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Primitive communism

Material World: St Kilda and Socialism

Material World

The last native resident of St Kilda died in April. This remote part of Britain used to practise a communistic society.

Socialists, when asked about examples of common ownership and control in action, often refer to peoples who live or lived in a social system that we term ‘primitive communism’, often tribes in the Amazonian rainforest. Yet 110 miles west of the Scottish mainland there are a small cluster of islands known as St Kilda, inhabited for at least two millennia and with a population probably never exceeding 180, where a form of primitive communism prevailed.

The Passing Show: The Aucas

The Aucas

Some years ago five men, missionaries of a small Christian sect, went to try and convert to their own beliefs the Auca people, a small tribe living in a remote part of Ecuador. Since the white man has consistently destroyed the Indian way of life and taken the Indians' land from them throughout South America, it was perhaps not surprising that a rumour spread that these five strangers were cannibals, who had come to kill and eat the Aucas; the Aucas, as a result, killed them all.

Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of one of the men, was also a missionary among the Quichua Indian, and after her hus­band's death she became acquainted with two Auca women. Later. very bravely, she went with these women and with her own young daughter to live with the Auca tribe for a year. She has now written a book about her experiences. The Savage My Kinsman (Hodder and Stougbton, 37s. 6d.).

"All This Hard Graft No Longer Makes Sense"

Marx referred to early society as "primitive communism" because throughout the Stone Age our ancestors co-operated to provide for their needs. With this in mind the socialist revolution can be seen as a long cycle of change from co-operation at a primitive level to co-operation in a more conscious, technically advanced society.

Driven from Eden?

Was the Neolithic revolution entirely a good thing?

Some 10,000 years ago – quite recently in the four million years of human evolution – communities began to rely less on hunting, fishing, and foraging for food and settled down to plant crops and rear livestock. This change, known as the Neolithic (New Stone Age) Revolution, opened the way to landed property, city life, patriarchy, slavery, imperial conquest, and all the other delights of "civilization" – that is, class society. It has generally been seen as a great step forward for humanity. This was the view was taken Marx, who believed that the development of class society would eventually lead to a return to communal life at a higher technological level.

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