Aging Political Activists: Personal Narratives from the Old Left

By David P. Shuldiner | Go to book overview

Chapter One
Introduction

This book offers a demonstration of the continuing development of self-identity among aging political activists. It presents a series of interviews with four individuals in their sixties and seventies who have been longtime friends and political comrades. All are lifelong activists and continue to be politically engaged, to varying degrees, in late life. All four were members of the Communist Party for many years. Each of them severed their ties over political differences with the Party, but all continue to identify themselves as socialists. All of them are Jewish and, if queried, will specifically identify themselves as "secular" Jews.


INTERVIEW SUBJECTS

The inspiration for this book came to me when, in 1990, I conducted a series of interviews with Joseph Dimow, a resident of New Haven, Connecticut. As a "red diaper baby" (a child of parents who were members of the Party), I was intrigued by the possibility of interviewing a cohort--in every sense of that term--of my parents. It was my parents who had, in fact, given me his name and suggested that I look him up (my father had lived in Connecticut in the early 1940s and had met him "in political circles").

I then took advantage of a unique opportunity to compare Joe's personal narrative and self-identity with those of three other people who have been close to him personally and politically. One is his wife, Lillian, who was herself a member of the Communist Party, though not as active as Joe. The other two are longtime friends and

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