping today's politics.

Brexit, like 1945, is a regular feature of the book, looming over the whole narrative with a sense of impending devastation. Harry correctly recognises the alienation and frustration which led to the Brexit vote - workers were sick of paying for the bosses' crisis, and saw a way to express their frustration in the EU referendum.

Yet he seems to hope Britain will find a way to remain in the EU. This is understandable, given the failure of Jeremy Corbyn and the union tops to lead mass struggle and fight for an independent, socialist Brexit.

But socialists have explained from the beginning that the EU is, and always has been, a bosses' club. Capitalist governments created it to maximise the profits of Europe's capitalist classes, and defend against greater public ownership, the planned economies to the east, and international competitors.

Every supposed benefit for workers of being in the EU was actually won - and can only be defended - by workers' struggle, just like the NHS and welfare state which Harry so eloquently champions.

And Harry's frustration over Corbyn's lack of enthusiasm during the referendum campaign is still confusing. Why would Corbyn show any serious dedication to staying in the neoliberal EU, when - like Tony Benn - he previously always held the position that Britain should leave?

Corbyn only adopted a position of Remain under pressure from the Blairite wing of the party.

Later, immediately after the referendum results were announced, the Tories were on the verge of collapse.

A general election seemed imminent. But rather than press the advantage, the Labour right launched another coup attempt against Corbyn.

In reality, the Blairites are capitalist politicians, and as terrified of a pro-worker leader becoming prime minister as any Tory. Harry is therefore also mistaken to call for Labour's left and right wings to reconcile. Corbyn's leadership is untenable for the Blairites, and they will do anything to get rid of him.

It's clear Harry remembers Labour as the party the working class used to create the NHS. But millions of working class and young people remember far more vividly the terrible role of New Labour, including accelerating the privatisation of the NHS.

He also says he stuck with Labour during the Iraq war, at the same time as millions were taking to the streets in mass demonstrations against it. Young people and workers won't be convinced by blind allegiance. After a decade of austerity, we are demanding more.

The only way forward for Corbyn's Labour is to take the battle to the Blairites and fight for a democratic, socialist Labour Party which truly represents the 99%.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/28012




Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

triangle16 Aug Anger continues to mount over imposition of direct rule

triangle14 Aug Health workers strike against 2,000 loss of pay

triangle14 Aug Northern Ireland, August '69: 'Battle of the Bogside' and British...

triangle14 Aug Pro-democracy protests continue to rage

triangle14 Aug The Peterloo Massacre 1819: When a fearful ruling class tried to...

triangle14 Aug General election looms... Capitalists in chaos: Fight for socialism

triangle14 Aug Fight back against the retail bosses!

More ...

WHAT'S ON

triangle19 Aug Leeds Socialist Party: Women and the class struggle

triangle21 Aug York Socialist Party: Class and the education system

triangle22 Aug Cardiff East Socialist Party: Hong Kong - the struggle for democratic workers' rights

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

What we Stand For

About the Socialist Party

Our 2015 election manifesto

Joining the Socialist Party - what will it mean for you

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999