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.
~ ~ ~
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.
Chuck Morse: Before we get into your book, I’d like to talk a little bit about your background, your political background. You came of age during the 1960s, which of course is an era legendary for its radical activism, globally as well as in the Bay Area. And I was wondering if you could tell listeners a little bit about how this impacted your work and your sense of yourself and, also, if the Bay Area’s notoriety as an activist hotspot drew you to the region.
Richard Walker: Well, I grew up here. So, I was not drawn here and then I went to Stanford. I grew up on the peninsula. I went to Stanford. And like a lot of young people at that time, you heard what was going on, you saw what was going on, and it eventually had an impact. I mean, even as early as freshman year in college, and senior year in high school, I was out picketing a Safe Way for the grape boycott. I got involved . . . I joined Save the Bay and the Sierra Club, I think, just around that time, the age of 17 or so. So, I was actually green and a farmworkers’ supporter before I ever became a radical. And, then, as a freshman, I remember that I was invited, “Oh, let’s. . . . come along with us to go picket at the Port of Chicago for napalm.” I learned about that. I didn’t go, actually. I was a little too timid. But, you know, I entered college as a supporter of the Vietnam War and, by the time freshman year was halfway through, I was already against the war. But, you know, I was not a sort of born and raised radical. My parents were New Dealers and very liberal Democrats. But, no, I shied away from that and, in fact, one of the first things I did in college was join the glee club to do musical theater.
Chuck Morse: Were you drawn to the counterculture at all? Was that a part of your. . . ?
Richard Walker: No, absolutely not. I was never . . . I had friends in high school who were taking LSD and so on and I did not like that idea. You know, I tried, I tried to some hash and some pot and that was about it. I didn’t find it that exciting. So, no, I was absolutely not countercultural. I mean, I was singing in the choir, and not because I was religious, because I’m not, but just because I like to sing.
Chuck Morse: Yeah, OK.
Richard Walker: It was only by maybe senior year when there was a big sit in at the Atomic Energy labs on campus that was organized by SDS people, that I started to kind of a clue in. And, so, I exited, you know, very much against the war, very upset with Johnson, although I was very sympathetic to his domestic programs. And, of course, I’d been deeply influenced by the Civil Rights Movement. So, you know, so the 60s had a huge impact on me.
Chuck Morse: Yeah, I see. And were you at any point drawn to the new communist movement? I know this was later.
Richard Walker: No, in the early 70s, you know, a lot of the 60s radicals went and joined splinter parties: Trotsky, communist, and even more exaggerated. And, again, I was never a joiner. I just wasn’t interested in that. I was not, you know … I come out of that milieu of suburbia and Stanford, where there wasn’t any social pressure to join. So, no, I wasn’t at all a joiner.
Chuck Morse: That’s very helpful. I wanted to ask you about some of the commitments that shape your work. You are professor emeritus at UC Berkeley and have spent decades writing about space, the built environment, nature, etc. which of course is something that geographers do. But you’re also on the left. And I want to ask you about the connection of these things. Clearly, there are a ton of left-wing geographers these days. But when you came of age, the turn within the left to space and to geography and to nature and the built environment was relatively novel, in my view. I think of dissident communist like Lefebvre, the Situationists, who were relative heretics in the context of the mid-century, 20th century arc of socialism, which, thanks to the Soviet Union was very conservative, really, in every sense of the word. So, I was wondering how you made that connection and how you made the link. How you made the transition or the link between geography and the left and how this intersected with these currents in leftwing spatial and geographic thought that were unfolding at the time you emerged as an intellectual.
Richard Walker:Well, I headed off to graduate school in 1971. And I ended up . . . I was looking for a program in environmental studies because of my green background here in the Bay Area. So, I looked around and there was almost nothing at that time. And I found a program, a couple programs that I applied to, and the one I got into and gotten money for was at Johns Hopkins, which had an old geography department and environmental engineering department. They had merged them to create a kind of M.A. factory for, to produce people to go work for EPA which had just been created. So, anyway, I went there, and that’s where I met David Harvey, who was teaching there, and so I became, I started reading Capital. Well, first I read about philosophy with him and started to think much more radically, reflect on the thinking and the nature of ideology and so on. And then we started reading Capital. And, at first, I thought, “Oh, this is interesting,” but, you know, of course it takes you a while to figure it out.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: And Harvey himself was just figuring it out. His had just . . . He had read it once and then he proposed reading it with a group of us students and I think it was by the third time I went through Volume One, I was convinced that this really worked. I had a background . . . I had been an economics major and, it spoke to me. And, you know, I thought, “Well, this makes a lot of sense.”
So, you know, I got on this path of being kind of a Marxist scholar from very early on. Now, as far as geography, I went I went there to be an environmental studies, an environmental economics kind of person, and that’s when I learned about geography. And I had done a lot of sort of, reading. . . And I loved maps and geographic things when I was a kid, so, it was an easy step to become a geographer. But it was accidental because, as you may know, geography is . . . was, by the post-war era, a very second rate discipline. It had been abolished at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford and all these places. They had closed up the geography departments. So, what happened was, a bunch of British, working class boys called “scholarship boys,” like David Harvey, went through the Oxbridge system, got PhDs in geography, because it’s a very big discipline in Britain. They did not want to work in Oxbridge. They hated it. And the US universities were growing, so a lot of them . . . There was a huge influx of radical, and not just radical, but British geographers.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: And, so, that that’s really behind why I would have run into David Harvey. He had come over here to get away from Britain.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: And then started studying Baltimore and, you know, doing his radical . . . and he had very conventional. And so he was kind of radicalized in the same way that I was, sort of through the experience of the 60s but it was really reading Marx on top of that that then led to a kind of systematic right understanding of what a left analysis of capitalism would be.
Chuck Morse: Wow. So many roads lead to Harvey. That is extraordinary. So the people that graduate students often study when they study left geographers were not major figures, the people that graduate students often study today when they study left geographers.
Richard Walker: No, absolutely not. There were a handful of geographers who had been radicalized in the 60s, kind of a mix of Brits, you know, a British Faculty, a couple of American faculty, some students at that time, they had started . . . little bits started here and there, but it really got going about 1970.
And this journal Antipode was created, edited by Dick Peet, who was another British scholarship boy, who had actually come to Berkeley, gotten his PhD at Berkeley, and then ended up back at Clark University. And so I went to some of their meetings. We met at the geographers annual meetings and so on and there was this group formed, the socialist geographers, around Antipode and some of them were very, you know, there was one real party guy, who belonged to, I think, the Puerto Rican Liberation Front, or whatever it was, in Chicago. There was one guy who was really into hands on, go into the ghetto, and work with Black liberation and so on. And then there were a bunch of us who were more sort of academically inclined, but Antipode got off the ground. I wrote a couple of early articles for Antipode. And that was the beginning of a radical geography. But there was almost nobody. Geography was very, very conservative. It was . . . it had been shrunken by the loss of the Ivy Leagues. It was only at state universities, really, and which meant it was mostly dominated by the Midwest and Berkeley. Now Berkeley, but Berkeley was dominated by a guy named Carl Sauer, who had come out of the Midwest, who was himself . . . he was a great thinker, but he was actually fairly conservative, so geography was very conservative and suddenly there was this this Marxist stuff happening.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: It blew their minds.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: But we managed to create a little space. There were no women in geography to speak of. There were like two tenured women when I started and there were no lefties. So, we started to build up a left, more and more generations of students, so that by the 1980s, and then certainly by the 90s, you have a pretty substantial left within geography and more so than you would in, say, economics, where people were rejected.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: It was very hard to survive in economics. I started economics graduate school and got out of it because it was so orthodox and annoying. And, so, only maybe in geography and sociology, I would say, are the two disciplines where the left really carved out a lot of space. Political science, no; economics, no; anthropology, yes.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: Yes, maybe not as much at the time. But, anyway, geography ended up by the 90s having a very substantial left and, I might add, geography was not only conservative, it was completely atheoretical.
Chuck Morse: Right, right.
Richard Walker: It had completely missed the boat on high theory. So, compared to sociology, economics, anthropology, geography had a very weak tradition. Now that actually allowed those of us on the left to carve out an intellectual space, because we were the most, we were the most sophisticated.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: You know, there were good number crunchers and, you know, there were good people, but they were mostly positivists, empiricists, or model builders and the geographers, the radical geographers, were really theory builders in a way that hadn’t been seen. So, that, that really meant in the 70s there were Marxist geography had quite a bit of room.
Chuck Morse: Yeah okay. That’s a fascinating story. Thank you very much. I wanted to ask you about some of your . . . dialing in on this . . . some of your own specific choices. Specifically, what I wanted to ask you about is your decision to write where you live, to write about where you live and, as it turns out, where you grew up. And I was curious about this for the following reason. Obviously, it’s customary for . . . there are many interesting places to write about in the world and scholars often write about places that are far from where they live. And I was wondering, in your case, if you decided to write about where you live and where you grew up as a part of a . . . if this reflected a political commitment on your part to interrogating your own private life, to linking the personal and the political or at least the personal and the intellectual, if this is part of a political commitment, reflected a political commitment on your part?
Richard Walker: Well, that’s a very good and interesting question. I doubt it was anything that conscious. I think it’s more a case, I grew up here. I love the place. When I moved back to Berkeley, as I kind of, you know, sort of budding leftist in 1975, I mean, Berkeley to me it was Mecca. And I was so happy to be in Berkeley. And it was a total accident that I got a job here. You know, you look around when in your year when you come out of graduate school: who’s got jobs? And I almost didn’t get it. . . . there were some shenanigans, but I got it and all of a sudden I was in Mecca. And I thought, “This is fantastic!” I was so happy and, you know, I got involved pretty quickly in the late 70s with Berkeley Citizens Action, which was really opening up Berkeley politics, opening up a left front in Berkeley politics and, I’m trying to recall if, you know, other major political activity . . . in the 70s, you know, mostly when you arrive and you’re a junior professor, you’re trying to survive. And that would end up being a very political moment. But, I think . . . well, you know, I got involved . . . my partner for the next decade or so I met in Berkeley, Ellen Wydes was very active in Berkeley politics and very radical herself. And she was involved with BCA, got involved with BCA, she sort of knew those players, you know, knew a lot of people.
And then, in teaching, we were trying, I was teaching things about the environment. I was given . . . I was sort of given a menu of courses I needed to teach: environment, land use, planning, water in California. Much of the environmental stuff, I was brought to teach that because of my background and, so, the natural thing, pretty much, was if you’re going teach about environment, OK, you know about pesticides in California.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: And Ellen was very involved with battle over pesticides. And of course, the farmworkers. So, and then there was a lot of radical activism around farming, the 160 acre limit for water, the pesticides, the unionization, and so on. So, I got very much . . . not directly involved but, hearing about this, and trying to use these materials to teach about California water, about pesticide hazards, about labor, and organizing and so I got quite into …. There was a moment there, in the 70s, when agriculture, because of Chavez and the farmworkers, when agriculture was a very hot topic on the left here. And, so, that was really important and, of course, it was local, because California agri business is really important. I’ll come back to that 30 years later, but we’re not there yet. And, as far as urbanization, I had written about suburbanization in my dissertation because of growing up in Silicon Valley and watching it. So, there is that connection, which was also quite local.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: So, there were a number of local things I could plug into. And then I was trying to broaden my horizons a bit and I took over a course from one of the elder professors, a field course, field geography, where you take the kids out and walk around the city and so on. So, I had to start learning about San Francisco and the Bay Area, really reading about the local stuff, which fascinated me because again moving to Berkeley, having grown up in the burbs, and then having had gone to Baltimore for four years and coming back here, you know, I really didn’t know much about the central Bay Area and its history. So, I started reading heavily about that.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: And I started teaching a California course because that was also one of the courses . . . I sort of California’s water became California. I can’t remember the year that that happened. It may have been a couple of years later. The other thing that happened was in 1980 to 82, I was up for tenure, 81-82 and it turned out to be a huge fight.
Oh, and I forgot one more thing about water. A Graduate student of mine, Michael Storper, who went on to be a big geographer, he was working with Friends of the Earth and David Brower on the Peripheral Canal. So, I got sucked into the peripheral canal battle. We did critical research on the water that showed that L.A. was paying for water that was going to the agribusiness in Kern County, which helped defeat the Peripheral Canal. So there’s another thing about California, directly here, that got me deeply into this.
And then I was up for tenure and conservatives in geography—half the department was very conservative, the old boys—and then we had a new bunch: Me, Alan Predd, Michael Watts, and a couple of good . . . you know, sensible people. And so, I was up for tenure and it turned out to be a huge battle. It went on two years. I eventually was saved by the Chancellor. There was a huge political mobilization around California and around world geography to get me tenure and I won, which actually made my reputation. They wanted to destroy me and they actually took this kind of little guy who hadn’t done that much and made me famous which was which was very nice for the right wingers. But, at the time, it didn’t feel that way. It didn’t feel that great.
Chuck Morse: I had no idea. I’ve never heard the story.
Richard Walker: Yeah, so, and that, you know, one of the arguments that we made is that I’d done this work on the peripheral canal and agribusiness was out to get me. It wasn’t actually true, but agribusiness had gotten Phil Levine a couple of years before He had been down at AG econ, ag economics, and he’d been denied tenure. And so, you know, that we were I was one of the arguments we used why I was being turned down and how to mobilize political support. I had a lot of political support within, from all over the state. So that was, so that kind of wedded me to California in another funny way. I mean having fought so hard . . . I suppose if I’d been turned down, I might well have moved to another state.
Chuck Morse: Right. Right.
Richard Walker: And it was kind of happenstance that I ended up teaching back here . . . very much happenstance. I ran into Ellen and got involved with Berkeley.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: And once I won, I was really, you know, locked into this place. And I had learned, you know, one of the things about political battles, you know, this is the old, an old truism, I guess of left mobilization and organizing is: the only way to find out how power works is to fight it. And I discovered that most of the faculty, their very smart people but they’ve always been very precious and protected, starting with their mothers and their fathers, and then their high school, and then Princeton and then they arrive at Berkeley and then there a little you know pampered boys, and I say boys advisedly, at the time, and they don’t actually know how the system works unless they’ve been in administration. I had to learn how UC worked, how power worked in that whole state, politically, you know, mobilizing a political campaign behind my getting tenure was, you know, a total eye opener.
Chuck Morse: I had no idea about the story.
Richard Walker: Okay, okay, enough about me now. What I did do after that, in 1984, I got a fellowship, a Fulbright, to go do research. I started to get interested . . . we had had a wonderful radical geographer named Doreen Massey. Alan Pred, and with input from me, had invited her to come to Berkeley and she came in 81, I think it was,.
Chuck Morse: She writes on the built environment. Is that correct?
Richard Walker: She wrote on industrial location, regional development, and ultimately, later on, feminism and so on. Doreen is one of the great . . . She just passed away a year ago. She one of the great figures in modern radical geography. And, so, she came here and there was a whole group of us in planning and geography, students, faculty, Ann Markusen was here and a whole amazing group of students, including Michael Storper, and others that went on to be quite famous in geography and beyond like AnnaLee Saxenian. We were studying urban policy and especially urban policy under Carter before Reagan came in. We had started this in the late 70s and then she came about 1980–81. There was also Ben Harrison came, over in planning, so we had this incredible group doing . . . but mostly urbanists. So, I wanted to be an urbanist. And I also kind of wanted to study industry, you know? Labor and industry. And a little bit because Silicon Valley was already important in technology. So, I got a Fulbright in 1984 to go study electronics, the new I.T. in France. Talk about a great deal! All I basically did was study French and European history. Because my French was actually crappy, and it made it much better. But when I was over touring old industrial sites in England and, in London, I had heard of this guy . . . People had told me about this guy Mike Davis, who was working for New Left Review at the time right. I called or wrote and we got together in a pub and we must have talked for like five hours. I mean, we just hit it off. And you know Mike was starting . . . He wanted to do this work on LA, on California.
Chuck Morse: He was beginning to do it at the time?
Richard Walker: Yeah. He was thinking about it. You know, it wouldn’t bear fruit until later in the 80s. But he was already thinking about it. And he got me thinking about it. And I thought, “Oh, I could, maybe I could do the same thing for the North.” But not being as clever as Mike Davis, it took me a lot longer to get around to doing this, but I did eventually, by the 2000s, start writing about the North, basically, in the way that Mike had written, starting in the late 70s, writing brilliant stuff. And you know, he came out with City of Quartz . . . came out in 81. . . 80
Chuck Morse: I think it may have been 82 but thereabouts.
Richard Walker: It may have been 82. And then The Ecology of Fear, he had been working on that, came out a couple of years later. So, Mike had a huge impact on me.
Richard Walker: And then, later on in the 80s, an old friend, a guy I made friends with really when I was a young Prof, Jeff Lustig, had been teaching here as a part time lecturer because he had been blackballed out of political science by, because the lefties in the sixties were essentially blacklisted by the old right wing political scientists, Jeff, Frank Bardacke, and others. Bardacke, he also wrote that great book on Cesar Chavez and ended up working and organizing farmworkers out of Watsonville all of his life and Jeff bounced around at various CSU jobs. And so I finally got out to Sacramento State and, you know, he’d gotten me interested in. . . .we had talked about agriculture.
Richard Walker: Jeff and I had talked about teaching California because in the early 80s, I started teaching about Californian agriculture, California water, and he had done some teaching like that. So, we talked about it. We became friends. And then he went off to Southern California for a while and then came back up to Sacramento State and got a job as the director of the Center for California Studies.
Chuck Morse: I see.
Richard Walker: And he started, based on an idea of some people, Glenna Matthews and some other people here in Berkeley, a California Studies Association, and I was one of the founding members of that.
Chuck Morse: OK.
Richard Walker: And would ultimately become the chair of the California Studies Association when Jeff gave it up after about ten years. And, in the early 2000s, I carried it for about ten years. So, that was another thing. So, one thing after another getting me involved with California and so on. However, my main work in the 80s was on industrial location, and I produced a book with Michael Storper, The Capitalist Imperative, about industrial geography. I did another book that grew out of, you know, my sort of international connections with Andrew Sayer about the changing division of labor, geography, the Japanese production system, divisions of labor, men and women. . . It was an interesting book. So, we put out The New Social Economy. It came out in 1992.
Then, a couple of things happened, and I kind of pulled back, because I had a baby in 1992. I already had a stepdaughter by that time from a woman I took up with in the late 80s and married around 1990. And, so, we had a stepdaughter, who was then in her teens, and then we got another baby. And, so, I was a stay at home for a year, raising this baby, because her mother was out to work—very, very busy. And UC . . . I got a sabbatical. And then UC introduced a new parental leave policy, so I could stay at home. So, for a year, I was home with this baby. And then they made me chair. Out of the blue! And I became chair in 1994. And between those two things. I was up to my nose in family and so on. I did start working on a book, what I thought would be a book on the Bay Area, a history the Bay Area, and I did some pieces of that in the 90s, but I didn’t do any more books.
~ ~ ~
Chuck Morse: Hey there. This is Chuck again. If you’re enjoying this I would really appreciate it if you would go to makingtheleftcoast.com and add your email to the email list there and also tell your friends about this podcast on social media or wherever you can. That would be a big help. Thanks.
~ ~ ~
Chuck Morse: This is a good time to switch to your current book, if you don’t mind, Pictures of a Gone City. I wanted to ask you a very specific question about that. I enjoyed the book very much, read every word of it. And I read the book . . . the book the book reminded me of another work that you co-authored in 2013, An Atlas of California, to the extent that I read it primarily as a bird’s eye survey of the political and economic and cultural stresses that the region faces, a bird’s eye view, as it were, of the region in that respect. And what I wanted to ask you about is: although you make your leftist sympathies clear in the book, I don’t read it so much as a call to action but as an attempt to to help people that are concerned about the region and to give them some sort of a historical and geographic context in which to frame their concerns, to help elevate the discussion. That’s how I read it.
Richard Walker: That’s what it is.
Chuck Morse: Okay. And I’m glad that you think that’s a fair assessment. It certainly helped me.
Chuck Morse: But what I wanted to ask you about is: why did you feel this book was important to write now? What are the unique crises that we face? What are the worst-case scenarios and what are the best-case scenarios that your book could potentially play a role in bringing into being? How do you answer the “why now” part of this question?
Richard Walker: Yeah. Well, you know, obviously time catches up with you over a long career in some funny ways. So, there I was doing my industrial geography and so on then I wanted to do a kind of urban history. And a combination of kind of just the way your scholarship evolves, plus outside events kind of congealed in a way to end up with that book. And, if I can, if you’ll let me back up . . .
Chuck Morse: Yeah, please.
Richard Walker: So, I come out of being chair 1999, 2000 Bush wins the election. And, you know, all progressives . . . well . . . we’ve already been traumatized by Clinton and by a growing sense of neoliberalism and everybody’s getting more politicized, not just in an academic way but back in an old fashioned, you know, on-the-ground kind of way that really hadn’t been true in the 90s. And, so, I end up . . . I have a couple chapters that are gonna be in this history of the Bay Area. And now I’m going to do this . . . and I had some sabbatical time and they just grew. They grew. And one of them becomes a book on agribusiness.
Chuck Morse: The Conquest of Bread.
Richard Walker: The Conquest of Bread and I’m going . . . and this is relevant because it has the same kind of style as my recent book on the Bay Area. It is a style that I generally have, and I’ll go back to that in a second, then another one came became The Country in the City, which is the history of environmentalism in the Bay Area. So, by that time, you know, I’m becoming more and more committed to this sort of history, Northern California, Bay Area history.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: And so deep into this and, then the 2010s, come along and we go through the Great Recession and I wrote about that. I wrote a couple pieces in the New Left Review, plus a more scholarly one in a geography journal about, you know, how central California was to the world crisis.
Chuck Morse: Yeah. Those were great pieces.
Richard Walker: And I become, you know, not only, well, we’ll come back to this . . .why the local? Let’s come back. . . .
Chuck Morse:What were the crises and why now?
Richard Walker: Ok, because it’s the 2010s . . .
Chuck Morse: OK.
Richard Walker: The Bay Area just taking off like a rocket out of the Great Recession. So, for a while, we’re all obsessed about the Great Recession.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: And then we turn around and realize that this city is being turned topsy turvy by this unbelievable new tech boom.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: And, of course, I’ve written as an academic about Silicon Valley, about these kinds of industrial clusters, you know, twenty years before. This is the greatest one on earth. And here it is entering yet another phase of growth, greater than all the rest.
Chuck Morse: Yeah
Richard Walker: And, so, I got asked a couple of times, I had to go give talks. I gave on in Toronto and, where was it, maybe, I think I gave one up at Davis. And, you know, I needed to come up with a topic. I thought, “You know, I think I’ll give a lecture on what’s going on.” And because I’d been teaching urban and economic geography here, before I retired in 2012 . . . so, I did a couple, three, four of these lectures—you know, PowerPoints and all that, about the Bay Area—And I thought, at a certain point at some point I thought, “Wow, this is unbelievable.” And the history book was just like a Albatross.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: Because history, you know, is a bottomless pit. And, if you’re not Mike Davis, and maybe you’re not a full time historian . . . .
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: Trying to do such a huge book and so thorough as I was trying to do, I just said, “I can’t do . . . I’m going crazy. I’ve got to get something out!” So, I thought, I’ll write a little book on the current state of the Bay Area. I’d been wanting to do that. ..
Chuck Morse: And that’s this. . .?
Richard Walker: And that’s the present book. And then I had these friends at PM Press, Ramsey Kanaan and his and his wife, who is an old student of mine, works at KPFA. And they kept saying, “Oh, write us a book, write us a book!” That sort of thing. And, so, I said, “Well, I’ll do a little book on the Bay Area” and they said, “Great!”
Richard Walker: And then of course the little book got…
Chuck Morse: became 400 pages . . .
Richard Walker: bigger and bigger. Well, and foolishly, they never told me to cut it.
Chuck Morse: That’s great.
Richard Walker: They were so nice that they let it kind of run amok. But, you know, in fairness to me, everybody says it’s a very readable. . . .
Chuck Morse: I thought it was.
Richard Walker: And it doesn’t feel like it’s a 500 page book.
Chuck Morse: It does not. It does not.
Richard Walker: So, that’s the journey to that book.
Chuck Morse: OK, excellent.
Richard Walker: I think, politically, it was really germane to write about this and to get people here to understand what’s going on.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Chuck Morse: Let me let me ask you a question about an issue that . . . I’ve been reading your work for many, many years, since the 90s in fact.
Richard Walker: Poor guy.
Chuck Morse: And I have benefited from it, I will say. And I want to ask your question that’s been keeping me up at night or at least occupied a certain part of my brain. And that’s the issue of capitalism.
You, in all of your work that I’ve read, you are an explicit critic of capitalism. You, ideologically identify with Marxism in one way or another. You’ve talked about this in this interview. At the same time, in your work, you are careful to outline the positive role that government can play in mitigating the turbulence and destructive quality of the capitalist economy. And you are also the director of the New Deal Project, which documents the positive role that government investment can play in fostering good outcomes. And these things, to my mind, seem to point to different politics. On the one hand, your work gestures toward a sort of communist perspective in which class society is abolished and in which the private ownership of the means of production is abolished. On the other hand, it seems to gesture towards a sort of Bernie Sanders or Robert Reich- New Deal liberalism, growth liberalism. And I was wondering if you could help untangle that for me, please.
Richard Walker: Well, I should say, you know, these . . . all my books, and all of my work, still goes back to trying to do a systematic analysis of how capitalism actually works. That’s what I got out of Marx.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: I didn’t come to Marxism, as I said, as a Leninist revolutionary.
Richard Walker: I came as a kind of political economist and I was first converted to Marxism by that scholarly, the scholarly approach in Capital and I, by the way, I taught Capital many, many times, starting in the East Bay Socialist School, to graduate students . . . I’ve done it, you know, I don’t know how many dozen times. As David Harvey has also done, so, he was kind of my. . .
Chuck Morse: And continues to do, as far as I know.
Richard Walker: Yeah, absolutely. But people asked me and I did it. I would do it again and again. So, I really know Marx very well. [I] came to admire it more and more, the more I read it. And, also came to realize and to think, “You know, I really know it well.” And I differ with Harvey in that I don’t have . . . he has a more totalizing view of capitalism than I do. But when it comes to understanding the capitalist economy and classes, you know, I’m pretty orthodox, quite orthodox. Beyond that, I get a little less orthodox.
Richard Walker: So, all of my books, and I guess it goes back to my book my background because, you know, I come from a privileged academic family. My father was a professor. I actually believe—I know it’s one of those faith things—that I believe in social science in the way that physical scientists believe in science. I believe in science. That doesn’t mean I’m a positivist, a bourgeois positivist. But I do believe that is possible to explain things. And that we intellectuals, trained intellectuals, have a responsibility to do that. Now a lot of left intellectuals are either way off in the philosophical ozone, stratosphere, or, you know, they’re looking for the immediate, you know, the true path to socialism and tomorrow and so on. So I guess I’m a little more down to earth. I want to explain things. I want to bring that to people to show them that it’s capitalism because, in America, just to get them to see that is a huge accomplishment. And, as I told you earlier, I was never a party guy. I was never a red diaper baby. In fact, I was a New Deal baby. My parents were New Dealers. My dad’s first job was with the New Deal for the National Resources Planning . . . And so, there’s a kind of art to my life that has that liberal element, you know?
Richard Walker: And I know that revolutions happen. I absolutely believe that they happen. I don’t buy the Leninist view that if you just agitate hard enough, you’ll bring it about. I think revolutions come out of historical conditions. They will surprise you. They come on fast, like in 1989 in the Soviet Union. And I think most revolutions come on much faster than a lot of leftists think. And I also, but I also think that the forces at work in history are important for us to understand and to try to, you know, direct or manipulate, you know: intervene as activists, militants, to the extent that we can to get history going in the right direction, because it is human history and, in the end, we make our own history, but we make it based, on Marx said, on the incredible weight of the past.
Chuck Morse: Yeah. And what is the destination here with respect to capitalism? Do . . .
Richard Walker: See, I don’t worry about that. I’m not a revolutionary in that sense. I’m not a utopian. And that’s partly because I’m not a joiner; partly because I wasn’t red diaper baby; partly because I always thought religion was a crock of shit. So, I mean, at six years old, I thought it was . . You know, “God? What?” So, I’m a total atheist. So, you know a lot of millennial, revolutionary theory comes out of a kind of post-Christian, Millennian, post-Judaic millennialism, and I don’t buy that crap. I don’t think history leads . . . there is an end point. I’m not at all a teleologist. There’s no telos. I think we can make things better. I know there are revolutions. I hope we can get beyond capitalism because I see all the evils it produces, along with a lot of good, of course. You know, I’m a kind of Communist Manifesto guy, where Marx and Engels are kind of struggling with the accomplishments of the bourgeoisie and the horrors of the bourgeoisie. It’s the same thing today, all the way to the day. So, politically, I’m perfectly comfortable being a New Dealer, or a Green New Dealer, to make things better. And, which, you know, American politics today is so reactionary, proto fascist that to get a Green New Deal, to get a new New Deal is practically revolutionary. So, it’s good enough for me. And I’m not waiting for all the . . . the problems aren’t going to be all solved at once. I know enough history and I watch enough politics. It’s not all solved by a revolution. So, I’m not revolutionary in that sense. If a revolution happened, I presumably would join it. But I’m not out there . . . . So, what I am is an educator . . . I’m a social scientist and I’m an educator. So, that explains this book. That book, this recent book, but all of my books, are are not to just speak to a bunch of academics. They’re not about you speaking to a bunch of lefty friends. They are for the general public. Now my early ones are more obscure, but the last four I’ve done are for the general public. And they are to educate the general public, as well as students, and as well as fellow academics. So, it’s all hidden in there. If you get into the footnotes, the academic stuff is all there. But it’s not paraded. It’s to take somebody like you, somebody like other friends I have out there that are good liberals and say, “This is pretty fucked up and this is why. And maybe we should do something about it.” So, you know, that’s my shtick. And you know, it may be the wrong thing to do but it’s what I do.
Chuck Morse: Awesome. OK. That’s great. Thank you. This is a perfect segue way to my last three questions.
Richard Walker: Okay.
Chuck Morse: Capitalism is obviously a hot button issue on the left: what we think about it, what we don’t think about it. And I wanted to ask your question about the revolutionary left in the Bay Area. You grew up here and you’ve been here for a long time. One of the distinctive things about the Bay Area is that anarchists play a particularly important role. PM Press (Ramsey) comes out of the anarchist movement. I’ve been connected to the anarchist movement since I was a child. I just saw you speaking at an event in San Francisco organized by an anarchist. And the point is is that anarchists are and have been everywhere in the Bay Area. However intellectually speaking you’ve not always identified with Marx, for reasons that I think you’ve explained or at least indicated to me today. However, I was wondering what you make of that. Do you feel. . . I mean, for example, let me back up for a second. I’ve never . . . you’ve never written, to my knowledge, on anarchist geographers like Reclus or Kropotkin.
Richard Walker: No, I have not.
Chuck Morse: Or anarchist urbanists like Paul Goodman, Colin Ward (also British), or Murray Bookchin. And, so, I was wondering, with that context in mind, I was wondering what you make of this apparent disconnect of a theoretical investment in one tradition, But the fact that the anarchist movement seems to be important to the left itself in the Bay Area. Is that a disconnect or is that not a disconnect is that no source of concern. How do you make sense of that?
Richard Walker: Well, I wouldn’t put it in a binary kind of Marxist and anarchist, because the Bay Area left is very eclectic and has been. My understanding from reading history, from talking to people, I mean, I remember a great conversation with Frank Bardacke years ago about this, Jeff Lustig and others who are also very wise about both politics and local history. And that book by Anthony Ashbolt, because I talked to him, when he came over here first to try and get it published, and I’m just convinced that the Bay Area, California in general, has been very eclectic. When I wrote about the greens, about environmentalists, I mean there’s a lot of these great figures on the left in the Bay Area are also green and, you know, they were backpackers and out into nature. I can grab a few names, if you want it, but it’s green. There’s also, you know, feminism was always very strong here. I mean, I was a feminist from childhood, because my mother was equal to my father. It never occurred to me not to be a feminist. But, you know, you also learn more through action. But, by the 70s, I’m a total feminist . . . race, race politics, because we have this very messy race kind of politics in the West. So you’ve got to come to grips with that if you’re teaching, if you’re studying, if you’re an activist, and so on. Just dealing with your friends on the left, you’re going to learn a lot about that. And I just find people have been very open minded. Now, there are, you know, there are times when we butt heads or people get very hoity toity about one tendency or another: “Oh, Marxism has all the answers!” That was kind of a view in the 70s and then it was post modernism and, you know, queer theory. “Queers have all the answers!” and so on. There’s another tendency, you know, and you look at the impact of queer movements, queer theory on the Bay Area left, you just can’t get away from it. The counterculture in all its forms and these other movements—feminism, queer, and so on—have all kind of blended together. And, of course, they have their thing. And, you know, I’m not sufficiently militant about LGBTQ rights, I’m sure, and I’m probably not sufficiently militant about Native American rights, but I try . . .
Chuck Morse: I understand.
Richard Walker: But my schtick in that overall constellation . . . my schticks are a Marxist analysis, political economy in the broadest sense, and geography in the broadest sense. So, I’m good at analyzing big things, giving you a big picture of the Bay Area, a big picture of California agriculture, a big picture of water, whatever it is, the global economy. I can give you the big picture. That’s what I’m good at. And, you know, sometimes you have to do what you’re good at and not be perfect otherwise. Anyway, so, it doesn’t surprise me at all that I publish with an anarchist. You know, that his wife is a Marxist. And, you know, we have more in common than maybe Ramsey and I do, but, you know, we have fun arguing and I’m delighted, you know, they were wonderful by publishing my book and it never occurred to me that that was a bad thing.
Chuck Morse: Got it. Two more questions. I want to push you a little bit on the distinction between a radical and a reformist left. But let me back up a little bit: you ended your current book— and I’m very grateful for this—you ended your current book on a note of relative pessimism and uncertainty about the future of the Bay Area, which I was so grateful for because . . . the platitudes about hope, which are so common in books in the Bay Area, drive me bonkers, so, I frankly appreciated your forthrightness here and it reminded me of a document that the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. I think that’s what the . . .
Richard Walker: SPUR.
Chuck Morse: SPUR . . . put out recently, where they outline four possible scenarios for the Bay Area in 2070, it was. And three of them involve various combinations of economic decline and social exclusion and one of them was more equitable and egalitarian. So, in essence they were saying we have a 75 percent chance of going to disaster, which are not particularly good odds. And I was wondering, given your evident concern about the future, and given what other people are saying, given the fact that we are likely facing a difficult future, what demands, do you think, what ideas and commitments, would distinguish a radical position, a more utopian, a more aggressively egalitarian position from a reformist position? This is a difficult question to answer in the Bay Area, where the mainstream of our politics tends to look like the left in the rest of the country. But why what do you think would define a radical position in that context?
Richard Walker: Wow. You know, I guess I’m pragmatic in the sense that I would ask you: on what issue? On what front are we talking about? Different fronts look a little different. You know, I think the old left . . . you know, as a young leftist, we’re always arguing about you know revolutionary versus reformist change. I think it’s a phony.
For the left, it’s actually a phony difference. What leftists are here to do is push. Push, push, push. Always push it farther than the liberals. Leave the reform to the Liberals. Critique their reforms. Push ’em farther in their reforms. And, realize . . . and call out bullshit when you see it. I mean, that’s what we do.
So, you know, if there is some kind of policy. Like I get involved with this housing debate. And my role is really calling out the bullshit that makes not even for liberal but actually very conservative reform in some ways.
Chuck Morse: The YIMBYs?
Richard Walker: Yeah, the YIMBY stuff is so wrong. And, so I try to argue against that. I’m always pushing people to think farther and think about overturning the way that we’re doing things in a more radical way. But that can be water policy, you know? That can . . . and a lot of, you know, you’ve gotta . . .you get involved in interviews with journalists on so, and you’re talking about Jerry Brown’s tunnels and, because I know a lot about water, I’m always pushing about how terrible those are, how we have to radically rethink our water policy. And I don’t care whether you’re a socialist or not, we’ve got a stupid water policy and we have to redo it. Just like we have . . . burning fossil fuels is no longer tolerable.
This is a real problem and you need a radical way of dealing with it. And, that, you could say, “oh, we need a revolution,” but if it’s a Green New Deal, that’s pretty radical for me and I’m happy to push something that looks like a Green New Deal. But I’m always aware . . . look, when I push a reform, you know, I know damn well why we have the water policy that we do. It is because of the power of agribusiness, growers, and developers, urban developers, and all the network of . . . the capitalist networks that hold those people together and they capitalist power. So, if somebody comes along to me and says, “Oh, well, you know that’s . . . we really need that water. And I’ll say, “No, we don’t need that water. We little people aren’t using the water. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” So, I’m always pushing to a class analysis, capital, the power . . . political power of capital and class in this world.
Richard Walker: Now, okay, that’s water, but take a bigger issue like inequality. What the hell are we going to do about that?
Richard Walker: And, you know, like anybody else, any good left liberal could say, “We gotta tax the rich.”
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: You know? So, you can be Elizabeth Warren. You can be AOC, who’s pretty left. Both of them are remarkably left on that issue. And, by God, we have to do it! And the question is: How are you going to get there? And that’s where, you know, as a, my reformer hat, my liberal hat, I’ll push, you know, I’ll tell people, “we gotta to tax the rich.”
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: You gotta to understand that. There’s no way out of this if you don’t start taxing them again. There’s no money. And we got to control them. Their power can only be controlled if they have less money. But I know damn well, as a radical, they ain’t gonna give up that power without a fight. They aren’t going to give up their money without a fight. So, what are we up against? And, yeah, in the end it may . . . I’m not too optimistic about an American revolution but I am . . . you know, I have some optimism about massive upheaval in this country because things have things gotten so bad. And the trick now, of course, is keeping it from being fascist and make it something that looks like a green New Deal, radically left, democratic socialist, you know. So, that’s fine with me.
So, again, it’s a false dichotomy. Just like I thought anarchism-Marxism is false. I think we’re wiser than that. And, you know, I think in the Bay Area, you know, for your purpose about the left coast, I think we’ve always been a lot wiser and some people have gone off the deep end here, with their Symbionese Liberation Armies and so on. But, by and large, the mass of lefties here, we’ve had a good mass of it. It’s been passed from generation to generation. I don’t see a hell of a lot of my generation that became right wingers.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: You know? We can have arguments and criticisms of tendencies, I think, you know [that] went way too far off the poststructuralist deep end. Let’s bring it back here! But I’m very quick to call out what I think is intellectual bullshit, but I’m very tolerant of allies and I don’t think denouncing, you know, the old left thing of denouncing other fragments of the left gets us anywhere. You’ve gotta criticize ’em and say “Look, come on, dude, just so wrong . . . .” But getting into these schismatic fights never interested me, still doesn’t interest me. Again, as you see in my books, I want to build a big tent. I want to bring good liberals into it. I want to keep the left as unified as possible.
Chuck Morse: One more substantive question and then a smaller, shorter practical one. One of the things that you’ve been doing over the decades is mentoring people as a professor and also as a public figure. And it is just extraordinary the times in which I encounter people out there who have worked with you—so many friends and so many authors and so many people, hey go back to you in one way or another. And your impact is far and wide as a mentor in addition to as an intellectual. I was wondering what you can say to those who want to mentor a new generation of radicals . . . the next generation radicals. What have you learned through mentoring? What habits should we avoid? What habits should we embrace? What should we cultivate? What should we steer clear from? What have you learned from 40, 50 years of mentoring people? I understand that this is a huge question.
Richard Walker: Well, of course, the mentoring comes from my structural position in the university. What are you going to do?
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: And there are professors who are just research nuts and that’s what they do. They get their grants they do their research and some of them are wonderful and they do a lot of good for humanity, whether they’re historians or they’re an astrophysicists. And, you know, more power to them. But that was never my model. I always did my research. I always wanted to do my research. But I thought taking care of graduate students was really important and a very small percentage of Berkeley faculty and, I think at any university, actually really care about their students. You know, they show up and teach but to actually care about them. . . So, the first thing I’d say is, I mean, it’s because I like students and I like young people. And I like seeing them blossom and I’m open minded. And I wasn’t the only one. Alan Pred, Michael Watts, Jillian Harten in geography we became known as this big center of the left on the campus because . . . not because we were very numerous but because we took so many students from other programs at the graduate level. And kids would come from other programs to take our classes and we would open them up. You know, we were happy to have kids from every discipline coming in to learn from us. So, there’s that.
The other thing, a structural thing, is that, OK, what do you do as a left academic and we all, you know, we all pull our hair out a bit and ponder this. “How can I be of use? What is there to do?” And I never . . . because I’m a serious scholar at a very prestigious university. I always knew there were pretty strict limits on how much I could just be an activist.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: Even if that were my inclination or I were good at it, which maybe I’m not. But what I could do is reach out. And I also saw this with my students. You know, it’s not so much that you convert people. You know, I’m not an evangelical for the left or anything else. That . . . converting people is a weird process.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: And it has to do, often, with their personal experiences, where their whole . . their family and their lifetime experiences, hitting upon a great mentor that might convert ’em. And, Unfortunately, with human affairs, people who get drawn into a movement for all the cultic kind of reasons that human beings are way, way prone to. “Oh, I’m a Marxist because that’s the hot thing to do! Oh, I’m a Judy Butler follower because that’s the hot thing to be!” You know? And, you know, Judy is a wonderful person and probably be greatly and, I know, is greatly dismayed by some people who follow her. So, I saw early on my role as twofold. One is to help support people who already had a left tendency—to encourage them, reaffirm their beliefs, validate their beliefs, and help educate them and take them to a higher level. And that’s really important in America, where being on the left, you’re often so isolated. You know, you don’t have big parties to turn to. You don’t have a lot of intellectual tradition to turn to. So, that was partly what I did. And, then, that extended going out to the public and giving talks, or working with a group like Just Cause, to help them write a housing policy statement. Give him a little advice.
Chuck Morse: Right.
Richard Walker: You know, so, I could step out, give them a kind of intellectual legitimacy, lend my name, give them some advice, give ’em a “rah rah” talk and some lessons. And, that’s what I could do reasonably, given where I sit. And I never had any illusions about being the great leader or the great intellectual savior or anything like that. There are some lefty academics who have that.
Chuck Morse: Yep.
Richard Walker: In weird ways. So, I was always, again, more pragmatic than that.
Chuck Morse: And what do we need to know? What lesson? What surprised you most about doing this? What is the thing that you learned through this process that you didn’t expect to learn? What do we need to know . . . those of us who would like to encourage the development of the next, the future generation of radical thinkers?
Richard Walker: Well, I think, don’t despair because they tend to show up every new generation. And it’s been up and down in my many decades here at Cal.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: The 90s was pretty down, 2000s . . . you know, you get a good war or you get a good Trump or you get a good depression. And we’ve had all those since 2000. And suddenly a lot of young people kind of wake up. And we have to think about what we were like. When you’re young, you know so little. And, you know, they’re not going to come fully formed. But, you come, you know, events lead you to opening your eyes. Events or people, family, something opens your eyes. And we need to be there to help them when that happens.
Chuck Morse: OK.
Richard Walker: And, again, give them, mentor them. Show them that we want to bridge the generations. You know, the worst thing is . . . and critique! . . . I got into an argument with some guy at a talk recently, a YIMBY guy, who said the housing crisis was all due to us old people versus the millennials, you know, because we’re sitting on all the houses, which is ironic since I don’t even own a house. And I just said, “That is such,” and I truly believe it, “this bullshit pop history analysis.” Pop theory that we get all the time and that we absorb all of time. “Oh, millennials!” “Oh, baby boomers!” “Oh, gen X are this.” It’s almost light weight analysis of history and circumstance and context possible. And you gotta to take that stuff and to sort of . . . people who denounce millennials, will say this is about millennials. Bullshit. 90 percent of it’s bullshit. And our role on the left is to reintroduce class analysis, racial analysis, and, you know, capitalist analysis, to situate why don’t millennials have houses. What’s going on here? What’s causing the housing crisis? What has to do with capital accumulation and inequality and class power running amok among us? That’s what’s caused it. It isn’t about, you know, the old folks who had the good fortune to grow up in the post-war era versus the young people who are being screwed today.
Chuck Morse: Yeah. Final question: can you tell listeners about what you’re working now and also where people can find you online?
Richard Walker: OK. Well, you can always . . . I don’t have a page. I guess, through the Geography Department, I have one. So, if you google my name, that should come up. The other thing I do . . . I’m not working on any current book. I mean I constantly put out an article here, an article there. I’m still dealing with the last one. I’ve given like fifty talks on this.
Chuck Morse: Yeah.
Richard Walker: So, it’s been a full-time job for the last year. The other thing I do is I direct the Living New Deal and I really urge listeners to go look at that, because we’re documenting what the New Deal did, which people have totally forgotten, leftists have a really perverse view of the New Deal. “Oh, it saved capitalism!” “Oh, it didn’t really do anything!” And both of those are wrong. It transformed capitalism fundamentally and was amazingly radical because of the possibilities of the moment and most of the New Dealers were people anybody on the left could admire, fully admire in every way.
And, of course, the point is to then turn around and say, “Look, we could do this again.” And I think that is still more saleable, marketable, even though, of course, it drives the right crazy. “The Green New Deal!” They all go. . . . I mean, even the AFL-CIO yesterday said, “Oh, that’s way too radical!” That is such nonsense. Because we did it before. We did something actually a little more radical than the Green New Deal in many ways and we did it. America did it. It was very popular. The working people were behind it. The professionals were mostly, a lot of them, behind it. And the capitalists, they didn’t know what to do because they were so outflanked. Some of them actually joined it. You know, Henry Kaiser, for example, was a big supporter. Most of them hated it. Of course, that shows how radical it was. The capitalist class by and large loathed it. And, of course, once they were back in power, solidly in power, by the end of the war, they went to work destroying it. And, by the 1970s, they were in a position to destroy it. And they have, over the last quarter of the 20th century, they destroyed the New Deal legacy and now we got to rebuild it if we’re going to have even a chance at the continuation of civilization instead of barbarism. But, you know, barbarism is always there.
Chuck Morse: OK, well, thank you so much for the fascinating discussion, Dr. Walker. I’m so grateful. I really appreciate it.
Richard Walker: My pleasure.
Richard Walker: It has been a lot of fun.