Primitive Communism Characteristics & Meanings

We explain what primitive communism was, its economy, modes of production, advantages, disadvantages, and other characteristics.

What is primitive communism?

According to the perspective of Marxismthe first of the stages of political-social organization of humanity is called primitive communism or primitive mode of production. It appeared with the first organized human communities (7000-2000 BC).

The primitive human being was organized into tribes or groups dedicated to obtaining sustenance through fishing, hunting, or gathering. Its members exchanged goods based on a simple cooperation principle, motivated that they were in a state of helplessness in the face of the dangers of nature.

Therefore, as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels explained in texts such as The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), these groups constituted the first social and collaborative community, devoid of any form of private property.

Recall that the Marxist vision (the so-called “dialectical materialism”) includes the history of mankind as the transit between certain modes of production, around which society is ordered, to new ones, as the struggle between oppressed and oppressive classes leads to more or less violent transformations ( revolutions ).

Primitive communism came to an end with the Neolithic Revolution, which developed agriculture and livestock, among other forms of production. Thus it was possible the diversification of labor and social division of the population, laying the foundations for the subsequent urban Revolution in which the first social classes appeared.

Characteristics of primitive communism

Primitive communism, as the name implies, was a communal and community organization, in which there was no private property of any kind, nor was land considered an exclusive asset of anyone. It also lacked the presence of a State, since there were no social classes, laws were not necessary to regulate the coexistence between them.

Human beings worked with rudimentary tools of stone or bone, so the only division of labor was given in terms of each person’s physical capacity, allowing women and children to survive by their own means. Pregnant and breastfeeding women were specially protected, to take care of the future generation among all

According to some contemporary anthropologists, at that time there could have been a matriarchal society, led by women, in which polyandry existed (the same woman could have different sexual partners). However, the consensus among specialists states that there was never a matriarchal society, but there was a matrilineal one, and some still survive today.

The economy of primitive communism

The producers of primitive communism did not create surpluses for exchange, nor did they accumulate goods, but instead produced the indispensable to meet the most immediate needs. That is, there was no currency or need for it because there was no possibility of wealth or poverty.

The basic needs of each person were guaranteed by their own work and by their belonging to the community. Therefore, there were no exploitative relationships between human beings, since neither could work for another nor could anyone stop working and have free time.

Production modes

primitive communism mammoth prehistory community
The necessary resources were obtained by hunting, fishing, and gathering.

Hunting, fishing, and gathering were the modes of production of humanity during these primitive stages. That is to say, that one went to look for or obtain the food where there was it, and obtained only what was necessary for the sustenance.

On the other hand, the community lacked major specializations in the work of preparing tools or shelters, since everything was done equally by everyone. The only specialization that could be found was a male occupation in hunting and fishing, and a female occupation in gathering and breeding.

The end of primitive communism is marked by the change in modes of production. The domestication of animals and the beginning of agricultural and livestock work were means of production that generated much more product than strictly necessary to survive.

In this way, the accumulation of goods and the unequal distribution of work began, as some generated enough food so that others did not have to work on the same, but could devote themselves to other tasks, such as leadership, war, science, and the arts.

Advantages of primitive communism

The advantages of this type of socio-political organization would be the following:

  • There was no exploitation, therefore no social resentment, no jealousy, no wars, nor any of the negative aspects of contemporary societies.
  • There were no political hierarchies since the distribution of work did not include any leadership or exercise of power that was exempt from work.
  • The work was transmitted from one generation to the next, so there was cooperation between human groups rather than competition.
  • It was a society in harmony with the environment, without producing pollution or irreparable changes in the natural balance.

Disadvantages of primitive communism

On the other hand, the most negative aspects of primitive communism were:

  • Very low level of development, given that the distribution of work did not allow free time to explore new and better work methods, or for innovation of any kind.
  • It was a society focused on survival, which does not allow the emergence of scientific, philosophical, or artistic knowledge, wasting the creative potential of the species.
  • A very simple way of life, with a very low life expectancy, in which diseases and animal attacks claimed victims with impunity.
  • There was no change in any human sense since the needs of the population were very limited and no spiritual concerns were explored.

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