It is impossible to live pleasantly without living prudently and honourably and justly, and it is impossible to live prudently and honourably and justly without living pleasantly
Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
The ongoing quintuple crisis (economic/systemic, social, environmental/climate, humanitarian/refugee, pandemic/public health), and now, again, the spectre of nuclear MADness (Mutually Assured Destruction), is of no recent historical precedent in terms of endangering our presence, let alone our well-being, on this planet. While technological and medical progress has allowed the human population to grow, despite hundreds of treaties and fanfare, progress is agonizingly slow in terms of reducing inequality, poverty and improving conservation, social justice and human rights. On the contrary, in recent years, there is a rapidly growing Wealth and Health Inequality: some 3 billion people own nothing, 1% owns 45% of personal wealth, while the 0,01%, for the first time in history, own so much, about 11% of global wealth. The world's richest and most powerful people, the Billionaires-"Oligarchs" of all countries have increased their wealth from 1% to 3% in the last 30 years. At the other end, according to the World Health Organization, one in three people still do not have access to safe drinking water! And we have all witnessed how poor countries were largely excluded from the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, while the oligarchs got vastly richer during the pandemic! The 99% now have to worry both about the end of the world and about the end of the month!
Progress is possible, History teaches us, but it is something that takes a lot of time. Although it usually starts with one or a few persons, it has to involve the many! Thus there is a need for persistence and collaboration, and optimism: as they say, if we are not failing often, it just means we are not really trying! Just think of the long line of failures, trials, errors and successes that took us from trees to caves to mega-cities and, possibly, if our inner ape (or Elon) does not mess this up, to the stars. Our modern "problems" and "solutions" go all the way back to the dawn of the Anthropocene, to the first agricultural societies where accumulation, surplus, debt, money, markets and human-made pollution first emerged and have since been inextricably linked to the basis of human civilization. We, however, cannot go back to an agrarian civilization or even further back. It is not realistic for 8 billion people to retreat back to the countryside, the forests and to a nomadic-mode of survival - nor should they, in the first place, as cities can be the most eco-friendly environments, saving space and resources. Environmentalist doom and gloom and guilt, about the current state of Tourism, the Climate, the Environment and the World does not lead anywhere unless it is accompanied with concrete, individual and collective action. The key culprits and beneficiaries of the current state of affairs have names and addresses as well as weak points, strong points and loopholes (e.g. tax havens) that prevent a level playing field with practical, clear, progressive laws. Our collective technological achievements if properly utilized/managed/divided could already guarantee the well-being of everyone on the planet. The pandemic clearly indicated that "There Is An Alternative" (in fact there are many alternatives) to the dated, neoliberal-capitalist recipes of the 1980s, but what is less clear is to what extent and in what respects the alternative is 'better'. Chomsky has observed that "Countries should not be judged by the words written in their constitutions but by their annual budgets", and these budgets still favour militarization and environmental destruction, among others. This is no accident of course, as the military-industrial-financial complex has a chokehold on many governments and political parties of powerful countries,let alone weaker ones. This chokehold is not necessarily bad in that it may occasionally prevent a mad tyrant from rising to power or at least exerting full power. On the other hand we need to somehow loosen this chokehold, it can be done peacefully and legally, and divert these trillions to peaceful, environmental and healthy activities and social services for all.
In the 21st century, especially if the onerous prophecies of climate scientists are accurate, but even if they are not, we need to find answers to questions of paramount importance, including how and who produces, distributes and stores money, energy and food, and, in the light of the Coronavirus crisis, how quality health, education and housing can be accessible for all. But a democratic, progressive tourism, travel, leisure, free time (freedom!) are just as important in an automated economy where we do not really have to work as many hours. In a way, we have to reverse-engineer the pillars of the current system. Work must be redefined, re-organised and fairly remunerated. Even if not always visible, there are already huge cracks in the status quo - the great transition to a low-carbon, fairer and happier world, is already underway. According to some, including Yanis Varoufakis, we need not worry about "fixing" Capitalism as it is already on its way out, as Feudalism once was, we rather need to focus on creating the new system. Capitalism as a term goes back to the 13th century. It was chosen by Louis Blanc and later by Marx and Engels (M&E) to explain the then emerging economic system. Although M&E are towering figures in the history of political philosophy, respected by friends and foes, due to their scientific analysis of human progress until the 19th century, they miserably failed to provide a roadmap for the transition to, and the detailed workings of the alternative, Communist, utopian, paradise they envisioned. This monumental - in terms of both historicity, complexity and errors - task was undertaken, theoretically and literally, in Czarist Russia, a backward, sprawling, empire that M&E never considered as a suitable candidate, by the towering figure of Lenin. Unfortunately he died at just 53, leaving the world's greatest social experiment at the hands of someone he saw as unfit and had explicitly warned against: Stalin. Increasingly, a dictatorship of one rather than a collective, democratic, leadership was at the helm of the experiment with tragic results. While it is probably unfair to attribute Stalin's excesses, personality cult and increasing paranoia to M&E's theories, anarchists such as Bakunin had warned that a 'temporary people's dictator' could and would turn into a permanent new Czar. If there was no Stalin, would Russia have followed a different path? There is no answer as there are no 'ifs' in History. M&E theory was further applied and twisted in other unsuitable and unprepared countries, sometimes leading to surreal results such as the hereditary marxist dictatorship of North Korea. It has been argued, somewhat harshly, by some socialists, including Cornelius Castoriadis, that the Soviet Union had or ended up having little to do with Socialism, let alone Communism, and that it quickly degenerated into a bureaucratic and nepotistic stratocracy, unloved by the people, which may explain its peaceful yet sudden demise. It could even be argued that elements of that stratocracy survive to this day. Even if true, no one can dispute that great achievements and progress were made in many economic sectors of "actually-existing-socialism" countries, or that they did not exert pressure on the capitalist West so that it introduces progressive reforms to keep up. Capitalism, the West and their combination, Imperialism, also has an admirably long record of military, economic and social atrocities, including innumerable invasions and crimes against Humanity and a talent of attributing these to other causes. Whatever the system or the country, one thing is certain: the ruling class will resort to lethal force if it has to preserve itself. If it does not, it could either mean that it has already withered out or that it has already made a deal with the new, incoming status quo.
An irony is that M&E by accurately observing and interpreting with the intention of changing the prevailing system, succeeded (via Lenin) in changing it, similarly to the Observer effect in quantum mechanics, while progressive changes were also introduced due to pressures from socialist countries and worker struggles in the West. The Capitalism of the 21st century is an evolved, but still recognizable, more cunning relative of the semi-barbaric Capitalism of the 19th century and, thanks to worker's struggles, the fear of revolution, but also common sense. It adopted and adapted some progressive ideas, a noted offspring being the Nordic social-democratic model. Green Capitalism is another recent example of fusion which offers some dubious quick-fixes like carbon offsetting, blue bonds and other financial concoctions, some more useful and effective than others. Offsetting for one, is conceptually surreal. Imagine offsetting human rights by abusing some tourism workers/communities in Thailand and treating others extra nicely in Cambodia? As stupid as offsetting CO2. It could be that, pressured by the chance of a catastrophic Climate Crisis, we only have the time to use the system in order to both change the system and avoid catastrophe. A new, better socio-economic and financial system could gradually emerge without the old one dropping on our heads. But the devil is in the details, we have to meticulously examine each financial instrument to see if it is broadly beneficial, self-serving or just a gimmick / PR exercise. The problem, as always is that very few people know precisely how the system works and among them a tiny minority really care about the bigger picture, let alone wanting to change it.
Today's proletariat probably are the near slave-labour in 'developing' countries producing cheap consumer goods for the West and their compatriots who have braved seas and deserts to make it to Europe and the US so as to get a menial job. Otherwise, in the Global North, the pyramid now has many more little steps and we are moving to a service-based, virtual, gig economy, with new strata such as the 'precariat' rising, with permanent unemployment and under-employment, a growing luben/criminal/narco-mafia strata, and new, semi-apolitical, identity movements like the Me Too, LGBT+ and Black Lives Matter. There is an near-infinite number of fragmented, neo-classes. In turn this means that old, 19th century analytical tools cannot really interpret the current situation, and that the agents of progress will probably be the citizen and the worker/employee and the precarian, rather than the proletarian or the lumpenproletarian. As with volcanoes however, you never know if and when the next eruption will take place but it is a safe bet that something will trigger it sooner or later. Progress is not a given, there are also periods of regression. We must be aware of and resist two dangerous trends, in both East and West: Authoritarianism and Surveillance Capitalism - "Ninety Eighty Four" and "Brave New World" combined! Orwell, influenced by the examples of his era (and -highly ironically- a State informant himself) thought the State would exclusively and directly do all the surveillance! Wrong, it seems everything can be "privatized" and sub-contracted these days, from water in our homes to prisons! Our behaviour, as citizens and "consumers", is increasingly being monitored by both the state and corporations, apparently for our own sake, convenience, safety, health and so on! Also apparently, the vast majority (the people who elect/support governments) have passively accepted this monitoring as a trade off for digital/virtual freebies that make their life a little less miserable - witness, for example, how many are posting every minutiae of their lives and baring (pun intended) their personal details online, voluntarily parting with their most inner secrets to the great joy of marketeers of all sorts!
A perfectly just, egalitarian and free society is most probably impossible, yet perfection does not really matter: the goal serves as the horizon, to keep us walking towards it rather than staying still and let regressive forces push us back to the dark ages. It's an endless tug of war where "if you do not strive for the impossible, you will end up accepting the unthinkable!". Even if "actually-existing-but-supposedly-decaying-Capitalism" or "the prevailing globalised socioeconomic system", it does not really matter what we call it, once more manages to survive, given that it has solid backing from the military-industrial-financial complex, we could use a progressive, democratic leadership at all levels implementing short, medium and long-term policies in all spheres but, above all, active citizens that help each other will - baring any cosmic disaster or climatic collapse - most probably succeed in gradually humanising and ultimately replacing the "system" with something better, Utopian rather than Dystopian. Mutual Aid, as explained by Peter Kropotkin, has been and remains a key driver of evolution and progress, even if all else fails, during turbulent and chaotic times such as the ones we are experiencing and far worse ones in the million years of human history. It is also under the radar of oppressive mechanisms.
The mutual-aid tendency in man has so remote an origin, and is so deeply interwoven with all the past evolution of the human race, that is has been maintained by mankind up to the present time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history.”
- Pyotr Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, A Factor of Evolution
In the 21st century we therefore need synthesis and practical, progressive, innovative solutions rather than being fixated on what exactly will take place "After" - I am of course referring to the endless quarrels, narcissism of small differences and divisions of all those who want a better world. In one sense we are never living in the "after", we always live in the "now". Let's agree on the basics, essentially implementing fully, all three goals of the French Revolution - Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité - and we can always quarrel "after"! Progressive forces (anything from centre-left to far-left) democratically and peacefully coming to power in key countries is one, quite remote, possibility at this moment, if we do not retreat into another Cold War, or worse, WW3. But in an inclusive, progressive, framework - combining the best of all relevant theories and practices and what works locally - we do not necessarily have to "come into power" over a country, or over some others, but we could emancipate and empower ourselves and our communities for starters. Each one of us can effect some meaningful changes in a peaceful manner within the current system and even with oppressive/regressive political forces in power: if each one of us becomes the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi famously said, in the form of a daily, personal, peaceful, revolution. By doing things differently, by encouraging economic democracy in the workplace, by supporting eco-friendly businesses and cooperatives and choosing their products and services, by supporting progressive ecological initiatives in every region and walk of life. A free-er, fairer and happier society for more people is within our reach during the coming centuries, if this huge concentration of power or wealth is gradually but steadily eroded at the grassroots by a more democratic ownership of the means of production, including of course the Tourism means of production, and a fairer distribution of income and wealth between and within countries and classes.
Under pain of death, human societies are forced to return to first principles: the means of production being the collective work of humanity, the product should be the collective property of the race. Individual appropriation is neither just nor serviceable. All belongs to all. All things are for all men, since all men have need of them, since all men have worked in the measure of their strength to produce them, and since it is not possible to evaluate every one's part in the production of the world's wealth.
All things are for all. Here is an immense stock of tools and implements; here are all those iron slaves which we call machines, which saw and plane, spin and weave for us, unmaking and remaking, working up raw matter to produce the marvels of our time. But nobody has the right to seize a single one of these machines and say, "This is mine; if you want to use it you must pay me a tax on each of your products," any more than the feudal lord of medieval times had the right to say to the peasant, "This hill, this meadow belong to me, and you must pay me a tax on every sheaf of corn you reap, on every rick you build."
All is for all! If the man and the woman bear their fair share of work, they have a right to their fair share of all that is produced by all, and that share is enough to secure them well-being. No more of such vague formulas as "The Right to work," or "To each the whole result of his labour." What we proclaim is THE RIGHT TO WELL-BEING: WELL-BEING FOR ALL! - Pyotr Kropotkin - The Conquest of Bread, 1892
Essentially, we need to keep, improve, deepen and expand Democracy, which predates both Industrialism and Capitalism, and build a fairer economic system, replacing Corporate Autocracy with Economic Democracy. Large companies that operate & decide in a truly democratic and transparent fashion, pay their taxes, and design products and services that harm as little as possible would be acceptable if this was ever possible, but the average exploitative hierarchical multinational is clearly not. To avoid dictatorship, especially a permanent one, of any kind, checks and balances must be maintained at all levels, with direct democratic devolution to municipalities, with a free speech culture online and offline, a genuinely free and independent press that monitors & checks authority, devolved, democratic social media not controlled by the state or the deep state/billionaire techno-feudalists, genuinely free markets, democratically-run businesses, a social welfare system, equal, quality work and leisure opportunities for all, free and vibrant workers unions and professional associations, direct democratic decision-making processes, a genuine respect for all types of minorities, and, particularly relevant for Tourism & Hospitality, a genuinely welcoming culture towards foreigners, known in ancient Greece as Xenia. The close association of Hospitality with Asylum (both forms of Mobility) was already understood and celebrated in Homer's Odyssey. There are already inspiring examples bridging the Refugee-Tourist divide, such as Athens' Welcommon Hostel.
As we cannot really rely on enforcement of civilised practices by the police, a new type of Ethics is needed, where excessive private property and excessive consumption are not only discouraged by law/taxes, but they are also unethical/frowned upon by society, in the same way that Theft already is and always has been. To paraphrase Proudhon: Excessive Consumption is Theft! In turn sharing and mutual aid must be encouraged and be ethically rewarded.
[But let's take a break here, since the very subjective matter of "Ethics" was brought up. Human progress is a marathon, a never-ending contest. The regressive forces, the status quo, "the bad guys", call them how you like, always play dirty. (If you have not seen or heard this, invest in a doctor, there is something wrong with your sensory abilities). So why should "the good" play nicely? The means to the end or the means are the end? One more hard question. What about turning the tables and using the system to fight the system, legally, to the last iota. Sustainable/green/climate change finance comes to mind. Does money smell worse if it is directly sourced from a dodgy exotic source, or a defence or oil company before being laundered and/or greenwashed? Is there a corrosive effect when dancing with the mainstream and for which side? Once more, it depends, it remains to be seen, this is a contest! A propos, Lenin and other revolutionaries used Swiss banks while Switzerland was a revolutionary haven long before it became a tax haven.... End of break.]
So, the right to Inherit excessive property and other valuable assets and the time value of "money" needs rethinking, as well as the central role and excessive power of Banks in the production and investment of money. It is highly doubtful that crypto-currency, rather than transparent-currency is the solution to a more democratic and devolved production of money. Why turn money into a commodity produced and traded by modern techno-pirates at great environmental cost, too? Is crypto-currency a genuine alternative that undermines the power of Banks, or rather an alternative for Banks (and Capital) so as to avoid regulations that undermine their power? To prevent the rise of a priviledged/nomenclature/bureaucratic class the means of production should not be centralized and owned by the state (or by big, state-backed, private corporations), but they should be as devolved as possible - technology makes this ever easier - and owned by all and no-one specifically. It is difficult to imagine how exactly this could work, but perhaps it could take the form of a devolved "3D printing" type system and a high-tech urban agriculture where each household/neighborhood/city would produce everything they need by themselves. At the same time direct democratic political structures and laws could deliberately prevent a nomenclature from emerging. They would be mere "Coordinators" with no executive or property privileges and serve for a limited time. Every citizen would have the opportunity and perhaps the obligation to serve as a Coordinator for their neighbourhood/municipality/region. Murray Bookchin's Social Ecology and Communalism frameworks synthesized and expanded on these themes and examined historical examples, while they have also inspired the Zapatistas in Mexico and Rojava in Syria.
Very interestingly, M&E had also worried about and pondered on how the rise of a bureaucratic class could be avoided, as accurately predicted by Bakunin among others: their proposals included recall at any time, equal pay of officials and workers and temporary rotation of all through 'bureaucratic' positions. These measures proved impractical if they were ever seriously applied in the early Soviet Union. Based on historical experience and current observations a one-party state is not compatible with freedom for all. It is also hard to imagine any form of state, planning to auto-destruct or "wither away" (as Lenin over-optimistically theorized in The State and Revolution). Even if it did, wouldn't it be taken over by another state (colonialism), private corporations (neoliberalism) or criminal gangs (narco-state)? In an ironic way this nearly happened after the withering-away of the Soviet Union. Therefore, unless we achieve an affluent paradise on earth it will be impossible to get rid of all forms of state power or of the monopoly of organised violence that the state represents.
We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality - Mikhail Bakunin
The key to true societal Progress, the type of progress that eludes us, is probably a combination of various frameworks. The key cannot be found unless the theories are put to the test, many times and in different places. The key may not always be the same, or we may need a set of keys. As no one holds the absolute truth or magic recipe, it would be useful if we could see more dialogue, rather than sectarianism and the narcissism of small differences, to understand what really transpired in the 20th century, the good, the bad and the ugly, and what is feasible and relevant today, in the 21st century and beyond. International, unifying initiatives and networks like Progressive International are very much needed, in this respect.
At the micro level, communities and municipalities, there have been many experimental models over the century, surviving ones include Las Gaviotas in Colombia, Marinaleda in Spain (official website), Findhorn in Scotland, along with many other ecovillages, intentional communities and small co-housing initiatives, around the world. Some of these host visitors as a source of income, and use 'sociocratic' and 'holacratic' models. More political examples of successful communes include the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico, El Panal in Caracas, Venezuela and lately Rojava-AANES in north east Syria. At the corporate level, Mondragon Corporation is a famous and successful example of workplace democracy. At the macro, international level, the European Union is a promising quasi-progressive experiment despite the fact that neoliberals and conservatives usually dominate policy-making and that ultra-right misanthropes and xenophobes have risen once more in many EU countries. The EU had succeeded in preventing war on the continent since 1945 with the notable and sad exception of what was Yugoslavia, itself a noble multiethnic-federal-self-managed-market-socialism model which managed to work relatively well for some 40 years, and now Ukraine... Peace is a prerequisite for building anything while it was the first World War that postponed imminent revolutions in Western Europe. Whenever the ruling class of any country is with its back against the wall, it plays the nationalist card, and sadly, it usually works probably due to the hominid insecurities hidden deeply in our DNA.
The Chinese model, especially since Deng Xiao Ping's reforms ("Socialism with Chinese Characteristics") is a very interesting, and successful, capitalist-socialist, fusion which has undisputed merits having brought hundreds of millions out of poverty and ignorance. If poverty is "the worst form of violence", this is no mean feat. Deng's reasonable hypothesis was that it is easier to divide affluence than poverty. And, witnessing the sudden demise of the Soviet Union, he decided not to opt for a multi-party system. Even before the pandemic, China shared many similarities and problems with the 'Western' model, including environmental pressures and growing inequality. There is hope, given the long history, wisdom and achievements of the Chinese people, that, if anyone can do it, they will be the first to attain the ever elusive model that combines at the same time full socialism with full freedom, i.e. genuine communism/anarchism.
The United States model is undoubtedly a strong and successful one, in every sense, economic, technological, cultural, scientific, military - you name it - with a solid foundation on individual liberties, separation of powers, democratic electoral processes, federalism, and a long tradition of communalism, voluntarism and worker movements, but is also characterized by huge inequalities, racism and an incomprehensible level of violence. In a way it resembles Ancient Athens in its glory days, more or less democratic inside (to a degree racist and sexist, again not unlike Ancient Athens), but authoritarian over other states. We are seeing encouraging signs of a progressive shift there too in recent years, with the emergence of progressive Democrats and democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders and others. The Swiss Direct Democratic and Federalist tradition which empowers citizens through the ability to call federal referenda as well as the public assembly system (Landsgemeinde) still surviving in two cantons, is also inspiring and evidently successful. The model of The United Nations is perhaps Humanity's greatest idea, but one could not call it an achievement yet, as it lacks real power and a clear mandate.
Among tourism destinations, Kerala, with it's democratically-elected, self-styled Marxist governance, it's peaceful coexistence of various religions, its emphasis on responsible tourism and its relatively high quality of living, is an inspiring model of what progressive tourism can be. In most destinations however, it is evident that the Hospitality industry, by becoming a huge global industry, has moved far away from the meaningful, genuine, peer-to-peer, home-based hospitality of ancient times. An increasingly corporate-dominated hospitality and tourism sector gives the impression that there is something inherently imperialist, hierarchical and socially conservative about this industry. Racism and social racism are unfortunately evident in our sector, with the hardest, low-paid jobs given to immigrants, sometimes without papers, and ethnic minorities while exclusive "all-inclusive" resorts, well, exclude those they think they must. Couch-surfing, and to an extent, host-owned and run short-term-rentals, and community or cooperatively-owned/worker-run hotels and guesthouses, are attempts, sometimes romantic and impractical, other times quickly co-opted, to revive the ancient spirit. For some reason, which needs to be thoroughly investigated private rather than communal ownership is the rule in Tourism and Hospitality: although there are some municipal tourism enterprises, there are few tourism cooperatives, and fewer worker-owned (and recuperated) tourism businesses like Argentina's famous Hotel Bauen, a recent victim of the pandemic. The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives out of 451 member companies, lists just two in Tourism and Hospitality, Echo Adventure Cooperative in Groveland, California and Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Oregon. What precisely may be inhibiting the creation, survival and expansion of more worker-owned tourism companies? Does it have to do with lack of trust about the division of revenue and the provision of work and capital, or different needs and priorities of each partner within the broader capitalist framework? Does co-ownership undermine the hierarchy needed to reach a competitive quality standard? Does it undermine productivity and profits? Or is it undermined, in subtle and non-subtle ways, by the cunning system it aims to undermine? For example, by limiting cooperative access to adequate loans, subsidies, grants and business advice?
On the demand side, we need to find practical ways, such as a great expansion of social tourism programmes (their usefulness was highlighted by the pandemic), within the current socio-economic constraints and tourism infrastructure, to offer genuine, quality, affordable hospitality to as many people as possible, not just to an enlightened, affluent elite, and at the same time offer quality, well-paid jobs to all tourism workers. This contradiction - a tourism affordable for all with well-paid tourism workers - would probably be solved if middlemen, monopolies, big bosses and exploiters of all sorts that dominate the tourism ecosystem, and who prevent tourism workers from enjoying the full product of their labour are gradually taken out of the equation and workers choose worker-owned tourism businesses for their holidays. It is a similar exploitative mechanism to the one that has children working over 70 hours per week in Bangladesh sweatshops to produce competitively priced sweaters sold in posh European districts at a huge profit margin. We must break the exploitative supply chain! How difficult is to book directly and visit a community-or worker-owned Ecolodge these days? It is far easier than 30 years ago. If only we could also reach it through public, eco-friendly transport and not be discriminated against through high prices, but, say, chosen according to what we could offer the local community in exchange for their hospitality! There are clearly dilemmas caused by the inherent contradictions of the current system, however we should dare dream of a distant future, a genuine Hospitality, based on mutually-beneficial, moneyless exchanges, and even better, try to set up such examples!
To paraphrase Marx's famous quote on philosophers: many academic and other experts have interpreted Tourism and how it has evolved "....the point, however, is to change it". Can it be changed? Yes. Can it be changed independently of other sectors, within the context of (and before the general replacement of) the dominant socio-economic system? Certainly! One hotel, tour, visit, destination at a time! Scientific knowledge and Technology are our allies. We, tourism professionals, employees and self-employed, should not be afraid of green technology and the new green means of production but at the same time we need to ensure that they will not be centrally controlled by powerful oligopolies, but as locally as possible by the people/workers/citizens/society, as well as to reduce their environmental impacts (yes, they do have such). For example, we should effectively encourage public and worker-owned electric aviation, trains and buses, rather than just protesting about air transport emissions, or, undemocratically, advocate less travel and staycations for the masses, or exclude them through pricing. We should improve and expand tourism planning, management and marketing so that Tourism benefits the many, rather than simply blasting Overtourism. We do not deny that overvisitation exists in specific locations, however it is usually the side-effect of poor management, marketing and infrastructure, and just one of many adverse effects of the current socioeconomic system - certainly not the worst! We need, on the one hand, to constantly identify and oppose fake solutions and ecocidal and anti-social aspects and actors of the global system, and on the other hand, to recognize and encourage progressive trends and best practices. We support fair trade and welcome genuinely free markets, where the self-employed, small family companies, voluntary associations and cooperatives may prosper, but oppose "free" markets monopolized by hierarchical, opaque, tax-evading, mega-corporations and one-sided, neoliberal international agreements. Progress in Tourism involves moving towards a Tourism that is affordable for all and is mainly owned/controlled by its employees and the local community.
During a quintuple crisis we do not have the luxury of lurking in the margins for the perfect conditions or for the stars to align, compromises are inevitable and also useful - they are the essence of any real, Direct Democracy. In fact the pandemic may have brought progressive ecological ideas back in fashion, and hopefully they will remain fashionable when it ends (it is not a given, people forget easily!). Even a relatively ecological, equitable, democratic Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure, can quickly create more quality, meaningful & pleasant jobs where no other options exist and, as importantly, open hearts and minds, increase mobility between nations and within societies, re-distribute wealth peacefully, effectively and equitably between and within countries without further harming the planet. This is why we do not advocate less travel or more expensive travel for the privileged few! At the same time we also have to see through and expose the massive corporate greenwash that is currently taking place in the Tourism sector on the occasion of the Climate Crisis, some hollow post-pandemic 'building-back-better' pronouncements and various toothless 'Tourism Declares'-style pledges undersigned by exploitative tourism corporations. Tourism Multinationals are hiding between these token, innocuous acts of 'voluntary' - 'self-regulating' environmental compliance while carrying on exploiting people and destinations as usual. If there were serious laws, full transparency, fair taxation and a level-playing field none of these giants on clay feet would survive!
We consider Mobility, Leisure, Travel and Tourism as basic Human Rights and thus advocate a better, Tourism for All, as an indispensable tool and element of the transition to a better World where "All belongs to All"! It's a dynamic process with an uncertain outcome. Tourism can play a unique role in all of the above processes as it is a truly globalized industry. Genuine Ecolodges, eco-communities, worker and community-owned tourism initiatives and other progressive tourism infrastructure and services are laboratories for a new, fairer and happier World.
We reject the hypocricy, hyperbole and elitism of those who mock "mass" tourism for the wrong reasons, go ballistic over the ghost of "overtourism" (it only really exists in specific sites and can be easily managed), and enjoy denying the right to affordable, care-free holidays to the 99% in the name of vague notions, usually some conservative 'responsibility' or guilt. In most cases, their real worry is not to be disturbed by the Hoi Polloi, in the same way that their colonial forebears created vast game reserves bereft of people, a land-grabbing process that still goes on in the name of conservation but is also about real estate, authoritarianism and geopolitics.
Ecology without class struggle is just gardening - Chico Mendes
The great Chico Mendes paid for his beliefs and campaigns with his life, assassinated by the long arms of an ecocidal system. True ecologists, as opposed to environmentalists, are not only concerned with the plight of Wildlife but also the plight of Humans. They are not only concerned with obstacles to the migration of birds, but with the drownings of migrants in the Mediterranean. They do not only worry about if a resort is using solar electricity, but about whether it is stealing water, displacing communities, and treating employees as wage slaves. We realize the tremendous power and potential of the Tourism & Hospitality sectors to peacefully improve livelihoods around the world. While the mainstreaming of Sustainable Tourism is a milestone, it is a double-edged sword, as mainstream is another definition of conservatism, keeping things as they are. That is why we have to move beyond Sustainable Tourism, which is sadly rapidly turning into one more green capitalist concept co-opted by Big Tourism, the corporations eager to greenwash their exploitative, oligopolistic models. Sustainable Tourism (and Sustainability in general) nowadays is so de-politicized and sterilized, that it is easily adopted and adapted by all regimes, even repressive ones that persecute and murder journalists, dissidents, minorities, the indigenous - anyone they do not like - sometimes to develop "sustainable" tourism, "sustainable" forestry, "sustainable" agriculture, mining and so on. For the average tourism multinational Sustainable Tourism is more about generating and capturing new tourism markets, channels and revenue streams, rather than changing the existing ones. The case for a new, Progressive, Ecological & Democratic Tourism is both practical and conceptual. As the status quo first infiltrates and then hijacks our terms, structures, networks and initiatives, we have to create new ones, otherwise we simply cannot be heard in the internet cacophony! Ecological & Democratic Tourism includes the "System Change" part of the motto "System Change not Climate Change. It prioritizes individual and collective political action to combat inequality and injustice, protect human rights and labour rights, and promote direct, genuine and economic democracy, within the tourism and hospitality sectors but also in the host communities, destinations and the society as a whole, in collaboration with the broad global progressive movement for a genuine (ecological/direct/workplace/economic) Democracy. Progressive Tourism does not sacrifice freedoms, individual or collective to any remote goal. The sense of freedom, including the freedom to travel, relocate, live as you wish and where you wish, is as important as freedom itself. But unlike neoliberals, who really care only about the 'freedom' of bosses, true progressive libertarians care for all the freedoms of all the people - "All is for All! ". And we never forget that one's freedom stops where the other's freedom starts. I am not "free" to play my music loud at 1 am, when you are sleeping. I am not "free" to demand you to work on Sundays, so that I can do my shopping on my day off. I am not "free" to enter your home, or temple without asking, so as to take a selfie. I am not "free" to exploit you, to steal/profit from your surplus value, in any way or form.
Then, who would and should be the agent of progressive tourism change? Primarily Tourism workers/employees, the self-employed, and their independent unions and networks! The support and participation of citizens, members of host communities, travellers and progressive tourism academia is also paramount. It cannot and should not be impersonal corporations, their foundations and think-tanks, the conservative industry associations and investors that are using the Climate Crisis as a pretext to greenwash and socialwash everyone and everything. The last thing all these good, well-fed, folks want, is a system change! For the same reason we cannot wait for the State or the hierarchical self-serving mechanisms that go by the name of mainstream political parties to do our work. We have to build and test the alternative progressive structures ourselves, from below, in every sector of the economy. Then, could the fastest way to reach a Genuine Democracy be for grassroots action and experimentation until the day each one of us wakes up one day and acts as if we already had it? Would all oppressive and exploitative mechanisms and structures, public and private, instantly and peacefully wither away so that the new, genuine democratic structures already in place, emerge? It seems difficult, yet there have been velvet revolutions in the past, so who knows?
In the light of the above, key elements of an ecological, democratic & progressive tourism could include (some are overlapping):
- Local, Decolonised, Worker Management/Ownership & Self-employment: Means of Tourism production/Tourism Supply owned/controlled/dominated by the employees, the self-employed and small-family businesses.
- Fair Remuneration: Employees and the self-employed receive living wages, enjoy good working conditions and receive full health & insurance coverage.
- Workplace Democracy: Employees participate in organizational decision-making and have the right to join and form unions.
- Equity: Help Reduce Poverty and Inequality. Meets Real, Local Needs and Aspirations.
- Inclusiveness: Is Accessible, Affordable, Non-discriminatory, with the Consent and Participation of the Local Community in Decision-making.
- Education: Increase Knowledge & Intercultural Understanding. Supports and Participates in Scientific Research and Cultural Activities.
- Conservation: Minimise its Environmental Impact through, among others, renewable energy, recycling, upcycling, reusing, reducing, conservation.
If all of the above are achieved, we will be a lot closer to Genuine Hospitality and a Tourism for All. We would not fully attain these before they are free, before they do not involve a monetary transaction. For this to happen we would need change in all sectors, a full, broad societal transformation and a society build on generalised affluence. This may never fully happen everywhere, but we can certainly start somewhere. An international network of genuine Ecolodges, and similar accommodations/attractions/facilities that meet the above criteria could function as beacons/oases/labs that help spread progress, pleasantly, prudently, honourably and justly, at the grassroots.
To recap, we do not have a blueprint, there is none, there can be none. Progress can take many forms and shapes, depending on the particular circumstances of a 'destination'. We do not tell anyone or wait for any saviour to do anything. We are not waiting for a global revolution, the second coming or the arrival of extraterrestrials, as religions, neo-religions (dogmatic ideologies) and pseudo-religious cults do. We are 100% for science, reason and technological progress. We support practical, progressive, real changes and grassroots initiatives TODAY, particularly those decided and undertaken by workers/employees themselves, in a direct democratic fashion. Equally, we oppose regressive changes, such as, for example, the unlimited expansion of working hours in Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure, or the appropriation/privatization of all basic needs providers (water, health, education, energy and others) that even elected, progressive governments are implementing under pressure from global creditors. We certainly have to move beyond Capitalism (the Dictatorship of Capital and Financial Capital) but not towards any other form of Dictatorship, Centralism or Authoritarianism, but towards a devolved Genuine Democracy with real checks and balances that really cares and defends ALL the rights of ALL the people, or at least the basic ones: food, health, education, housing, security, leisure. The one in Charlie Chaplin's Final Speech in the "Great Dictator"!
Time is running out. Let there be no doubt. We should sort things out. If we care. Like we say we do. Not just empty words. For a week or two. Make the World. Your Priority. Try to live your life. Ecologically. Play a part. In a greater scheme. Try to live the dream. On a wider scene. - Sweet Harmony - The Beloved
Our civilization has no time to waste to achieve at least some of the above and avoid collapse due to war, climate or pandemics, yet this will probably be an Ultramarathon. There is no perfect system and, most probably, there will never be. But there are better systems, and worse systems, in relation to the wellbeing of the polloi. They do not fall from the sky, they are the end results of a constant, endless struggle and cooperation, war and peace, violence and non-violence. The full humanization of Humanity (if it is ever to arrive - it could be that some cosmic accident or human-induced blunder puts an abrupt end) could take another 10,000 years (since the first agrarian societies emerged) or even another 4 million years (since Australopithecus afarensis walked upright!). However, we should remember (Lao-Tzu) that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" and (Cavafis) that "when you set out for Ithaca ask that your way be long...". The simple truth is that, apart from inertia, nothing really prevents us from taking the important first step by helping each other today and every day, from "living prudently and honourably and justly" and thus "living pleasantly", every single day. As there is no evidence of supernatural beings, deities and extraterrestrials that could come to our 'rescue', the survival and future progress of our species is up to each one of us. Similarly, Genuine Hospitality may never be fully attained, but each time we try to treat a traveler not as a client but as a guest and even as a friend (and a host as a host and not as a paid servant/slave/robot) we come a bit closer, we move forward, we progress, we evolve.
Ecoclub.com, as a latter-day, virtual Garden of Epicurus, aims to bring together all who broadly share the above ideas so that we can discuss and improve them and d then apply them. It was established in 1999 in Athens, the cradle of Direct Democracy (albeit an imperfect one that used slaves and excluded women from decision-making) to unite and support progressive tourism professionals around the world. Our growing global community includes leading tourism practitioners, employees, consultants, academics and students. Membership is free. Ecological and democratic tourism examples, such as Ecoclub Ecolodges and Ecoclub Recommended Accommodations, Tours & Attractions, pop-up every day, so we collectively try to reinforce them, promote and propagate them.
Our Logo: The colour (teal) is one of a few colours named after an animal (a duck, the common teal, whose eyes are surrounded by this colour). The smiling sun symbolizes a pragmatic, positive, non-violent, non-sectarian, non-dogmatic, philosophical attitude to life which combines the Epicurean "LATHE VIOSAS" ("ΛΑΘΕ ΒΙΩΣΑΣ" = get through life without drawing unwarranted attention), "ATARAXIA" (ΑΤΑΡΑΞΙΑ = tranquillity) with MUTUAL AID, the will to assist each other, solve real problems, "to get up again and start over", rise up every day, in a peaceful, daily revolution in all our individual and collective dealings; it also symbolizes solar power - renewable energy in literal and figurative terms and light - the light of science, enlightenment.
If you are still reading this it probably means that you have understood that tourism is more than organising, selling or participating in holiday packages, although all of the above are important too. If so, we want you to join us. This is a working, frequently edited, corrected, updated and expanded, document that inadvertently includes contradictions, errors and omissions. It is not meant to be a blueprint - we do not really believe that blueprints are either possible or beneficial on the road to a better world. All ideologies are a form of post-religion and anyone who blindly believes in any ideology is no smarter than the one who blindly follows a religion. Caveat Lector!
Ecoclub Reading List:
- Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle (350 BCE)
- Principal Doctrines - Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
- Life of Diogenes - Diogenes Laertius (c. 3rd century CE)
- The Code of Nature - Anonymous (Étienne-Gabriel Morelly?) (1755) Excerpts in English
- Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen - l'Assemblée nationale (1789)
- Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch - Imannuel Kant (1795)
- What is Property? - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1840)
- The Principles of Communism - Friedrich Engels (1847)
- The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels (1848)
- The Immorality of the State - Mikhail Bakunin (c. 1870)
- God and the State - Mikhail Bakunin (1871)
- L'Internationale - Eugène Pottier (1871)
- The Right to be Lazy - Paul Lafargue (1883)
- The Conquest of Bread - Peter Kropotkin (1892)
- Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution - Peter Kropotkin (1902)
- Ithaca - C.P. Cavafy (1911)
- In Memory of the Commune - V.I. Lenin (1911)
- Letters to the Congress (Lenin's Last Testament) - V.I. Lenin (1923)
- The World Revolution - Herman Gorter (1923)
- What is Mutualism? - Clarence Lee Swartz (1927)
- Platform of the Joint Opposition - Leon Trotsky (1927)
- Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (1932)
- Humanist Manifesto I (1933)
- The Revolution Betrayed - What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going? - Leon Trotsky (1936)
- Charlie Chaplin's Final Speech in "The Great Dictator" (1940)
- Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter (1942)
- The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)
- The Animal Farm - George Orwell (1945)
- Sociocracy, Democracy as it might be - Kees Boeke (1945)
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights - UN (1948)
- Why Socialism? - Albert Einstein (1949)
- Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (1949)
- European Convention on Human Rights (1950)
- The Rebel - Albert Camus (1951)
- The Motorcycle Diaries - Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (1952)
- Harrison Bergeron - Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1961)
- Our Synthetic Environment - Murray Bookchin (1962)
- Ecology and Revolutionary Thought - Murray Bookchin (1964)
- Socialism and man in Cuba - Che Guevara (1965)
- The Revolution of Everyday Life - Raoul Vaneigem (1967)
- Listen Marxist - Murray Bookchin (1969)
- Post-Scarcity Anarchism - Murray Bookchin (1970)
- Imagine - John Lennon (1971) - Lyrics - Video - Original Demo
- Adhere to the Principle “To Each According To His Work” - Deng Xiaoping (1978)
- We Can Develop A Market Economy Under Socialism - Deng Xiaoping (1979)
- Ecology and the Critique of Modern Society - Herbert Marcuse (1979)
- The Rising Tide of Insignificancy - Cornelius Castoriadis (1979-1996)
- The Magnificent Seven - The Clash (1981) - Lyrics - Video
- The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy - Murray Bookchin (1982)
- Critique of Economic Reason - Andre Gorz (1983)
- The Abolition of Work and Other Essays - Bob Black (1986)
- What is Social Ecology? - Murray Bookchin (1986)
- Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology - Murray Bookchin (1987)
- Towards Humane, Democratic Socialism - Platform of the CPSU Central Committee (1990)
- The Democratic Worker-Owned Firm - David Ellerman (1990)
- Violence and Human Nature - Howard Zinn (1990)
- Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World - Carolyn Merchant (1992)
- The Politics of Social Ecology, Libertarian Municipalism - Murray Bookchin (1997)
- Direct Action Manual - Uncompromising Nonviolent Resistance in Defense of Mother Earth - Earth First! (1997)
- The Fourth World War has begun - Subcomandante Marcos (1997)
- Democracy as a Universal Value - Amartya Sen (1999)
- Of Hospitality - Jacques Derrida (2000)
- Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature - John Bellamy Foster (2000)
- Global Greens Charter (2001)
- An Ecosocialist Manifesto - Joel Kovel and Michael Löwy (2001)
- Change the World Without Taking Power - John Holloway (2002)
- Bali Principles of Climate Justice - International Climate Justice Network (2002)
- Our Word is our Weapon - Subcomandante Marcos (2002)
- Creating a Life Together, Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities - Diana Leafe Christian (2003)
- Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III - American Humanist Association (2003)
- European Left Manifesto - European Left Party (2004)
- Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandonia - Zapatista Army of National Liberation (2005)
- Economic Democracy: A Grand Strategy for World Peace and Prosperity - J.W.Smith (2006)
- Ecoclub Interview with Arq. Hector Ceballos Lascurain, the 'Architect of Ecotourism' (2006)
- Toward a Communalist Approach - Murray Bookchin (2006)
- Democracy Isn't 'Western' - Amartya Sen (2006)
- Bookchin Breaks with Anarchism - Janet Biehl (2007)
- Studies in Mutualist Political Economy - Kevin Carson (2007)
- Insurgencia y turismo: reflexiones sobre el impacto del turista politizado en Chiapas - Gabriela Coronado (2008)
- Violence - Slavoj Zizek (2008)
- For All The People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America - John Curl (2009)
- Ecoclub Interview with Brian Tokar (2009)
- Ecoclub Interview with Kevin Carson (2010)
- The Distortion of Hospitality, from Philoxenia to Philochrematia and back - Antonis Petropoulos (2010)
- From Resistance to Revolution - Manifesto for a Fifth International (2010)
- Why Marx Was Right - Terry Eagleton (2011)
- Human Happiness & the Environment - Speech by José Mujica at the RIO +20 Summit (2012)
- Ecoclub Interview with Freya Higgins-Desbiolles (2012)
- The Cambridge Declaration on [Animal] Consciousness - Philip Low (2012)
- How Democracy Works in Nature - Jason G Goldman / BBC Future (2012)
- How Wealth Reduces Compassion - Daisy Grewal (2012)
- The Hotel Bauen’s challenge to cannibalizing capitalism - Freya Higgins-Desbiolles (2012)
- Tourism as a Green Fix to the Capitalism Crisis - Macia Blazquez Salom (2013)
- Talking to My Daughter About the Economy - Yanis Varoufakis (2014)
- Hope for Humanity - Speech by José Mujica at UNASUR (2014) Text - Video
- Some thoughts on the question of Community-owned Tourism - Antonis Petropoulos (2014)
- Interview: José Mujica, The Philosopher President of Uruguay - Martin McQuillan (2015)
- Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - UN (2015)
- An Ecomodernist Manifesto - Various Authors (2015)
- What kind of creatures are we? - Noam Chomsky (2015)
- Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of a Great Transition - John Bellamy Foster (2015)
- The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy - Lester Brown (2015)
- Ecology or Catastrophe, The Life of Murray Bookchin - Janet Biehl (2015)
- How Animals Vote to Make Group Decisions - Jan Hoole (2017)
- Tourism, Nationalism, Internationalism - Antonis Petropoulos (2017)
- Prosperity without Growth: Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow - Tim Jackson (2017)
- Xenos: Jacques Derrida on Hospitality - Peter Benson (2017)
- Ears have walls, Walls have ears - Antonis Petropoulos (2017)
- Tourism and Anarchism - Dennis Tolkach (2017)
- Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs - Andy Beckett (2018)
- Why Ecosocialism? For A Red-Green Future - Michael Löwy (2018)
- Hospitality, A Timeless Measure of Who We Are? - Elena Isayev (2018)
- Workplace Democracy Implies Economic Democracy - Nicholas Vrousalis (2019)
- Pandemic! COVID-19 Shakes the World - Slavoj Žižek (2020)
- A Left that Dares to Speak Its Name - 34 Untimely Interventions - Slavoj Žižek (2020)
- Pandemics, transformations and tourism: be careful what you wish for - C. Michael Hall, Daniel Scott, Stefan Gössling (2020)
- The Legacy of Murray Bookchin - Brian Morris (2020)
- Socialising tourism for social and ecological justice after COVID-19 - Freya Higgins-Desbiolles (2020)
- The “war over tourism”: challenges to sustainable tourism in the tourism academy after COVID-19 - Freya Higgins-Desbiolles (2020)
- Ecoclub Interview with Bob Hale, Co-Convenor, Global Greens (2020)
- Quintuple Crisis? Five more reasons to act and green our act! - Antonis Petropoulos (2020)
- Bread, Education, Liberty and Health! - Antonis Petropoulos (2020)
- Utopia through Tragedy? - Antonis Petropoulos (2020)
- Corona, climate, chronic emergency: War communism in the twenty-first century - Andreas Malm (2020)
- Democratic Communism: Cape of Good Hope to New Kerala - Siddik Rabiyath (2020)
- Why we need a Decolonial Ecology, a conversation with Malcom Ferdinand (2020)
- Program - Communist Party USA (2020)
- Germany: Towards a Socio-Ecological Market Society - Reinhard Olschanski (2021)
- The New Cold War on China - John Bellamy Foster (2021)
- Utopia Inc - Alexa Clay (2021)
- Agroecology is the Solution to World Hunger - Raj Patel (2021)
- We need a shorter week to free us from the tyranny of Work - Kyle Lewis & Will Stronge (2021)
- The importance of revolutionary optimism - JT Chapman (2021)
- Twilight Capitalism, Karl Marx and the Decay of the Profit System - Murray Smith, Jonah Butovsky, Josh Watterton (2021)
- Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs - Jonathan Neale (2021)
- Kropotkin's Ecology - Brian Morris (2021)
- A Plan to Save the Planet - Tricontinental, Institute for Social Research (2022)
- The idea of primitive communism, as seductive as wrong - Manvir Singh (2022)
- We can build a new Economic Order - Jeremy Corbyn (2022)
- If you learn solidarity, you learn to listen - Aleida Guevara (2022)