reviewed by Lowell Nelson, Green Party of Minnesota
Brian Tokar's The Green Alternative: Creating an Ecological Future, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1992. 183 p. Paper, $14.95 from The Greens/Green Party USA, P.O. Box 100, Blodgett Mills NY 13738.
Brian Tokar's The Green Alternative remains an excellent overview of the origins, character, and development of the international Green movement. This revised edition neatly incorporates events from 1987, the year of its first publication, to 1992. Tokar shows how the many social and philosophical strands both on the left and from the counterculture that began to emerge in the late 1960s were woven together to form the basic Green world view. Greens take an ecological approach to people's relationship to each other as well as their relationship to the rest of the natural world. Such diverse phenomena as the struggle against racism, the peace movement, the labor movement, feminism and environmental activism are therefore all interconnected in cause and effect, and in order to solve any one problem the entire structure of society must be evaluated and ultimately challenged.
This book's only limitation is that its publication date coincides with the end of an era for Greens in the United States. The years since then have raised many questions for the Green movement here. Readers of Tokar's book would do well to acquaint themselves with recent events if they wish to participate effectively in a much-changed environment.
Part of the problem for Greens everywhere, but perhaps most especially American Greens, is the gargantuan task we have appointed to ourselves. The transformation of civilization is no small feat, after all. But the pastiche of social and philosophical movements that Tokar describes as the foundations of the Green Movement have not melded together as well as he and all of us hoped. Not only do emotional and ideological divisions remain that continuously try the patience of everyone involved, but it would seem that some important items have been left out as well. Most glaring among these is the lack of consensus on a strategy to take us from capitalism to the libertarian eco-socialism our philosophy seems to imply. (Can I use the "s" word with "libertarian" and "eco" attached to it?)
Growing out of the assumption that the pastiche that gave birth to the Greens was enough to sustain them was the idea that local activist groups working under the Green name would keep electoral initiatives accountable and connected to the "grassroots." But time has not been good to Green locals in the US. Most of the folks who sustained them in 1991 at their high-water mark have apparently moved on to other things. On the other hand, state Green Parties have grown considerably since the book's publication, and there seems to be an overall trend towards a Green identity based on electoral politics rather than single-issue activism. Perhaps the idea of being a political party and an all-purpose activist group at the same time will ultimately prove to be too confusing for participants and the general public alike. If that is so, then an interesting question for Greens is where the activist wing of the movement fits into the Green identity.
An understanding of the political and historical roots of the Greens is a must for people wanting to get involved in this vital and evolving movement. The Green Alternative will continue to be a valuable and definitive book for those asking what it means to be a Green.