A few months ago after lengthy debates with a lecturer which dominated seminars about the nature of the Human race,centred around whether humans are inherently selfish with particular reference to the prospects of a classless society. Eventually the lecturer in question offered to lend a book to me called "The Life and Death of St. Kilda - The moving story of a vanished island community"
I have since read the book and although there was nothing within the book that surprised me about human nature, being a marxist I obviously firmly believe there is nothing inherent human nature to prevent a classless society from existing. However I was struck by the existence of a classless society which had existed for centuries still in existence in 20th Century Britain.
The book by Tom Steel outlines the history of the people on the small island group of the coast of Scotland, its the furthest out island group in the region, after the islands there is nothing again until the Americas. The islands are very inaccessible and therefore remained largely isolated from the outside world though some communication and movement of people were possible.
The book begins by delving into the history of the St. Kildan people and the island itself but very little seems to e known about its origins. It goes on to outline the state of life in St.Kilda which due to the harsh climatic nature of the Island was not easy, nevertheless although technically having a feudal overlord they never visited and the community lived in peace never having seen war.
When the St. Kildans had to took they worked hard those capable all chipped in those incapable due to age illness or temporary illness did not go without and every abled bodied person covered there share of the work in essence St Kildan society lived by the motto "From each according to his ability to each according to their need" Men and woman in St Kildan society performed different roles, it wasn't simply that woman stayed at home to rear children and cook and clean but that men and woman were geniunely given different roles within society. This is where i can find the only criticism that where men met every day to divide up the work for the day between themselves this would also be where any decisions would be made for the community in general, whilst not neccessarilly of major importance it did mean that woman were prevented from participating.
However this society did not end because of internal factors but due to external factors from outside from the capitalist world on its doors steps. During the world wars St Kilda was taken over by the armed forces as a strategic outpost and in exchange, not that the St Kildan's had much choice they were employed by the military to help install installations etc. Although the St Kildans had for centuries traded with the outside world this was the first instance in which currency had been introduced into daily use in their society. With wages being paid to them by the military and purchases being made for stores built for the use of military personell or even a tavern which had been built. It was in this period in which many of the younger males and females decided to venture out into the world and this began the demise of St Kilda.
With many of the able bodied deciding to venture out to explore the world or even just Scotland in some cases it became increasingly difficult for the remaining St Kildans to continue to provide for those still there. Despite the government having caused much of the problems for the islanders after using it as a military base and subsequently as a research base they became increasingly reluctant to provide support for them.
Eventually a plan was hatched to relocate them to the mainland with employment in the forestry commission, an odd choice as there were no trees to be found on St Kilda. Many of the St. Kildans did not want to leave and it took a number of years for them to eventually agree. However what happened next enbittened the majority of the St Kildans whose livestock was all sold at auction and they received very little for it. They were split up into different areas some of which were completely isolated and very soon became very aware of the nature of capitalism and the difficulties of surviving on the poverty wages.
The St. Kildans soon came to realise that life on St. Kilda was much better and found difficulties in adjusting to wage-slavery. More and more the dominant idea amongst the St. Kildans was that after all there life was much better of back on St. Kilda and many of them lobbied the government to allow them to return. Some were allowed to return but only on a temporary basis as and none were allowed to return permanently even though they were simply asking to go home!
The story will live on of a classless society who's land was taken by a capitalist government on the promise of a better life in the modern world, but soon the reality of the modern world hit them and they began to realise that life before had always been better and they would have been better of if they had.