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4 minutes reading time (860 words)

Communalism and Tourism

Murray Bookchin Murray Bookchin

Murray Bookchin, the great eco visionary and activist set out to develop "Communalism" as a new, coherent, ideology in his last decade, by combining the best elements of (and his experience and knowledge of) all ideologies that he had been previously attracted to: Marxism-Leninism, Libertarian-Socialism, Anarchism and Libertarian Municipalism, and as an evolution of Social Ecology, which was also his creation. 

Communalism rejects capitalism, statism, nationalism and all other forms of domination and oppression. It describes a stateless, non-hierarchical, decentralized, ecological, and democratic society based on the principles of social ecology and libertarian municipalism. As an alternative to the state, it proposes voluntary confederations of municipalities that cooperate and coordinate on regional and global issues, while respecting the autonomy and diversity of each municipality. Communalism also advocates the abolition of economic inequality with an economy that meets the needs of all people and respects nature. You can read more on Communalism and Social Ecology directly from Bookchin at 

Clearly, Communalism is an appealing vision, a sort of Communism-without-Tears-meets-an-Ecology-with-Teeth, but can we get there and how?  

Bookchin theorized that both organizational and educational parametres are needed to get to Communalism, hopefully peacefully: Local communities need to be empowered through popular assemblies where citizens directly participate in making decisions that affect them and the natural/cultural/economic environment. At the same time, it presupposes the existence of a conducive local culture, one that values creativity, rationality, ethics, and ecological awareness, producing civic responsibility and social engagement.

Bookchin insisted that his was not a Utopian project, claiming, as many older ideologies, ancient Athens and its direct democracy, the American and French Revolutions, the Paris Commune of 1871, the Spanish Revolution of 1936-39, more recently the Zapatista uprising since 1994 and somewhat controversially (through the correspondence between imprisoned Kurdish revolutionary Abdullah Öcalan and Bookchin and ongoing support by Deborah Bookchin, Murray's daughter), of Rojava communities in Syria since 2012. The Zapatista communities appear to be a closer match and a more stable example, but it is hard to see the whole world living like the Zapatistas, unless some disaster of biblical proportions takes the few survivors back to the forests and jungles.

For this reason, let's bring Tourism in the equation, as it is something we are all familiar with. What would be the key principles of a Communalist Tourism that could be applied on a municipal level? First of all, who would control the means of production, e.g. Hotels? The municipality, or a worker's cooperative? Both options sound acceptable. Would there be free-lance guides? Acceptable. Who would decide on how much tourism is too much? The popular assembly, or the businesses involved?  Would making a profit be OK or should this be something like WOOF, or couchsurfing? If the community was not self-sufficient, it would certainly need profits to get by. If so, how would the profits be distributed, to the worker-owners, or to all members of the municipality, irrespective of whether they worked or not for the guests? If not to all, then wouldn't there be inequalities created? Certainly. So, perhaps only municipality-owned hotels and tours, where employees rotate so that everyone shares workloads and profits? Or do we abolish profit altogether and strictly limit tourism numbers? These are all questions that capitalism solves in one way or the other, but badly, for societies, workers and the environment. If we want to solve them in a better way we have to go as deep as possible to what constitutes "Tourism" and "Hospitality" and Genuine Hospitality, to the historic origins and purposes of Hospitality, when it was not a transaction but a social relation, a social need. Of course back then there were few travellers, most were not for leisure but for practical purposes, there were sort of diplomatic-trade envoys, hosted by the elders of the community, and bonds of friendship, considered sacred in some cultures like the Ancient Greek one, were created. Zeus, the most powerful God, was Xenios, protector of the Xenoi, the foreigners and philoxenia was a sacred obligation. A cultural shift of such proportions is needed for Communalist Tourism, and it does not sound very likely as a world model, but perhaps it could be implemented locally on a personal level. Airbnb without the money, Couchsurfing and WOOFing with a purpose. But on a municipal level? That communalist municipality would have to be built first and then decide the parametres of a Communalist Tourism that meets its needs. Tourism in Zapatista Communities (Zapaturismo) is more of a political/solidarity/novelty/academic/intelligence-gathering driven affair ("mud, sweat and radical chic" as a NY journalist put it), but it is still helpful to study how decisions are reached, and how workloads and profits are allocated there. Future tasks also include comparing the writings of Subcomandante Marcos with those of Bookchin and checking if either have given a special thought to Tourism. Usually philosophers, revolutionaries and activists leave out Tourism from their theories as if it is a light and insignificant topic, but, on the one hand it can no longer be ignored - it is everywhere, even in Chiapas - and on the other it is a pity, given its potential for progressive change.

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