H.M. Hyndman

The Evolution of Revolution

Chapter 5
Labour under Communism

In all this period of human communistic life, based upon common property and common distribution, its unification of social interests within the original unit, the gens, is strongly impressed upon us. It was impossible to think outside of this primal unity. From birth, through childhood, youth and maturity, to death, the whole was far more important to the individual than his or her individuality. There was no possibility of escape from collectivity in thought, word or deed. The growth of the gens and tribe with the very slow modification of its method of production and institutions, overshadowed all mere individual initiative in war or in industry. A great leader in attack on neighbouring tribes was but the controlled organism of the common force whose individual credit, great as it might be to himself, was part only of the general prowess of the group. Similarly the ablest inventor, owing all to his social surroundings begettings, merely contributed of his individual capacity (obviously engendered by and in his gens and tribe) to the general advantage. Each and every advance in war and in peace was a collective gain which told to the benefit of all members of the group without exception. In participation of the results none was before or after other.

Thus throughout the lifetime of man upon this planet cooperation not competition has been the rule for the infinitely greater portion of his social existence. No other form of economic human relations was conceivable. Within the gens and tribe the entire ethic was a collective ethic. A table of laws based upon private property and the monogamous family would have had no meaning to a communistic gentile society. The Ten Commandments were hardly conceivable under such conditions. Nobody could understand what on earth they meant. Theft in our sense would have been a subject of ridicule; sin an abstraction outside human thought. What to us also in sexual relations is immoral or incestuous to the savage and barbarian is quite decently proper. As already noted, marriage between first cousins on the maternal side would be regarded under gentile rules as monstrous, while prostitutution for individual advantage would be an unimaginable infamy, and the neglect of the well-being of children a communal crime of the first magnitude. Human conceptions for countless ages were, in short, completely governed in pure savagery, in modified savagery and in barbarism by the sentiments and instincts of the horde, of the group, of the gens, of the tribe, of the community, of the federation. Restrictions were sharp enough, horrors were terrible enough, but the interests of all restrained, dominated & directed the actions of each. Thus under these circumstances when man has developed the gentile family, and has gained some slight knowledge of, and power over, nature, due to the long collective unconscious advance of social capacity, common work for the common good of the fraternal social unit with which men and women are irrevocably identified is as natural as eating, drinking, sleeping, dancing or fighting. There is nothing whatever that is irksome in such communal work. Instinct and reason are thoroughly harmonised: the collective and individual duty necessarily blend. Work and overwork for the gain of another is and must be unknown. Men and women, therefore, under such conditions labour, and when necessary labour very hard, because they have been assiduously trained from their earliest youth to labour, not by punishment but by continuous example and agreeable instruction. Work in their respective social spheres has become as essential a part of themselves as singing, dancing, running or other manifestations of physical health or well-being.

Labour, in short, is an inevitable but enjoyable part of the communal service – when the stage of self-support in and by the group has been reached – a section of the communal instinct of each gentile in his gens, of each tribesman in his tribe. What form that labour may take for each individual depends upon the plane of communal culture which has been attained. There can be no stronger or more pressing motive to work for the society in which all participate than this unshakable sense of communal service. But where this sense is lacking and physical disability or mental laziness engenders a shirker, then the collective pressure on that shirker, male or female, becomes severe indeed. There is as little tolerance of useless mouths in a communal society as there is in a beehive. Sharing in the product demands that the sharer should take full part in producing and distributing the produce to be shared. Where communal sense of this fails to produce its influence, or where incapacity – as with invalids and the aged – is unavoidable, intolerance of bootless existence manifests itself in a repllent form. Yet as regards the aged, those who are persuaded to retire from life on this account actually welcome their dismissal as a portion of their duty to their fellows of the commune. Custom rises superior even to death. Communal instinct of service by itself is more powerful than fear of the lash or torture as an incentive to work.

Communism, in fact, in any shape, is so far from being contrary to human nature that human beings have lived well and happily under its dispensations for countless centuries. It solved beforehand on a low plane many of the problems which are exercising the greatest minds of civilised countries to-day. It shows us a system of human association, in which, on a small scale and with many incidental drawbacks, due to the low stage of development then reached, mankind could co-operate to common advantage, and individual and class antagonism were a unknown within the limits of the group. No difficulties were, so far as can be ascertained, experienced in the organization of labor or the distribution of wealth. Labour for all and by all was the foundation of communism: enjoyment of wealth produced by and for all was its superstructure. General social equality was the rule.

Not until slavery – the collective or individual mastery of beings without property, social status or personal freedom by other human beings who enjoy all three – not until after ages upon ages of communism, when enslavement of men became the means of creating and accumulating wealth for personal advantage, instead of for communal use, the conception of the irksomeness of work, the inferiority of useful labour, and the necessity for the scourge, starvation, imprisonment and threat of death to impel men and women to perform useful social service, enter the human mind. Then all idea of common work for the common good gradually disappeared. Labour itself became degrading in the eyes of those who neither toil nor spin. However humane may be the form of slavery, forcible compulsion by masters in some shape is always in the background. There can be no greater social change than this. It cuts at the very root of human solidarity. Savages and barbarians were treacherous, ruthless and desperately cruel in their dealings with hostile tribes; many of their domestic and religious customs were revolting to us in the highest degree; but, within the limits of their respective groups, social equality and rude democracy prevailed. Neither is possible under any form of private property and slavery. Slavery is the negation of social equality and the inevitable introduction of a series of social antagonisms.

Communism and social equality are the indispensable bases of social and economic freedom. In the early communal gentile order man was subject to no direct compulsion to work for others for the benefit of those others; woman was free from direct economic subjection; all members of the group or tribe had public rights; the labour of every member told to the advantage of every other member; the right to work and the duty to work formed a recognised portion of the free communal service; all shared the general common wealth, all suffered from the general common injury; if one section of the gens or tribe underwent privation the whole group was underwent similar shortage; if one section was well provided with food all were equally free from want; each and all participated in the common danger, common defeat and common victory. The means of creating wealth were small, but in the full development of communism they were sufficient, and were entirely under the control of the members of the gens and tribe. Wrong done to one member of a gens was a wrong done to and to be avenged by every member of the gens. The religious rites of each gens, like its totem, were the peculiar property of the gens itself.

Here, on a low plane, was social unification of life and interest maintained and cherished by mankind, remains of this form of society, once universal, surviving even to the present day.

Last updated on 5.7.2006