ABOUT THE EDITOR OF PDRBoston.org, JOHN SPRITZLER
by John Spritzler
I was born in 1947 in Los Angeles. My parents were both of Jewish ancestry, but neither of them was religious and just wanted to assimilate. (I do not consider myself to be a Jew or a member of any other particular religion.) My father was a physician (he had been a flight surgeon in the Flying Tigers during WWII) and my mother was a "housewife." I went to the L.A. public schools and graduated from high school in 1964. My mother and father, who were born and raised in New York and Philadelphia respectively, wanted me to go to an Ivy league college so I applied to all of them. Only one accepted me--Dartmouth (in Hanover, N.H.)--so that's where I went.
While at Dartmouth I studied math and physics and changed from being a conservative (even pro-Barry Goldwater) youth who knew little of the world, to being somebody aware of and very supportive of the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Apartheid (in South Africa) Movement and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement. I thought of myself as a physics major, but I kept taking history courses "on the side" to try to learn why the U.S. had invaded Vietnam. I never learned the answer from these courses, but in my junior year the college informed me that I had met the requirements of my major in (to my complete surprise!) history but not physics. I graduated from Dartmouth in 1968 but stayed around as an "outside agitator" to help organize students to abolish ROTC (the Reserve Officer Training Corps that produced 2nd lieutenants for the Vietnam war) by taking over the administration building. I wrote about this here, where I discuss the key thing that I learned about changing the world.
While at Dartmouth doing anti-Vietnam war stuff, I was visited frequently by a young man who lived in Boston and who was a member of the Progressive Labor Party, which was a Marxist Leninist (pro-Stalin) party that had broken off from the Communist Party USA. This PLP member eventually persuaded me that the PLP approach was the only realistic way to win the things I was fighting for. I joined the PLP and did campus organizing for it at UConn at Storrs, CT., and then the University of New York at Buffalo where, in 1974 I was expelled for disagreeing in class (only by raising my hand and speaking politely when called upon, by the way) with a Professor Halstead who taught that European Imperialism in Africa was good for the natives because it brought them civilization. I was ordered never to step foot on the campus. I ignored that order and was leafleting in the Student Union when police arrested me for trespassing. To my surprise, the judge at my trial, instead of sentencing me to a fine (it was my first offense, after all), sentenced me to serve three months in the Erie County Penitentiary (which I did.) It turned out that the reason for the stiff sentence was that, unknown to me at the time, there had earlier been some anti-war organizing at the university and the administration was determined to make an example of me to "nip it in the bud."
Later in 1974 I moved to Boston (the Jamaica Plain neighborhood.) Although later moving to the Brighton neighborhood I have lived in Boston ever since. At this time in 1974 the Boston PLP (about 100 people) split from the national PLP and I joined the Boston group. That group (calling itself Party for Workers Power) quickly decided (and I agreed!) that they were not communists and they began doing some good work unifying black and white people in Boston against the ruling class's effort to pit blacks against whites with the school busing issue. A bit later the PWP dissolved. I lost hope about changing the world and settled down, got married, had three children, grew a big vegetable garden in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston where I now lived, and worked as a math teacher first for ABCD in Boston and then for almost ten years at Keefe Technical Regional Vocational High School in Framingham.
In 1988 I decided I didn't want to be a high school math teacher anymore and entered the doctoral program in biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health. I earned my degree in 1992 and worked at that school for 20 years doing design and analysis of AIDS clinical trials, retiring in 2012 as a Senior Research Scientist. (My scientific journal articles are listed here.) I was an activist at the Harvard School of Public health, as I discuss here.
In 1991 I ran into Dave Stratman, a neighbor of mine in Jamaica Plain and also an acquaintance of mine. Dave, like myself, was a former member of the PWP, and he had been very active with black and white parents in a group called Better Education Together that was building black-white unity against the ruling class's effort to create a race war in Boston with the busing issue. David had just written a book, and this book changed my life, as I write about in a memorial to Dave (he died in 2014) here.
From 1992 until his death in 2014, Dave and I met weekly to discuss how to implement the insight, which he learned from working class people in Boston, that he wrote about in his book. The insight is that (contrary to the Marxist view!) the values by which most ordinary people try to shape the little corner of the world over which they have any real control, the values of equality and concern for one another, are implicitly revolutionary because they are the opposite of the capitalist values of greed and domination, and they are the values that ought to shape all of society. This is the basis of my wanting real, not fake, democracy, in sharp contrast to the Communist (and, in general, Marxist) fear of genuine democracy that I wrote about here.
(In 1994 my wife divorced me and I moved to the Brighton neighborhood of Boston where I have lived ever since, buying a one bedroom condominium there in 2010.)
Dave and I created a paper newsletter called New Democracy and then changed it to be the website, NewDemocracyWorld.org, which I now edit.
Dave worked with teachers to oppose the MCAS standardized test. (See his keynote speech about this here.)
I worked with the Somerville Divestment Project, whose leaflet that I helped write is here.
In 2011 Dave and I realized that it was also necessary, indeed vital, to have a vision of how the world ought to be; not a detailed blueprint but a set of basic principles regarding the economy and the government. After giving this much thought, we wrote Thinking About Revolution. At the time, we had not thought to use the word "egalitarianism" to refer to what we were calling simply "the good society" and we were using the phrase "democratic revolution" to mean what we later called "egalitarian revolution."
Soon we created the website, PDRBoston.org, to be about how society ought to be, to describe egalitarianism and discuss how to achieve it. This website is designed to make it easy to find the answer to whatever question a reader might have about egalitarianism. I have written most of the pages of that website in response to a question somebody asked me. And as people keep asking good questions, I keep trying to write answers to them on this website.
Presently I am trying to build an explicitly egalitarian revolutionary movement in my neighborhood of Boston, as I discuss here with respect to my personal involvement, and here where I provide an introduction to what egalitarian revolution is all about.