By Tom Watts 3/30/2019

The History of Human Social Evolution can be divided into three great epochs based upon how human society is organized, primarily as regards the ownership of the means of production, which is the base upon which the superstructure of society is built. In terms of dialectics, this corresponds to the Thesis, the Antithesis—or the negation of that thesis—and the New Thesis—the negation of the negation. This can be visualized as a spiral in which we return to the original position but on a much higher plane of social and technological evolution.


The First Epoch: Human society originates in the loosely connected association of human beings based primarily on kinship bonds formed between women and their offspring. Newborns and children require care and nurturing or they cannot survive. Likewise, elders require care for their survival. Healthy adults increase their ability to survive by grouping together and cooperating. Thus it is natural for humans to live in groups, and this is the thesis of human society. From our earliest evolution as a species, we have been social beings.

We are not the first animals to be social beings. There are many examples in Nature, but we are unique in the degree to which our evolution has advanced and can advance to become fully globalized. It has not been a simple evolutionary process of expansion but one predicated upon contradiction and social conflict. Indeed, war has been our driver, but I get ahead of myself. In the first epoch, cooperation far outweighed conflict and there is little evidence of intergroup violence throughout most of this epoch.

There is also little evidence of what we would call production. People took what they needed from Nature as they found it and only gradually developed tools and techniques to help them to obtain and process what was useful for their survival. Gathering and scavenging were only supplemented by hunting and trapping after some time, and even the ability to communicate with spoken language were milestones in human social evolution as was the mastery of fire. What was discovered was preserved and passed from generation to generation and neighbor to neighbor.

It is postulated—and I believe it is true—that we learned to speak through singing together, which developed our breath control and vocal abilities, and rhythm and dance gave us our heightened sense of community. It is hard to imagine a tribal community without a drum and communal singing and dancing. But even as these things brought people closer together the necessity of survival, the productivity of the land and their level of skills pulled them apart and limited the effective size of tribal groups. When a group got too large it must necessarily divide and seek new territory. Thus did the whole Earth become populated.

Geographic isolation caused peoples to develop differently, with their own customs, languages, and even genetics. From a common genetic mother there developed different branches of the family of humanity. There also developed unevenness in our social development and mode of producing as each group adapted to their own locality and the availability of resources. Climate change was another big factor as the Earth was going through stages of warming and cooling, of rising and falling sea levels and changing weather patterns. People adapted to all sorts of climates and conditions, from tropical rainforests to arid deserts, and fertile river valleys to alpine mountains and arctic tundra.

From as far back as 20,000 BC, people began collecting and eating wild grains. From around 10,000 BC, a Neolithic Revolution began that would transform the small groups of hunter-gathers into settled communities of agriculturists with established hierarchies. This occurred independently in different parts of the World and involved the cultivation of different crops and domestication of different animals, but everywhere it created a radical rupture with the past and ushered in a new epoch of human social evolution, one in which society divided into exploiting and exploited classes.


The earliest known civilization developed in Sumer in southern Mesopotamia (c. 6,500 BP); its emergence also heralded the beginning of the Bronze Age. There we see the whole package, but pieces came to together differently in different places and different times. The production of surplus wealth created the possibility of expropriation and the creation of private property. As the saying goes: “Property is theft!” And war made possible the taking of wealth and the freedom of the producers of wealth. The first creation of class society was slavery. With slavery came the overthrow of women and their reduction to the status of property.

Chapter One of the Communist Manifesto begins with the line: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” In the footnotes, Marx and Engels clarify that they are referring only to the Epoch of Class Society. All class societies are necessarily class dictatorships. The form varies with circumstances, most particularly the prevailing mode of production. Whether ownership of the basic means of production is entirely private or corporately collective or through a state, the ruling class is dictating to the rest of society. Between the ruling exploiting class and the other classes there will be class struggle, most particularly between the exploited laboring class and the ruling class.

Civilization was built on the backs of forced labor, the sweat, blood, and tears of the many created the opportunity for the few to live in luxury and to devote their time to other pursuits besides mere survival. Whatever good things civilization created it did so by exploitation of the masses. War has been a near constant in history, wars of conquest and wars of rebellion. Every page of history is written in blood. The necessities of war spurred invention and the advancement of technology. Even the internet was a byproduct of the “Cold War.”

Karl Marx outlined three basic evolutionary stages of class society: Slavery, Feudalism, and Capitalism. Feudalism negated chattel slavery in as much as the slave was a commodity who could be bought and sold like a beast of burden, whereas the serf belonged to the land and his master was whomever had tittle to the land he worked. The proletarian was free, but his labor power became a commodity he must sell to survive. His master was whomever he could find to buy his labor power by the hour.

Only with overthrow of capitalism by socialism does the proletarian become truly free, or at least becomes the ruling class in society, because classes still exist under socialism—and thus class struggle. Socialism is the transitional stage between the Epoch of Class Society and Communism, or Classless Society. It is still a class dictatorship, but it is a dictatorship of the proletariat who uses the power of the state to progressively revolutionize every aspect of society to eliminate classes and class exploitation.


The final epoch is that of classless society, which necessarily must be global (and even beyond) where all of humanity is interconnected without a state and society is based upon the voluntary contribution of each according to their abilities and each benefiting in accordance with their needs. Evolving from a stage of worldwide revolutionary intercommunalism—or a global dictatorship of the proletariat—Communism will be based upon a high level of technology in the service of all of humanity equally. Human needs and human rights will be one and the same. The highest interests of humanity will be the guiding principle of human society. Society will continue to evolve, but no longer on the basis of class struggle. There will still be a struggle with Nature and the necessity of preserving the ecological balance that sustains life on this planet, but it is quite likely that human society will expand its reach beyond this planet.

In the long run, the Epoch of Class Society will seem but a short transitional period of a few thousand years in which the growing pains of human society were suffered and inequality, exploitation, and war were the cost of rising from total dependence upon Nature to its mastery. It will be seen as the “Dark Ages” when the negative side of human nature was manifested and humanity almost condemned itself to extinction.

Indeed, we do stand on the brink of self-destruction now, and only revolutionary struggle will ensure a bright future for humanity. We must rise to the occasion and put an end to the private ownership of the means of production and the dictatorship of the exploiting ruling class. Only the masses of people united behind the revolutionary leadership of the proletarian class can accomplish this. We must:



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