Transcript of Episode 1 – Interview with Richard Walker

Chuck Morse: Making the Left Coast, episode number one.

Hello listeners. My name is Chuck Morse and welcome to the inaugural episode of The Making the Left Coast podcast. Thank you so much for giving this a listen.

The purpose of this podcast is to encourage discussion within and about the Bay Area left. As everyone knows, the Bay Area has been a hotspot for left activism since the 1960s. It was back then that the Black Panther Party tried to make Oakland a node in a global revolutionary project. When Mario Savio and others sparked the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley and when hippies turned San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood into ground zero of the American counterculture. These things and others put the Bay Area on the map in a very unique way and gave birth to an extremely rich, local radical culture that has continued to develop over the years. Today, in 2019, the sheer number of radicals here and the diversity of their projects is staggering by any measure and makes this a great place to be if you’re interested in the left.

However, despite this, there’s not a lot of discussion about what the local left is, what role it plays in shaping events, and what role it could or should play in the future. Of course, there are discussions. There are book fairs and panels and various media sources where people hash things out. But these things tend to be episodic. There may be a great panel one month and then nothing for several months thereafter. And they often occur in isolation from one another. Some may happen in Berkeley. Others in San Francisco, et cetera. And there’s no common leftwing Web site or newspaper that ties everything together.

As a result of this, important insights and projects get lost in the shuffle and we lose the capacity to learn from one another as much as we could. And this weakens as politically too. It makes it harder for us to do things like resist police violence and gentrification, not to mention build a new economy and transform the way that political decisions are made. For all of the great things about the local left, I think that it could be stronger, more effective, and probably more fun.

So, that’s why I started this podcast. Each episode will feature an interview with a local radical author or activist. In this one, I talk with Dr. Richard Walker, who has written a ton on the region, and there are about a dozen other people with whom I hope to speak. I’ll get them to tell us about their work, about the Bay Area, and about the potentials and challenges that they see. Obviously each interview will be different, but the goal will be to tease out insights into the local left and hopefully uncover ways that we can improve and enrich it. I understand that some episodes will interest some people more than others but ideally, overall, this will help people feel more connected to the local left and encourage some of the dialogues about it that have been difficult to have otherwise.

So, that’s what this is all about. It’s just a small project among many others but I’m optimistic that it can make a difference. If this interest to you, and if you enjoy any of these episodes, I would really appreciate it if you would go to www.makingtheleftcoast.com and add your email to the mailing list there. This will allow me to keep you informed about future episodes. And also please share news of this podcast on social media or wherever you can. Ultimately, with this project, I’m trying to convene a community, or at least a discussion, so your participation is really important.

Now, without further ado, I’ll jump into the current episode in which I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Richard Walker, who is professor emeritus of geography at UC Berkeley and the author of many works on California and the Bay Area including his most recent work, Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area which just came out on PM Press.

Walker is a singularly important figure when it comes to thinking about Bay Area radicalism. If Southern California has Mike Davis, who transformed how people think about Los Angeles, we have Richard Walkerwho has, in his extensive body of work, helped us see how the capitalist system has shaped our corner of the world and how those who want to build a more just and egalitarian society have resisted it. For my sake, I really wanted to interview him because I’ve been reading him for years but also because I think that any strong, local left will have to confront his work. He has, more than any other person, advanced very specific and developed ideas about how the left and the local social structure interact and whether you agree with these ideas or not, they need to be addressed and should, at the very least, serve as a springboard for future discussions.

So, I tried to encourage this in the following interview by, among other things, asking him about his personal and political background, his views on social change, and how the Bay Area left functions. I hope that you enjoy listening to the interview as much as I enjoy conducting it.

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Chuck Morse Thank you so much, Dr. Walker, for agreeing to be the guinea pig for the first episode of The Making the Left Coast podcast. I’m very grateful for this.

Richard Walker: I am delighted to do it.

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