Historical Forms of Community

First was the family and the tribe which arose from blood kinship. Originally all relations shared a unity of blood relationship, a common ancestor, and lived in communities. Such communities grew and groups separated off. But – all maintained kinship, economic ties, and broad alliances of families or tribes.

The tribe usually numbered in hundreds of thousands. tribes occupied particular areas where members lived and hunted. Tribesman shared the same language, same customs, rituals, and superstitions. Tribal life had spontaneous democratic principles. Run by elders elected by adults. Tribal rule comprised councils elected at tribal meetings. Later – kindred tribes formed alliances for economic and military considerations. Kinship remained the main link.

As the economy developed there continued the division of labour which divided pasture land among cattle-tending tribes, fertile land among crop-raising tribes, and forest land amongst hunting tribes. This established the territorial unity of kindred tribes. Gradually the blood relationship diminished and territorial ties increased.

Historically the first, protracted and most universal socio-economic formation emerged in the Late Palaeolithic – later Stone Age. Mankind had a considerable arsenal of labour/hunting tools of stone, horn and bone. People lived by hunting, fishing and food gathering.

This form comprised the matriarchal clan. A clan is a group of people linked by bonds of kinship (particularly maternal). Maternal kinship is a way of forming a social community. The real significance of a community is reflected in its production relations. Thus – the rudimentary level of production, the limited character of production, and the means of labour and consumption, made kinship the inevitable form of organising productive communities. Thus the organisation of kinship relations is basically determined by production. Not vice-versa.

Characteristic production relations of primitive communal system is common ownership of the means of livelihood, joint labour of all members, and equal distribution to all clan members. Relationships of ownership is the natural basis of society. The main object of ownership is land owned by the clan. In its earlier stages a clan member is not aware of distinction of himself from other persons, or from clan. The later stage is private property – established on the basis of economic relations, communal peasant still viewed his property as a natural condition  of existence.

Early stages – primitive society = progress still possible, gradual, thus the “…new labour instruments, new methods of working stone, bone and wood and new materials introduced by man – all increased the possibilities open to man of adapting to the environment and extending the areas he inhabited.”

The Mesolithic period = Middle Stone Age – 13th to 7th millennia BC. Two crucial developments (1) beginnings of agriculture and (2) domestication of animals. Thus the “…development of agriculture and cattle-breeding into separate spheres of socio-historical  practice changed the entire character of the relationship between society and nature.” Previously – humans poached. Production = confined to making tools for appropriating and consuming natural products.

With agriculture and cattle-breeding – man embarked – producing his means of livelihood. Invested labour in plant growing and cattle-breeding. Agriculture led to permanent dwellings and household utensils.

The Neolithic period = 6th to 2nd millennia BC. Emergence of pottery, weaving – laid the foundation of crafts. Crafts – came into their own during the Aeneolithic (bronze-stone) Age. Thus mankind had metals.

Combined effect – accumulated over 30 to 40 millennia = qualitatively new stage. Production of regular surplus. Surplus production = increased possibilities for development of social relations, production, distribution, exchange. Surplus = wide-scale exchange, specialisation within and between communities. Increased labour productivity thence variable economy (groups smaller than clan). Hence – large families and small economic units.

Organisational specialists thence disposal of accumulated public wealth. Emergence then – a new interest distinct from other clan/tribe members. Hence – satisfaction of needs of those not involved in production. Hence = change in nature of wars. Previous wars = conquest of territory – most suitable (vanquished driven out or assimilated). New wars = seize territory of others. Thus – vanquished reduced to subordinate position, with product of his labour appropriated. Hence – surplus created basis for social inequality.

Thus the “…decay of primitive-communal social relationships, the mergence of private ownership, of a new type of family, of classes and the state marked the period of transition to antagonistic socio-economic formations.”

Advent of metal working = improved tools/weapons. Bronze > horse bit, weapons. Horses = new type of man. Thus – nomadic shepherd, catch animals, mobile warrior.

Bronze Age + early Iron Age = era of military or tribal democracy. Specific social organisation – immediately preceded the slave and feudal state. Military chiefs – relied – special well armed troop. Increasing confrontation – military > tribal council. Role of popular assemblies (governing bodies) > decreased.

Thus “…the whole gentile order was transformed…” Engels wrote “…into its opposite; from an organisation of tribes for the free administration of their own affairs it became an organisation for plundering and oppressing their neighbours; and correspondingly, its organs were transformed from instruments of the will of the people into independent organs for ruling and oppressing their own people.” [Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State].

The evolution of primitive society – reveals – fundamental feature of the development of human society in general = growth of material production > increase in production volume + all spheres of social life. Thence – primitive society > slave society > feudalism.

Primitive Society [Marx & Engels – German Ideology].

First form of property = tribal property. Corresponds to “…the undeveloped stage of production, at which a people lives by hunting and fishing, by cattle raising or, at most, by agriculture.” At this stage – a division of labour = elementary “…confined to a further extension of the natural division of labour existing in the family.”

Second form of property = ancient communal and state property, this “…proceeds especially from the union of several tribes into a city by agreement or by conquest and which is still accompanied by slavery.” Beside communal property = movable, immovable private property. At this stage private property is “…subordinate to communal property.”

Whole structure – society = based on this communal property. With it “…the power of the people, decays in the same measure in which immovable private property evolves.” Tribal and communal property = based on community.




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