Marx (or Engels?) and the Iroquois

hariette spierings hariette at
Thu Jun 13 11:54:41 MDT 1996

>My name is Lisa Johnson and I am searching for the specific text in which
>Marx mentions that the Iroquis (or Navajo) people may be the earliest (and
>best?) model of capitalism. Could you help me locate this info?
>I'm not even sure if there is such a text....
>Any information would be greatly appreciated!
>Thank You,
>Lisa Johnson
>ljohnson at
Dear Lisa:

I am no register of every page written by Marx or Engels, and therefore, I
may be wrong and Marx did say something similar to what you think he said
about the Iroqouis, in some sort of convoluted logic which most likely means
something complety different to what you may think about capitalism.  But I
suspect, and I could be wrong as I said before, that it was not Marx, but
Engels in the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the state, where
this great Marxist studies "gentile" or what we could call "barbarian
society" as a type of classless society (not a capitalist, but a "primitive
communistic" type of society), or rather, the stadium of development of
primitive communistic society at the point of the beginning of the division
of society into classes, when clan differentiations and hyerarchies begin to
emerge, and occasional slave labour was already not unknown.

In that sense, Iroquis society could have been held by Engels as (one of)
the purest examples of "gentile" society.  Interesting this word gentile, I
wonder if any of our learned friends could elaborate in its etymiology?

I suspect that has something to do with how the old missionary monks and
friars who, with their medieval outlook, came along with the explorers and
conquistadores and who saw these societies as similar to that of the state
of "man before the fall"?  A society where there were no classes since
everyone was a "gentleman", and there were therein no "villeines", helots,
serfs, or any other kind of subject classes?  Something which the old
English Cromwellian digger's ditto expresses so very well:

"When Adam delved
and Eve spun
Who was then
the gentleman?"

Maybe that'll help you, or, at least trigger other list members into a
search to prove me wrong. That really can really clarify then if your
question is correctly presented, or there was, as I suspect, some sort of
mix-up in your understanding, between Marx and Engels on the one hand, and
capitalism and socialism, or communism, in the other.

Adolfo Olaechea

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