“As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it.”

In November 2013, 91-year-old Yorkshireman, RAF veteran and ex–carpet salesman Harry Leslie Smith wrote an article for The Guardian that went viral and quickly sparked a charged debate about the state of society, austerity budgets and what future generations owe to the past.

Leslie’s generation not only helped to liberate Europe, it also founded the Western European welfare states, giving the world the ideas of nationalized healthcare, universal education, decent housing for all and proper pensions for the aged. Now he brings his unique perspective to bear on social service cutbacks, benefits policies, political corruption, food poverty, the cost of education—and much more. From the deprivation of Depression-era Barnsley and the terror of war to the creation of the modern-day welfare state now so under siege, Leslie has seen a great civilization rise from the rubble. But now, at the end of his life, he cautions against its steady erosion.