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Primitive communism, according to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, is the original hunter-gatherer society of humanity. Marx and Engels were influenced by the work of the pioneering anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan. Morgan's work is now usually regarded as outdated, and there is no universally accepted description of the way of life of pre-historic humans. However, there are many advocates of the notion of primitive communism, both Marxist and non-Marxist.
It has been suggested that the model of primitive communism may apply to some but not all early human societies because some Hunter gatherer societies have been able to store food and thus generate surplus and have social stratification as a result. Further, it has been suggested that primitive societies may have contained some, but not all of the features presently associated with the goals of "communism".
Life for the earliest humans was marked by a constant need to obtain food. In a primitive communist society, all able bodied persons would have engaged in this actitity, and everyone would share in what was produced by hunting and gathering. There would be almost no property, other than articles of clothing and similar personal items, because primitive society produced almost no surplus; what was produced was quickly consumed. The few things that existed for any length of time (tools, housing) were held communally. There would have been no state.
Domestication of animals and plants following the Neolithic Revolution through herding and agriculture was seen as the turning point from primitive communism to class society as it was followed by private ownership and slavery, with the inequality that it entailed. In addition, parts of the population specialized in different activities, such as manufacturing, culture, philosophy, and science. This stratification is said to lead to the development of social classes.
According to Marxism, society may, if it lasts long enough, develop into communism. Like its primitive ancestor, communism involves public ownership of the means of production, and Marx popularized a famous maxim to illustrate its basic principle: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Communism differs from primitive communism in that production is highly advanced — advanced enough, said Marx, to meet the material needs and wants of practically everyone. According to Marxists, communism has not yet been implemented in any part of the world.
It has been argued that a few isolated peoples still have a primitive communist society. Debates about the nature of such societies tend to rest on whether or not communism is regarded as encompassing the whole life of a community or, alternately, specific activities within that community can be defined as "communist".
Those groups that advocate a return to or are inspired by hunter-gatherer society are associated with the movement of anarcho-primitivism.