In Celtic cultures, harsh material conditions made cooperation a necessity rather than a choice, in order to survive. Fishing and subsistence farming was the mainstay of communities. The land was held in common. Each family was allocated a field – the size and needs of the family determined the size of the field. Field ownership was not permanent but changed over time according to need. Peat was also held in common and allocated on the same basis. Fishing was organised on a communal basis. There were very little monetary relations between members of the Celtic communities. People were bound to each other by close ties of clanship and interdependence. Co-operation was at the core of all activity. Collective decisions were made at people’s assemblies where the issues concerning the community were discussed. Votes were not taken but issues were discussed until a consensus was reached.
Socialists have used the term primitive communism to describe these pre-class societies. There was no division of goods based on a top-down hierarchy. Rather, it was a society of mutual aid supporting and sustaining real humanity.
In the modern age, clans are associated with poverty and backwardness. The Georgian and Victorian generations appropriated a romantic sanitised version of the clan traditions of bagpipes, tartan and kilts.
The time came when people saw in the newspapers things they were unable to make themselves and had to buy. To obtain them, money was needed, and all they had to sell was their labour-power. Their communal way of life was gone.
Yet the past gives us an insight into the future – how people freed from the oppression of class society might live their lives – but this time in an age of plenty.