How DSA Can Activate an Under-tapped Resource: Retirees (Fall 2021) Responses

I only came across this article today, two years later. I absolutely have to agree with what Duane Poncy has to say. I was 74 back in 2018 when I first attended a well-attended and lively meeting of the local DSA chapter here in western Massachusetts. Ageism eventually drove me out. I participated for over a year in a civil, comradely fashion. I offered ideas in group discussions without patronizing younger people or pretending that my age and experience necessarily validated what I said. I’m pretty laid back and very approachable in social situations. But there was clearly a coldness–even a suspicion–that greeted my presence. In 2019 I had the nerve to run for an executive committee position and was soundly defeated. It became clear that someone of my generation was simply not welcome among all these under-40s. My wife joined me in attending the election meeting, looked around, and said “You don’t belong here.” She was right. I had an ironic and not particularly satisfying last laugh because the chapter fell apart due to youthful leadership that really had no experience in building an organization. Perhaps someone older with a longer-range political perspective might have been useful in helping it grow. COVID was the ultimate death blow. It seems odd that we’re back to the 1960s “Don’t trust anyone under 30!” I’m 79 now and still in possession of my faculties; I’m still a DSA member. Hopefully I have a few more good years left. I hope others will listen to what this article recommends.

Michael Engel
Ludlow, MA

How DSA Can Activate an Under-tapped Resource: Retirees (Fall 2021) Responses

As a 73 -year-old elder, lifelong democratic socialist, and founding member of DSA, I appreciate this nod at including people like me as active chapter members. I have much political experience as an organizer and leader of labor and social justice organizations, as well as political campaigns.

There are a number of factors keeping me from being more active, some physical, some psychological. I can no longer go on hours-long marches and demonstrations, my hearing makes it difficult to do phone work, etc. But perhaps the biggest reason has to do with constantly feeling irrelevant and unwelcome by younger people. This is not due, necessarily, to DSA culture, but to the larger culture and my own growing feelings of social vulnerability. I find there are arguments about politics and strategy I am now afraid to make publicly in this current cultural atmosphere on the left. I dread the thought of going to any kind of meeting dominated by “woke” young people who might jump me over some perceived slight. As someone who has always seen myself as aware, and who has been active in anti-racist and feminist politics since 1970, I now find these waters too difficult to navigate.

On the other hand, I have no desire to be put in an old people’s box. So, if these fears can be allayed and I can be made to feel relevant, I could possibly be persuaded to up my involvement.

I am very pleased to see that this issue is being addressed by someone in the organization.

Duane Poncy,
Portland, Oregon DSA