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Life Histories from the Revolution: Three militants from the Kenya Land and Freedom Army tell their stories
In the early 1970s, Donald Barnett — who worked with Karari Njama to produce Mau Mau From Within (published by Daraja Press) — also worked with three militants of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army to enable them to tell the story of their experience in fighting for freedom and against British colonialism. These rarely acknowledged militants were Karigo Muchai, Ngugi Kabiru and Mohamed Mathu. Their stories were published in 1973 by LSM Information Center (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada) as part of a series entitled Life Histories of the Revolution, as The Hardcore: The Story of Karigo Muchai; The Man in the Middle by Ngugi Kabiro; and The Urban Guerrilla by Mohamed Mathu.
As part of its mission of Nurturing reflection, sheltering hope and inspiring audacity, Daraja Press is please to republish the three booklets as a book that will help a new generation of activists — Kenyan and international — reflect on a history that might inspire audacious struggles to continue the struggle for freedom that was the goal of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army.
Donald Barnett wrote the foreword to each of the booklets as follows:
One of our objectives in launching this series of LIFE HISTORIES FROM THE REVOLUTION is to provide a medium through which individual members of these classes-in-motion within the revolution can speak. We also believe it important that they be heard by those of us who comprise imperialism’s privileged and literate metropolitan minority. Their recounted lives throw our own into sharp relief, while at the same time they offer us fresh perspectives on the processes of repression and revolution from a unique vantage point: from below. Their life stories provide us with a window into the qualitative—as distinct from the merely statistical and quantitative—aspects of class conflict, thus enabling us to better understand and weigh the various factors at work in transforming oppressed masses into revolutionary classes. Again, their remembered life experiences can provide us with significant insights into the dialectical relationships between material and subjective conditions which shape the revolutionary situation, embrace the revolutionary transformation of individuals and classes alike, and move humanity forward toward a new international social formation.
Not all of the individuals whose life histories are included in this series are illiterate peasants or workers. Some are educated defectors from petty bourgeois classes who have joined the revolution and identified their interests with those of the oppressed masses in a very concrete way. They constitute a very important part of the revolutionary vanguard—i.e., the middle cadres who articulate the relationship between leadership and base, who carry forward the military and civilian programs in day-to-day contact with the armed militants and popular masses. The selfless dedication, integrity, comportment and skill of the middle cadres is an essential ingredient within any successful revolutionary process.
The life histories in this series have been recorded and prepared as historical documents from the revolutionary struggles of our time. The techniques and methods employed at each stage of the process, from initial contact to final editing, have therefore been chosen or fashioned with the purpose of guaranteeing the authenticity and integrity of the life history concerned. These stories, then, to the best of our ability to make them so, constitute a body of data and testimony as revealed by a few of those history-makers normally condemned to silence while others speak on their behalf.
We would like to express our thanks to Ole Gjersta, Steve Goldfield and others involved in the LSM Information Centre for making these booklets available.
The current absence of any emancipatory vision for Africa lies at the heart of our political problems of racial capitalist and colonial oppression. Any attempt to rethink political emancipation on the African continent must be able to locate a universal conception of freedom within singular cultural experiences where people live. Irrespective of the specific manner in which such struggles for freedom were thought within different historical contexts, emancipatory politics always exhibited such a dialectic when it was based within popular traditions. Yet only some militant intellectual leaders understood the importance of this dialectic in thought.
The present volume outlines and discusses two particularly important views concerning the role and importance of popular culture in emancipatory politics in Africa. Each is the product of distinct forms of colonial capitalist exploitation: the former saw the light of day within a colonial context while the latter is directly confronted by the neocolonial state. All emancipatory politics are developed in confrontation with state power, and all begin with a process of discussion and debate whereby a collective subject begins to be formed. The formation of such a collective political subject has been fundamentally informed by popular cultures on the African continent.
The two authors whose essays are included here understood this and posit popular culture at the centre of their politics. The first, Amílcar Cabral, addresses the central role of popular culture in the independence struggle of Guinea Bissau in the 1970s; the second, Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, addresses the centrality of African popular culture in an emancipatory politics for the current Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the distance in time that separates them, both Cabral and Wamba-dia-Wamba develop a dialectics at the core of their politics which activates the universals of culture in the present. It is this that makes their views of central importance to emancipatory thought today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief the deep structural problems affecting nonwhite racialized workers in the core and periphery. Yet, many social scientific analyses of the global political economy, at least in the pre-COVID era, are race neutral or willfully indifferent to the persistent racial pattern of global inequalities. This piece seeks to understand how the unremitting super-exploitation of Black and other nonwhite racialized labor in the core and the periphery persisted throughout the COVID-19 crisis through the lens of Black radical scholarship on racism and capitalism. It historicizes the pandemic within the long arc of racist capitalist labor super-exploitation at the birth of capitalism and in its subsequent unfolding. It also shows the mechanisms by which COVID-19 has exacerbated the already existing, structural racial and colonial inequalities that undergird the global economy. White capital and European and North American states have deemed Black and other nonwhite racialized labor “essential” to maintaining profits and called upon these workers both within North America and Europe and in the global periphery to ensure continued production and profits in almost every realm. These workers were seen as essential but expendable; compelling them to continue laboring during the deadly pandemic increased the precarity and danger they faced and exacerbated racial and economic inequalities both within and between countries. At the same time, neoliberal racist states are further marginalizing these very workers by excluding them from much needed social protections to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 on their health, income, and overall well-being. The piece also illuminates why, despite the dire social and economic conditions threatening the lives and livelihoods of workers writ large, white workers continue to refuse to join a multiracial antiracist movement for liberation from imperial and racial capitalist exploitation. The author ends by reflecting on what it means to “return to normal” within the architecture of racial capitalism and the pursuit of a different path to justice and freedom.
[Spanish edition of Jackson Rising]
Mississipi; el estado más pobre de los EEUU, el que tiene el porcen- taje más alto de población Negra y con una historia dramática de terror racial y de resistencia Negra. Este es el contexto de la resistencia presentada en este recopilatorio de escritos.
Sin desanimarse por la incertidumbre, el miedo y la an- siedad causadas por el constante deterioro del orden ne- oliberal, la respuesta de las activistas Negras de Jackson ha sido organizarse. Inspiradas por la rica historia de lucha y resistencia en Mississipi y comprometidas con la Estra- tegia Jackson-Kush, construyen instituciones arreladas en el poder comunitario, que combinan política y desarrollo económico y que satisfacen necesidades reales de la gente para crear un model social alternativo.
Las experiencias y análisis recogidas reflejan el poder creativo que se genera cuando la lucha política se basa en una visión del mundo liberada de las contradicciones y li- mitaciones inherentes al liberalismo. Esta es, en definitiva, una historia sobre un porceso decolonial y socialista, orga- nizado y dirigido por personas Negras.
Launch of the book in Nairobi!
Red salute to the organic intellectuals of Kenya for putting together their reflections in this absolutely fascinating compilation. As I read it, I want to read more and [the] more I read my appetite to “meet” our unsung heroes in this part of Africa deepens. https://t.co/wcLHssuiBT
— Issa Shivji (@IssaShivji) November 30, 2021
Pio Gama Pinto has long been the ‘unsung martyr ‘ in Kenya’s revolutionary history. It is a real mark of the consciousness of the new generation of organic intellectuals from the social justice centres that they chose to read, discuss, critique, and write about Pinto. A must read! —Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice & President of Supreme Court, Republic of Kenya, 2011-2016
I am inspired by reading your thoughts. Pio has shown you how: Constancy in your ideals.
Perseverance in your actions. Use every opportunity to further justice. Use every opportunity to subvert injustice. Speak out. Always place the Alternative before the people. Find what is already available, small or big, to further social justice. Much is already in the Constitution and laws. Enforce it. Pio created political space from blank walls and barbed wire. Finishing your book, I felt renewed. I thank you.
– Pheroze Nowrojee, Senior Counsel, author of Pio Gama Pinto, Patriot for Social Justice (2007).
This booklet on Pio Gama Pinto has been produced in the tradition of ‘looking back, in order to move forward’ to not only salvage history but also to use it as a mirror to reflect on the current political, economic and social conditions in Kenya. The essays, dubbed reflections, that appear in the booklet are a product of the efforts and dedication of young women and men under the banner of the ‘Organic Intellectuals Network’ in Kenya. We use the concept of ‘organic intellecutal’ as developed by Antonio Gramsci.
Members of the Organic Intellectual Network selected the book Pio Gama Pinto: Kenya’s Unsung Martyr 1927-1965 by Shiraz Durrani (Vita Books, 2018) as a basis for discussion for celebrating and remembering the life of Pio Gama Pinto, Kenya first Martyr, a dedicated and selfless individual in the struggle for freedom in Kenya. Pinto has not been fully appreciated and recognized for his efforts in the fight for independence and post-independence struggles that were characterized by ideological confrontation between capitalism and socialism. Each of the 14 participants in the discussions were asked to write their reflections on what they had learned, based on their daily struggles as activists, students and revolutionary community organizers in their communities. These discussions were accompanied by several activities at the beginning of 2021 to remember Pio Gama Pinto on the 56th anniversary of his assassination in 1965. These activities included reflections at his memorial grave and the production of a Pio Gama Pinto podcast.
The short book aims at retrieving and providing a genuine national direction for the struggles of Kenyans based on historical clarity devoid of any obscurity and distortion. It is our hope that these simplified reflections will introduce Pio Gama Pinto and socialism to the Kenyan people and across the world.
….to free oneself or assist in liberating others involves taking risks, being suspicious of the status quo, leaving the safety of the shore and launching out into the deep and the unknown. This is a very lonely calling too as one immerses oneself into the whole of reality with courage to confront and listen. Yet, the calling is not to be the liberator of the oppressed but to make a commitment to fight alongside them, as Paulo Freire wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. — Fr Gabriel Dolan
From his work in Turkana, Kitale, Kapenguria and Mombasa, Father Gabriel reminds us that true transformative change comes from the people themselves, from the bottom up. This is a challenge that the social justice/human rights practitioners must internalize and the sooner the better. The idea of being the “voice of the voiceless” must transform to facilitating, encouraging and giving space to those who suffer the indignities of injustice, violence, poverty and repression. Indeed, one of the most significant tasks for the human rights community is to devolve away from Nairobi, in real, practical, and substantive ways.
It is not easy for a white man, with all the attendant privileges that brings, to become an integral part of the struggle for pro-poor transformative change in Kenya, and be subject to arrest, harassment, and repression. For those who read these memoirs, please circulate them to everyone you know. Translate them, read them in the mosques, churches and under trees so that Kenyans can get a sense of where we have come from, what we should avoid, and what it takes to make some gains that benefit the majority of our people. — Maina Kiai
This book is published by Zand Graphics Ltd (Kenya) in association with Daraja Press.
Un sistema alimentario agroecológico no consiste más acerca de alimentos orgánicos que la abolición se refiere a abrir la puerta de una prisión. En este ensayo vital, Maywa Montenegro de Wit entrelaza ideas provenientes de las literaturas políticas y ecológicas más importantes de finales del siglo XX y comienzos del XXI. La pandemia proporciona un foco para estas dos fuentes de iluminación, pero la luz brillante que proviene de unir estas disciplinas brillará mucho después de que pase la sombra de la Covid-19. —Raj Patel, autor de Stuffed and Starved [Relleno y famélico].
El folleto resuena con la pregunta: ¿reforma o transformación? Pregunta: ¿mitigaremos y adaptaremos o revisaremos y cambiaremos nuestros imaginarios? Se nos ha dado un andamio para abordar el bastión del colonialismo y la colonialidad y para reconstruir los sistemas que ya han empujado su rodilla sobre los sistemas alimentarios y socioeconómicos que ya se estaban sofocando. Es hora de librarse de una pesadilla construida deliberadamente. – Nnimmo Bassey, autor de To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa [El cocinar un Continente: Extracción Destructiva y Crisis Climática en África] y fundador de Health of Mother Earth Foundation [Fundación Salud de la Madre Tierra].
La COVID-19 y otros brotes zoonóticos como el ébola son ilustrativos de las complejas interacciones entre la deforestación, la pérdida de biodiversidad, la destrucción del ecosistema y la salud y seguridad humanas. Estos cambios son impulsados principalmente por la agricultura industrial y el sistema alimentario globalizados, respaldados por el ilógico y destructivo capitalismo racial. … Montenegro de Wit presenta argumentos convincentes a favor de cambios hacia sistemas agroecológicos diversificados que reconozcan las complejas interconexiones entre la salud humana y animal, entre las plantas y nuestro medio ambiente y futuro compartidos. De hecho, abordar las pandemias de manera sistémica no puede desvincularse de la construcción de economías y sistemas alimentarios que se basan en las necesidades de las personas, en particular de los pequeños agricultores, y de los ecosistemas prósperos. Para lograrlo, debemos rechazar y prohibir rotundamente la ecocida ilógica de la mercantilización, la financialización y el extractivismo, como fuerzas impulsoras de las fortunas y los destinos humanos y ecológicos. … El fortalecimiento de los movimientos sociales a nivel local es indispensable para forzar la ruta de África hacia un liderazgo político eficaz y democrático. Se necesita una clara ruptura, dejando atrás intervenciones a favor de un desarrollo ahistórico y tecnicista, donde la tecnología y la productividad se plantean como problemas y soluciones, hacia un replanteamiento urgente y drástico para hacer frente a las crisis sistémicas convergentes que enfrentamos hoy.
– Mariam Mayet, directora ejecutiva del African Centre for Biodiversity [Centro Africano para la Biodiversidad]
COVID-19 ha expuesto la naturaleza racializada de los sistemas alimentarios, pero también potencialmente otorga oportunidades para construir de nuevo. Maywa Montenegro explora una serie de averías, desde cadenas de suministro fracturadas hasta infecciones incontroladas entre trabajadores de alimentos esenciales, entre comunidades negras, marrones e indígenas atravesadas por el virus a lo largo de viejos surcos de opresión racial y de clase.
Ella rastrea los orígenes probables de COVID-19 a los sitios de derrame forjados por la expansión agroindustrial en regiones boscosas donde los patógenos brotan libres e infectan a los humanos. La agricultura animal industrial impulsa estos cambios ecológicos que incuban futuros brotes. Las pandemias tienen sus raíces en la separación violenta de las comunidades de sus territorios, semillas, conocimiento y riqueza. El racismo permite tal robo como fundamental para la expansión capitalista.
Para hacer frente a las pandemias y las injusticias alimentarias, Montenegro pide una agroecología abolicionista. Ninguna alternativa anticapitalista puede ignorar el racismo que es central para el sistema alimentario transnacional. Académicos como Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore y Mariame Kaba han argumentado que aunque la abolición se ve con frecuencia como una estrategia de oposición, para erradicar, por ejemplo, las prisiones y la policía, la abolición es igualmente proposicional. Una agroecología abolicionista abre múltiples posibilidades que responden a las exigencias de un planeta pandémico: no hay una “normalidad” a la que podamos regresar con seguridad.
Esta es una traducción al español de Abolitionist Agroecology, Food Sovereignty and Pandemic Prevention
Si quieres poner la rebelión de George Floyd en su contexto político e histórico adecuado, esta es una de las obras con las que debes empezar. El Significado Revolucionario de la Revuelta de George Floyd plantea el caso incuestionable de que lo que presenciamos no fue solo una serie de eventos con el objetivo de reformar el imperio, como los medios burgueses quieren hacernos creer, sino un movimiento que en su corazón tenía y tiene como objetivo la erradicación del imperio y la construcción de un futuro nuevo e incierto. Este trabajo explica por qué y, además, aborda cómo puedes participar más profundamente.
– Kali Akuno, cofundador de Cooperation Jackson
Hablando sobre la descolonización, Fanon dice que cuando tratamos de cambiar el orden del mundo, esto es “claramente una agenda para el desorden total.” Con esto quiere decir que es una demanda absoluta, que no puede ser mediada por modificaciones de política. Esta demanda absoluta regresa en las llamas del Tercer Recinto en Minneapolis, en el verano de 2020. Nadie se ha acercado más que Shemon y Arturo en capturar esta lucha, en nombrar el carácter extraordinario y contradictorio de la Revuelta de George Floyd—cómo escapa la misma historia que la produce, única e inevitable, una verdadera insurgencia, progenitora de un centenar de formaciones contrainsurgentes. Estos comunicados de la rebelión ofrecen claridad sobre las desesperadas y extraordinarias victorias de la lucha y las formas que tomará el enemigo. Este texto es portador de las posibilidades, propuestas y problemas del verano; No puedo imaginar un mejor destino para la escritura.
– Joshua Clover, autor de Riot.Strike.Riot: The New Era of Uprisings
No hubo nada más que oscuridad en la primavera de 2020 cuando la pandemia de Covid-19 se enfureció y cerró la economía. Pero mientras que los manifestantes de derecha exigieron el fin del cierre de emergencia, un conflicto mucho más grande se estaba gestando bajo la superficie. Una rebelión exploto en Minneapolis en respuesta al asesinato policial de George Floyd, y durante la rebelion una estación de policía fue tomada y prendido fuego. Después de esto la revuelta se extendió rápidamente por todo los Estados Unidos. Los manifestantes saquearon los centros urbanos, lucharon contra la policía, quemaron coches de policía y destruyeron edificios de gobierno. El proletario negro lideró la carga, pero los proletarios blancos, latinos, asiáticos e indígenas también se unieron a la lucha, demostrando nuevas posibilidades para construir alianzas en esta sociedad segregada. Si bien las rebeliones contra la policía continuaron durante el verano y el otoño, el levantamiento retrocedió con el comienzo del invierno. Pero este conflicto está lejos de terminar.
Preparándonos para las grandes luchas que vienen, El Significado Revolucionario de la Revuelta de George Floyd proporciona un análisis de lo que sucedió durante los disturbios de 2020 en los Estados Unidos, sus potenciales, límites internos, e implicaciones estratégicas.
Esta es una traducción al español de The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising
Soon after its publication in 1972, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa gained global popularity among students, scholars, activists and people concerned with African affairs. His innovative application of the method of political economy transformed the paradigm for rendition of the continent’s past. Because it stridently took the traditional historians and the prevailing neo-colonial order to task, it was also pilloried by the defenders of the status quo. And, in these neoliberal times, mainstream scholars and pundits proclaim that it is no longer relevant for Africa.
In Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy, Karim Hirji makes a systematic case that, on the contrary, Rodney’s seminal work retains its singular value for understanding where Africa has come from, where it is going, and charting the path towards genuine development for its people. After giving a broad picture of Rodney and his times, Hirji examines in detail the criticisms levelled against his work, and conducts a focused review of modern day textbooks on African history. It is seen that most of the claims against Rodney lack a sound basis and that direct representations of his ideas are replete with distortions, unfair selectivity and political bias. Yet, the long term influence of Rodney on African history is unmistakable.
Hirji’s succinct, coherent defence of an intellectual giant who lived and died for humanity is an essential read for anyone with an interest in Africa and related regions.
You can read this book online for free.
Soon after its publication in 1972, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (HEUA) gained global popularity among progressive students, scholars and activists, and people concerned with African affairs. His innovative application of the method of political economy was a prime contributor to shifting the paradigm for rendition of the continent’s past as well as for visualizing its possible trajectory. Because it stridently took the traditional historians of Africa and the prevailing neo-colonial order to task, it was also vociferously criticized by the defenders of the status quo.
In these neoliberal times, its visibility has waned. Mainstream scholars and pundits from and outside of Africa proclaim that it is no longer a relevant work for Africa. In Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy, Karim Hirji makes a systematic case that, on the contrary, Rodney’s seminal work retains its singular value for understanding where Africa has come from, where it is going, and charting a path towards genuine development for the people of Africa.
Hirji considers Rodney in his unitary persona as a historian, theoretician and activist. He begins by outlining the publication history and contents of HEUA, and noting the comments it has drawn from varied quarters. This is followed by a depiction of the global context within which it saw the light of the day and the flowering of progressive thought and vision in those vibrant times. The retrogressive reversal, in thought and social reality, that has transpired since then is summed up next. An assessment of how HEUA has weathered this storm is also provided.
The next chapter presents a brief portrait of Rodney as a revolutionary, with the focus on his seven years at the University of Dar es Salaam. This is followed by an overview of the methodological framework utilized in HEUA.
These five chapters lay the foundation for the main substantive part of Hirji’s book. This part begins with a detailed evaluation of the criticisms that have been levelled at HEUA. Subsequently, by a review of eight textbooks of general African history in common use today is provided. The aim here is to assess the persistence, if any, of ideas of the type promoted by Rodney in such books and identify the manner in which HEUA is directly depicted therein. Do these books give an adequate and fair depiction of Rodney to modern day students?
The penultimate chapter argues for the continued relevance of Rodney and his seminal text for Africa (and the world) in this anti-people, pro-capital, pro-imperial neoliberal era. Hirji concludes with a lively account of his own interactions over six years with Walter Rodney. With the focus on the issue of building socialism in Tanzania, a key dimension in the evolution of Rodney’s thinking is described in a critical spirit. The fundamental question addressed is, in our often dark, demoralizing political environment, what do Rodney and his life have to teach us on the matter of navigating between hope and struggle?
The conclusion emerging from this book is that in the first place most of the criticisms of the content, style and practical value of HEUA lack merit. The representation of Rodney in mainstream books is as well replete with distortions, unfair selectivity and political bias.
Despite these misrepresentations, Rodney and his ideas retain their signal value for understanding African history, for engaging with its present day conditions, and for projecting distinctive future scenarios for the continent. Hirji’s succinct work is a consistent, coherent defence of an intellectual giant, an astute historian and a compassionate revolutionary who lived and died for humanity. It is an essential read for anyone with an interest in African history, and the fate of Africa and the regions that are historically related to it.
Walter Rodney: An Enduring Legacy
Karim F Hirji
1. The Book
2. The Global Context
3. A Grand Reversal
4. Rodney, the Revolutionary
5. Rodney and Historiography
6. Criticisms of the Book
7. Rodney in the Classroom
8. Contemporary Relevance
9. Hope and Struggle
Major Writings of Walter Rodney
Moving Beyond Capitalist Agriculture is born out of the coordination between scholars and community organizers and it should be shared widely. The group behind it, the Pandemic Research for the People, is an expression of collective wisdom and necessary unease. In fact, organization and solidarity are two values to be cherished in this moment of multiple crises. COVID-19 is a neoliberal disease and agroecology that frees the land and people of greed and towards food sovereignty is the pathway out of this mess. — Saulo Araujo, US Friends of the Landless Workers Movement
If you want to know more about the connections between racial capitalism, industrial agriculture, environmental destruction, and epidemics and pandemics, then this is a great place to start. But this pamphlet is more than just an analysis of the immense problems generated by capitalism. More importantly, this pamphlet represents an attempt to overcome this system and to develop revolutionary alternatives to it. Rather than falling into the tempting illusion of reform, the authors of these texts give invaluable insights into how we might support and develop revolutionary forms of agro-ecology that can sustain and reproduce life outside of the racial capitalist machine that is destroying it.” — Arturo Castillon, co-author, The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising
Increasingly threatening climate disaster coinciding with a pandemic has tragically illustrated that the world doesn’t have the luxury of dealing with one crisis at a time – and capitalist agriculture is at the root of both. The authors show convincingly that there is a better way: one that’s based on self-determination and building on human cooperation, not competition. This publication makes a strong case for agroecology as a crucial part of a future that puts people above profit; a future that assures people`s health by allowing planetary health to flourish. It will bring clarity to everyone trying to understand how the next pandemic could be averted whilst building a more just world — Vijoleta Gordeljević, Health economist and environmental health policy expert, People’s Health Movement.
Pathogens repeatedly are emerging from a global agrifood system rooted in inequality, labor exploitation, and unfettered extractivism by which communities are robbed of their natural and social resources. A crisis-prone economic system that prioritizes production for profit over meeting human needs and ecological preservation is organized around intense monocultural production that, along the way, allows the deadliest of diseases to emerge. The Pandemic Research for the People (PReP) focuses on how agriculture might be reimagined as the kind of community-wide intervention that could stop coronaviruses and other pathogens from emerging in the first place. We address how mainstream science supports the same political and economic systems that helped produce the pandemic. Then we introduce agroecology, an environmentalism of the peasantry, the poor, and indigenous, long in practice, that treats agriculture as a part of the ecology out of which humanity grows its food. Agroecology—a science, movement, and practice—combines ecological science, indigenous and peasant knowledges, and social movements for food and territorial sovereignty to achieve environmentally just food systems.
Peasant- and indigenous-led agroecology is uniquely positioned to limit the spread of zoonotic viruses: Post-capitalist agroecology champions the indigenous and smallholders who protect agricultural biodiversity. A diverse agroecological matrix of farm plots, agroforestry, and grazing lands all embedded within a forest can conserve animal biodiversity in the landscape. Agricultural biodiversity can make it more difficult for zoonotic diseases to prevail. Such a mode of conservation also takes into account the economic and social conditions of people currently tending the land, rather than a conservation that uproots people to foster the private accumulation of capital.
Contents: Introductory note / Globalized food systems, structural inequality, and COVID-19 / What is mutual aid? A COVID-19 Primer / Can agroecology stop COVID-21, -22, and -23? / Moving Beyond Capitalist Agriculture
COVID-19 has exposed the racialized nature of food systems, but also potentially grants opportunities to build anew. Maywa Montenegro explores a series of breakdowns, from fractured supply chains to uncontrolled infection among essential food workers, among Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities scythed through by the virus along old grooves of race and class oppression.
She traces the likely origins of COVID-19 to spillover sites forged by agroindustrial expansion into forested regions where pathogens spring free and infect humans. Industrial animal agriculture drives these ecological changes that incubate future outbreaks. Pandemics have their roots in the violent separation of communities from their territories, seeds, knowledge and wealth. Racism enables such theft as fundamental to capitalist expansion.
To tackle pandemics and food injustices, Montenegro calls for an abolitionist agroecology. No anti-capitalist alternative can ignore the racism that is central to transnational food system. Scholars including Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Mariame Kaba have argued that although abolition is frequently seen as an oppositional strategy — to eradicate, for example, prisons and police — abolition is equally propositional. An abolitionist agroecology cracks open multiple possibilities that respond to the exigencies of a pandemic planet — there is no ‘normal’ to which we can safely return.