For an Ecological & Democratic Tourism!

unfortunately (?) there is no such button!unfortunately (?) there is no such button!

For an Ecological & Democratic Tourism that benefits local communities, brings knowledge and intercultural understanding and is affordable for all!

The ongoing quintuple crisis (polycrisis), economic/systemic, social, environmental/climate, humanitarian/refugee, pandemic/public health, and now, again, the New Cold War and 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. Unsurprisingly, the 1% are also responsible for twice the amount of emissions as the poorest 50%! 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!

"Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition."  - Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Part IV, Chapter 46

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. 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 constructive, concrete, individual and collective action. The key culprits and beneficiaries of the current state of affairs have names and addresses 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 recipes of the 1980s, but what is less clear is to what extent and in what respects the alternative is 'better'. 

"Countries should not be judged by the words written in their constitutions but by their annual budgets" - Noam Chomsky

National budgets of powers big and small, still favour militarization and environmental destruction, among others. This is no accident of course, as the military-industrial-extractive complex has a chokehold on many governments and political parties of powerful countries, let alone weaker ones. 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.

Pyotr Alexeyevich KropotkinPyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin"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

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 and leisure are just as important in an automated economy where we should not have to work as many hours in order to make a decent living. 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 although as a practice its origins can be traced to the first agrarian societies and the accumulation of capital. The term 'capitalism' was chosen by Louis Blanc and later by Marx and Engels (M&E) to describe and explain the then emerging economic system. M&E are towering figures in the history of political philosophy, respected by friends and foes alike, due to their scientific analysis of human progress until the 19th century. But they did not provide a detailed roadmap for the transition to, and the workings of the alternative, Communist, society they envisioned. There is also the view that over his lifetime Marx became less statist and closer to libertarian communism. (Marx also did not write anything specific about Tourism either, as Raul Bianchi points out, probably because mass tourism did not exist in his day).

Lenin depicted in "Man, Controller of the Universe", a mural by Diego Rivera, Mexico CityLenin depicted in "Man, Controller of the Universe", a mural by Diego Rivera, Mexico City

"Under socialism much of “primitive” democracy will inevitably be revived, since, for the first time in the history of civilized society the mass of population will rise to taking an independent part, not only in voting and elections, but also in the everyday administration of the state. Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing." 
Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution

The 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 great revolutionary and thinker, Lenin. Unfortunately, Lenin died too early, at just 53, leaving the helm of the great experiment at the hands of two great historical figures he had explicitly warned others against, Stalin and Trotsky. Had Lenin not been incapacitated early on, had he lived another 30 years, would the USSR have attained genuine Communism and still exist today? Was ruthless Stalin exactly what was needed to defeat the Nazis? What if Gorbachev was luckier or less naive? Unfortunately, there can be no definite answers - there are no 'ifs' in History. Most would agree that Lenin had a great mind and genuine intentions but on the one hand he did not have the luxury of operating in a theoretical vacuum as a philosopher - he had to fight real enemies and solve real problems - and on the other Russia at the time was probably unsuitable for the great experiment. Lenin had to quickly pick and choose, tweak, advance and implement Marxian theories written with western-industrialized countries in mind, in order to adapt them to the pre-revolutionary Russian reality, and then, after the Revolution, there were many experiments with conflicting results. Kropotkin chose to return to the young USSR and observe the events in real time and up close as he recognised the historical significance of the October Revolution. He initially hoped that "even if it does not achieve everything that it would like to, it will nevertheless enlighten the path of the civilised countries for at least a century". After observing the violence, in-fighting, sectarianism and terror of the civil war, he became disillusioned and observed in his "Letter to the Workers of Western Europe", perhaps harshly, that "unhappily, this effort has been made in Russia under a strongly centralized party dictatorship. This effort was made in the same way as the extremely centralized and Jacobin endeavor of Babeuf. I owe it to you to say frankly that, according to my view, this effort to build a communist republic on the basis of a strongly centralized state communism under the iron law of party dictatorship is bound to end in failure. We are learning to know in Russia how not to introduce communism, even with a people tired of the old regime and opposing no active resistance to the experiments of the new rulers." Kropotkin wrote to Lenin in 1920 urging him to change course and allow for decentralised institutions. There was no observed result, but it is telling that during Kropotkin's funeral procession in 1921, with special permission from Lenin, Anarchists were allowed to carry anti-Bolshevik banners, for the very last time.... Lenin's elder brother, Alexander, was of course an Anarchist, who had been hanged for allegedly participating in an attempt to assassinate the Tsar. Libertarian Socialists such as Bakunin had also long warned that a revolutionary vested with absolute power, like Stalin, could only become a new Tsar.

Murray Bookchin, 1990Murray Bookchin, 1990"Power to the people' can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people. Each individual can then take control of his daily life. If 'Power to the people' means nothing more than power to the 'leaders' of the people, then the people remain an undifferentiated, manipulatable mass, as powerless after the revolution as they were before. In the last analysis, the people can never have power until they disappear as a 'people.” ... Revolutionary liberation must be a self-liberation that reaches social dimensions, not "mass liberation" or "class liberation" behind which lurks the rule of an elite, a hierarchy and a state."
Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1986)

M&E theory was further applied and twisted in other unsuitable places, sometimes as a pretext, leading to surreal results including the Buddhist stratocracy of Burma and the hereditary dictatorship of North Korea. It has been argued by libertarian socialists, including Cornelius Castoriadis, that the Soviet Union, and similar states, had - or ended up having - little to do even with Socialism, let alone Communism, and that they quickly degenerated into a bureaucratic and nepotistic stratocracy, tolerated but unloved by the people, which is harsh but may explain their peaceful yet sudden demise when the time came. Interestingly enough, It could be argued that elements of that stratocracy, stripped of ideological pretexts, survive to this day and to some extent this explains the current situation in the Ukraine, on both sides of the conflict. 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. The slave trade and the atrocities, bordering on genocide, of European colonial powers (e.g. Belgian Congo, French Madagascar, French Algeria, French Indochina, German Africa) still haunt these countries but, very sadly and worryingly, not in some European countries where in the past decade neo-Nazis and assorted racists-fascists have reemerged from History's sewers.

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,  adapted and coopted some progressive ideas, a noted offspring being the Nordic social-democratic model. Green Capitalism is another recent example of fusion which offers some controversial solutions like carbon offsetting, blue bonds and other financial instruments, some more useful and effective than others. Offsetting for one, is sold as a consolation option yet it is conceptually surreal: imagine offsetting human rights by abusing some tourism workers/communities in Thailand and treating others extra nicely in Cambodia...

Pressured by the chance of a catastrophic Climate Crisis, we only have the time to work within the current system in order to both make it fairer and avoid catastrophe. A new, better socio-economic and financial system could gradually emerge without the old one dropping on the heads of the poorest. 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!

By striving to do the impossible, man has always achieved what is possible. Those who have cautiously done no more than they believed possible have never taken a single step forward."
- Mikhail Bakunin

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 current 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

By realising that 'revolutionary government' is a contradiction in terms, and proposing a decentralised and just economic system based on Mutual Aid and voluntary cooperation, Kropotkin, also a prominent Geographer and Naturalist can also be considered both a precursor of Political Ecology and, of course, Ecological Tourism.

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 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.

"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)

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 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, led by Nikos Chrysogelos, former Green MEP and a historic figure in the Greek Green movement.

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 defense 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, revolutionaries traditionally 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.

"No theory, no ready-made system, no book that has ever been written will save the world. I cleave to no system. I am a true seeker."
- 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. 

First and foremost we must note, something that corporate dominated mass media consistently hush and downplay: the great tradition of cooperatives and employee owned companies and their resilience. In the UK, despite decades of neoliberal policies, employee-owned companies still produce around 4% of GDP.  In the United States, the Capitalist heartland, there are over 10 million active workers in employee owned enterprises of various types, of which there are over "300 democratic workplaces" with 7,000 workers and over USD 400m in annual revenues. The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives lists over 450 businesses in its directory. The International Cooperative Alliance established in 1895, tries to unite and represent 3 million cooperatives with "1 billion members" worldwide.

At the level of 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. In particular, and despite setbacks, Venezuela's Bolivarian process which bases socialism on the commune as its basic cell, is bearing fruit. At the corporate level, Mondragon Corporation, itself a network of 80 separate cooperatives in various sectors, is a famous, large-scale and successful example of workplace democracy, but there also many more smaller, struggling recuperated factories such as Indorca in Venezuela and BIOME in Greece, the latter producing competitively-priced ecological cleaning products. At the macro, international level, the Global Greens, an international federation of over 100 green political parties, is steadily becoming more influential thanks to electoral successes, the emerging Progressive International brings much needed networking, discussion and coordination between various internationalist, progressive, socialist, marxist and anarchist organizations, while the Athens-based "Initiative" is a network of 30 European Communist and Worker's parties. 

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 current Chinese model, combining Deng Xiao Ping's economic reforms and the supposed renewed emphasis on Socialism and Marxism under Xi JInping (which could be reversed after the anti-covid protests), is philosophically innovative, introducing economic freedom to socialism, and economically successful having brought hundreds of millions out of poverty and ignorance and turning the country into a super-power. 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 did not dare to opt for a multi-party system with free speech. Xi probably saw Deng's reforms going too far in terms of creating a new economically powerful oligarchy that could soon try to gain political power. Even before the pandemic, China shared many similarities and problems with the 'Western' model, including environmental pressures and growing inequality, authoritarianism and surveillance. During the pandemic it appears that the zero-Covid policy has created additional hardships. For an outsider, especially one living in a multi-party democracy with a long tradition of vibrant, open political disagreement, the level of state control, censorship and micromanagement of public opinion and collective memory is baffling and indicates nervousness rather than confidence. Still, one must be optimistic, given the long history, wisdom and achievements of the Chinese people, that, if anyone can do it, they will be the ones to fully attain the ever elusive combination of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité one day, and peacefully assist the rest of the world, as they are already doing. As a very old civilization, the Chinese traditionally are not in a rush. Famously the late premier Zhou Enlai replied "it is too early to say" when asked about the importance of the Parisian May of 1968, misquoted ever since, that he was referring to the Parisian July of 1789. Criticisms aside, it is very important to note that unlike nearly all other major powers, China does not have a habit of bombing, invading or staging coups in other countries, but rather tends to assist them with their infrastructure in a win-win model without intervening in their politics, replacing the role of the IMF in recent decades, and one hopes it will continue in this constructive and peaceful path.

"We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality"
Mikhail Bakunin, Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism

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, the US Greens, and various socialist parties.

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 freely-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 perhaps as close to paradise one can get, and 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?

"To speak of ‘limits to growth’ under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing. Attempts to ‘green’ capitalism, to make it ‘ecological’, are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth."
Murray Bookchin, Remaking Society (1990)

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 pseudo-environmentalists, are not just concerned with the plight of Wildlife but also, and primarily, with 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 gradually move beyond Sustainable Tourism and keep in mind that corporations are eager to greenwash their exploitative, oligopolistic models while all regimes, even repressive ones that persecute and murder journalists, dissidents, minorities, the indigenous - anyone they do not really like for any reason - sometimes to develop pseudo-sustainable tourism, 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 Tourism is both practical and conceptual. As the status quo first infiltrates and then hijacks our terms, structures, networks and initiatives, we have to keep on creating new ones, otherwise we simply cannot be heard in the cacophony! Progressive Ecological 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 Ecological Tourism does not sacrifice freedoms, individual or collective to any great leader or distant goal and is a peaceful path based on direct democratic dialogue and consensus. 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 ecologists 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 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 in any way or form.

"You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you"
Leon Trotsky

So, who would and should be the agent of progressive ecological change in Tourism? Clearly it is not companies, and that is why we never accepted impersonal 'companies' as "Members" here at the Ecoclub Community, but only real people, practitioners and academics. In fact, no self-respecting progressive association can have private companies and especially large corporations as members, only the ones defending the status quo. The agents of change will primarily be tourism workers/employees/professionals, the self-employed, and their independent unions, associations and networks! The support and participation of citizens, members of host communities, travellers and progressive tourism academia is also paramount. Change cannot be entrusted to impersonal corporations, their foundations and think-tanks, the conservative industry associations and investors that are using the Climate Crisis as a vehicle to greenwash and socialwash their interests. 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, it is clear that Sustainable Tourism is a pale green, conservative, essentially capitalist, approach, when we need a vibrant green, progressive, direct-democratic and socialist one: a tourism fit for the 21st century and the polycrisis we are going through. The idea is to combine ecological, direct democratic and socialist principles in an inclusive manner and in proportions adapted for local circumstances, and apply them to Tourism & Hospitality and related sectors, in the broader context of a World where "All is for All", as envisioned by Kropotkin and Bookchin and many other theorists, activists and revolutionaries mentioned on this page. An Ecological & Democratic Tourism could include the following key criteria:

  • Political: It is owned, controlled and dominated by the employees, the self-employed, small-family businesses, cooperatives, municipal and public organizations. Offers fair wages and good working conditions. Respects Human Rights and Labour Rights. Democratic, Local, Decolonised, Worker Ownership & Economic Democracy. Workers/employees participate in organizational decision-making and have the right to join and form unions. Takes place with the full consent and participation of the local community in decision-making. 
  • Environmental: Minimises its environmental impact, respects animal rights. It is based on renewable energy, recycling, upcycling, reusing, the circular economy. It supports a conservation model that fully respects the rights of indigenous people.
  • Economic: Workers/employees receive living wages, enjoy good working conditions and receive full health & insurance coverage. Maximizes benefits to the local community. Equitable. Aims & helps eliminate poverty & injustice. Meets real local needs & aspirations. Inclusive, Accessible, Affordable, Non-discriminatory. Economically Democratic.
  • Educational: Increases knowledge and intercultural understanding. Supports and participates in scientific research, cultural activities and heritage preservation. 

Workers' control / Workers' self-management, full community participation and direct democratic decision-making are in our view key ingredients. When possible, decision-making has to be inclusive, direct democratic, with each tourism worker and community member (citizen) having one vote in the company assembly/council or the public assembly/council, and an equal share of proceeds (or an equal vote on how proceeds, after wages and costs, are allocated). This is of course, more practical when all community members are tourism workers and vice versa, if there is a single community tourism provider and if all community members take turns as tourism workers, rotating in various positions. 'Face to face' democracy is more challenging if the community is large and economically diversified. In every case, it is important to avoid chasms between what tourism workers and other community members/citizens want. If direct participation of all workers-citizens is not possible at all times for key decisions, then there should at least be joint committees. Hierarchy, both in the tourism provider and in the community should be as flat as possible, and consensus should be prioritized over close, divisive votes. On the other hand lack of hierarchy and focus on consensus should not be taken to extremes so as to stifle or sabotage initiatives and decision-making, so a mediation committee could help when there are major disagreements. This is of course just a generic framework, each community and tourism community provider should adapt it to its specific circumstances and needs. 

When and where all of the above characteristics are present, we get a lot closer to a Genuine Hospitality. Of course, we cannot fully attain a Genuine Hospitality or a Tourism for All unless all other sectors are also "for all", and probably unless there is no longer a need for monetary transactions, or at least for monetary transactions based on private profit, as opposed to time bank style transactions. For this to happen we would need a deep systemic change in all sectors, a full, broad societal transformation and a generalised affluence. This is hard to imagine in the current state the world is. It may never fully happen everywhere, but it could at least start somewhere. Our approach here at, is to create a free international network of professionals who share this goal, along with an international network of genuine Ecolodges that meet the above criteria, and can operate as beacons/oases/labs that help spread progress, pleasantly, prudently, honourably and justly, at the grassroots. It must be admitted that, despite progress in AI, there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint, and perhaps there can be none apart from local best practices to be endlessly adapted and adopted. Rather than stating the problems (all time classic being "Human Nature") in despair and pessimism, we must persistently, methodically and optimistically search for the solutions, always with an open mind and with love for our fellow humans, as there is nothing more revolutionary than unconditional love. The great Che wrote:

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

Each problem has more than one solution and this means that there are more solutions than problems. Progress can take many forms and shapes, depending on the particular circumstances of a 'destination'. 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 (water, health, education, energy and others) that even progressive governments are implementing under pressure from global creditors. We believe that while we certainly have to replace Capitalism (the Dictatorship of Capital) we should not move violently towards any other form of Dictatorship, Centralism or Authoritarianism, but peacefully, gradually, and from the grassroots, towards a devolved Genuine and Direct Democracy and Economic Democracy/Democratic Worker Ownership and a Socialism with Liberty 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 and respects the environment. Like the one envisioned, among other places, in Charlie Chaplin's Final Speech in the "Great Dictator"

For this reason we have a big tent approach and an open-mind understanding of Eco-Socialism: we consider everything from Social Democracy and mainstream Green Politics to Democratic Socialism, Marxism-Leninism, Eco-Anarchy and Libertarian Socialism, and their various geographic variants, including that famous 'Socialism with Chinese Characteristics'. All these Socialist currents have common historical and philosophical roots and try to tackle the same problems in different settings. Pluralism is welcome and productive whereas sectarianism is in the end counter-productive. The enemies of progress could not care less which socialist flavour is your favourite, they are focused on - and united in - getting rid of you.

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. Our Logic, Humanity's most powerful tool, brought us here. It can take us somewhere further and better. And we should never forget that Eco without Logic is just echo!, 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 then apply them. It was established in 1999 in Athens, the cradle of Direct Democracy (albeit a fragile, short-lived and imperfect one that also used slaves and excluded women from decision-making) to unite and support progressive ecological 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.

ecosunOur 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 means that you are aware that tourism is far more than organising, selling or participating in holiday packages and we want you to join us - it's free! 

This is a working document, frequently edited, corrected, updated and expanded. It inadvertently includes contradictions, errors and omissions and 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 follows an ideology is no smarter than one who blindly follows a religion. Caveat Lector!

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ecosunAncient Greek Writing Tablet, Red figure Kylix by Eucharides, 480 BCE (U. of Pennsylvania Museum)Ancient Greek Writing Tablet, Red figure Kylix by Eucharides, 480 BCE (U. of Pennsylvania Museum)Ecoclub Reading List: