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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
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.
As African people most of us are brought up to believe many myths about ourselves. One of these is that we are poor because we never grew out of the dark ages. Another such myth is that we will always need European guidance because of our backwardness. Not only has there been a lot of research done within the last few decades disproving these myths but the constant forward and backward motions of various societies in the world proves that a new beginning is always “in the cards” when a forward-looking vision and a determined set of energies are released.
However, to be properly understood, all this must be put into historical perspective. This is what the author has done: starting from the early days of Egypt down to present day Southern Africa, he has analysed the long journey from development to underdevelopment and back towards development. The fact that European/North American domination has played such a large part in influencing the direction of this path, this manuscript is about both the history of African and European people as well as an economic analysis of foreign domination.
Given the extensive nature of this task the author has deliberately downplayed statistics as most of the empirical details stated are taken from the research work of reputable scholars, reference to which is constantly engendered, so that the reader could independently pursue the documentation of all aspects of the work.
Frederick Engels, the classical socialist philosopher, reflecting on the nature of scientific thinking stated:
“The analysis of nature into its individual parts, the grouping of the different natural processes and objects into definite classes, the study of the internal anatomy of organic bodies in their manifold forms, these are the fundamental conditions of the gigantic stride of our knowledge of Nature… But this method of work has also left us as legacy, the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, apart from the connection with the vast whole; of observing them in repose, not in motion; as constants, not as essential variables; in their death, not in their life.”[i]
Most of the facts and events have been documented in numerous scholarly writings. But one item of his concern is that most of these works have in one way or other fallen prey to Engels’s criticism, either on grounds of limited geography or of limited history (tackling only a short period). However, what is more usual for the more bourgeois–influenced scholars is to limit their scope to one or two of the arbitrarily imposed “disciplines” of Economics, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, etc.
Of course, it is understandable that the two types of limitations (geography and history) are not made without reason, as no one person could hope to cover a broad enough scope in a detailed and rigorous manner especially within easily readable limits. However, the need of scientists especially when covering as important a topic as the development process, to produce a work covering the broadest possible perspective.
Given limited resources, the author has attempted to do just that – albeit in an introductory manner. It is his hope, however, that more people start viewing development as a broad, holistic process and not just a phenomenon limited in space and time to economics or even political-economy. In this regard, the annual compilation of The Human Development Index by the UNDP whereby countries worldwide are ranked, not merely by GDP per capita – as is usually cited in classical bourgeois economics – but by Life expectancy, Fertility and Under-five Mortality Rates, Combined School Enrolment, Adult Literacy Rate, Urbanisation, and (generally) by a Human Poverty Index. This approach can only be viewed as a step in the right direction.
An extra bonus for readers is that I have included quotes from a cross-section of classical scholars on the development process. Hence, readers can follow up on these references to further edify themselves.
[i] Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1892), 406.
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.
Transforming ourselves, Transforming the World: An open conspiracy for social change – Second Edition
This is a new edition of the book originally published by Zed Books in 1999. The book includes an Introduction written by David Austin and an Afterword from the author, Brian Murphy.
This book is for all those – community workers, adult educators, social activists of every kind – who want to overcome pessimism and play a part in changing society in the direction of peace, justice and dignity for all human beings. As author Brian Murphy— the independent analyst, organizer, educator and writer, and former staff member of the social justice organization, Inter Pares—points out, many of us are pessimistic about our ability to change the world when confronted by destructive political and corporative forces and the destruction they wreak. Murphy reveals the social and personal dilemmas which hold people back from social engagement, and argues that the various constraints we face can be overcome.
In this new edition, David Austin explains in his Introduction why this book, first published in 1999, is perhaps more relevant to our times than ever, offering insights from his own experiences of engaging critically with the book and with others. (David Austin is author of Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution, Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal and the editor of Moving Against the System, The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness.)
And in his new afterword, Brian Murphy reflects on the continued relevance of the original text, emphasizing how our humanity is being corroded and commodified. To reclaim our humanity, he argues, we must transform ourselves to transform the world.
Brian Murphy’s immensely inspiring book,Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World, deeply challenges us to think and rethink everything we knew and thought we knew.—Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation & Right Livelihood Award Laureate in 2010
We need more conversations like the one in this book, which are rooted in hope while honestly working through a foundational way of seeing and understanding ourselves in the bigger picture.— Christina Warner, Co-Executive Director and Director of Campaigns and Organising, Council of Canadians.
This is one of the coolest, enjoyable and important books I have read in recent years. Written from the heart as well as the head, it is a breathtakingly visionary, unique and insightful take on the life of the ultimate activist.—Hope Chigudu, Feminist activist
The republication of Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World is a gift for our troubled times. All of us who share the drive to change our society will find encouragement and nourishment. This book offers a break from an all-too-common type of “activism” that demands harmful suppression of our individual creativity, freedom and health. What we have here is a celebration — and an entirely convincing validation — of a way of changing the world that is always nurturing and open-ended; a process of possibility and becoming, as we build on humanness to realise greater humanness. As Murphy puts it: “‘I will act, because it is sane, and healthy, and human to do so. We will act together, because it is sane, and healthy, and human, and more effective to do so. … This is how we can begin to develop an open conspiracy’”. I’m energised to sign up to this “open conspiracy”, and I’m sure many more readers will be too. — Mark Butler, co-author with Church Land Programme (South Africa) of in, against, beyond, corona
Table of Contents
Introduction to Second Edition: David Austin
Preface and Acknowledgements
1 The Courage to Be
2 The Dilemma of Action and the Psychology of Inertia
3 Confronting the Dilemmas: Beyond Inertia
Possibilities in Process
4 The Missing Link
5 The Individual, the Visionary
6 Challenging the Established Rationality
7 Imperatives for Modern Education
The Open Conspiracy
8 The Open Conspiracy: Allies for Health and Action
9 Theatres and Strategies: Embracing the Future
10 Education and the Open Conspiracy
Eclectic Notes on Knowledge and Action
Afterword to the Second Edition – Brian Murphy
The corona crisis reveals what is wrong and toxic — in ourselves, in relation with others, and in relation with the rest of non-human nature. But we can also look for what is good and life-affirming. The authors argue that the future must be founded on ‘kindness, social solidarity and an appropriate scale of time’, a future that cherishes life and the connections that transcend borders. This pamphlet is a vital contribution to much needed reflections and discussion.
This is a fabulous book. Usually a blurb or endorsement like this is supposed to enhance the book, but in this case the flow is in the other direction. For me it is a huge honour to be associated with it. Like many others, I have been trying for months to get my head around what is happening, trying to formulate my ideas, and then here it is, in these pages, so clear, so understanding, so challenging. How we now go on to shape the interconnectedness between people and between people and other forms of life will determine the future of humanity. The best, most sensitive, most realistic, strongest thing that I’ve read on the Corona Crisis. — John Holloway, Professor, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico, and author of In, Against, and Beyond Capitalism:
The San Francisco Lectures
This pamphlet, part of Daraja Press’s Thinking Freedom Series, is written by Mark Butler with his colleagues at the Church Land Programme, a small independent non-profit organisation based in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, that seek to distill learnings that emerge from the work of militants on the ground.
어떻게 자본주의를 넘어설 것인가라는 질문에 대한 답을, 지금 우리가 “감히” 찾아보려고 한다. 이 소책자를 통해, 자본주의를 벗어나 생태사회주의로 향하는 길을 찾는 우리의 노력이 뚜렷해지길 바란다.
자본주의에 갇힌 우리는, 어떤 형태로든 행동 또는 비행동inaction에 관여하고 있다. 행동은, 자본주의를 직접 마주하기 보다는 자본주의가 초래하는 심각한 여러 문제를 개선하기 위한 투쟁에 참여하는 모습을 띈다. 즉, 우리의 행동은 원인이 아니라 결과에 초점을 맞추는 모순을 보인다.
반면, 비행동은 동의를 의미하게 된다. 우리는 자본주의 경제 체계를 영속시키는 경제 활동에 문제 제기를 하거나 변화를 요구하는 행동을 하지 않음으로써 자본주의에 [암묵적으로] 동의하고 있다. 결과적으로 평범한 우리가 자본주의에 봉사하는 자본가 역할을 계속하고 있는 것이다.
왜 자본주의 억압의 대상인 우리가 억압에 동의하는가? 그 이유가 단지 [외부의] 탄압 때문만은 아니라고, 이탈리아 파시즘 하의 감옥에서 그람시Antonio Gramci는 말했다. 즉, “헤게모니”를 장악하는 이념이 우리의 삶을 둘러싼 억압적인 환경을 설명하고 정당화하는 것이다.
“소소한 혁명”은, 개개인의 삶 속에서, 쉽고 안전하게, 엄청 근사하지는 않지만 일상적이고 실천가능한 행동과 비행동을 얘기한다. 지금까지의 혁명사는, 혁명을 가능하게 했던 전체 민중보다는 소수의 혁명가에 주목했었지만, 자본주의에 맞서는 “우리는” 마르크스나 엥겔스가 떠올렸던 주인공들보다 훨씬 다양하고 규모가 커졌다. 자본주의를 수호하기 위해 싸우는 “그들은” 전 세계 인구의 극소수일 뿐이다.
자본주의의 어떤 특징이 억압적이고 그래서 제거되어야 하는지, 또 반대로 어떤 사회경제구조의 특징이 억압적이지 않으며 그래서 남겨져야 하는지를 뚜렷이 설명하는 전략이 필요하다. 자본주의 이후 사회가 어떤 모습이어야 할지는 점점 명확해지고 있다. 소소한 혁명은, 자본주의의 영속과 발전에 필수적인 과정에 대한 우리의 동의를 거두는 데에서 시작하여, 수 백 만의 우리가, 여전히 적은 소수이긴 하지만, 건설적인 혹은 파괴적인 노력에 창의적으로 참여할 수 있는 방법 또한 포함한다.
세상은 자본주의 그 이후로 이미 진행 중이다. 세계 곳곳에서 창의적인 모습의 공동체communal organization들이 생겨나 스스로 통치하고 구성원들의 생존과 안녕을 보장하기 위해 활동하고 있다. 복지 국가를 포함한 자본주의 국가를 넘어서는 것은 국가 자체를 넘어서는 결과로 이어진다. 연대 경제solidarity economy는 먼저, 소규모의 협동조합 성격을 띄는, 저렴하고 유쾌하고 편안한 주거 공간을 구성하는 방법을 모색하여, 착취적인 임대료, 빚, 세금, 보험에 대한 공동의 해결책을 제시한다. 또한 이러한 공동체는, 영양이 풍부한 먹거리를 지역에서 생산하여 유통하는 방법으로, 자본주의식 농업으로부터 독립을 꾀할 수 있다.
창조적 파괴는, 허가를 받아 하는 대규모의 시위가 아니라 자본주의가 순조롭게 기능할 수 없게 멈추거나 둔화시키는 직접 행동으로 가능하게 된다. 우리가 투자나 세금으로 흘러가게 내버려 두는 돈의 흐름을 비자본주의적인 연대경제에 돌리는 것도 창조적 파괴의 한 방법이다.
소소한 혁명은, 간단하고 안전하며, 자신의 삶을 조금이라도 바꾸고 싶은 의지가 있는 사람이라면 실천가능하다. 자본주의가 우리의 안녕과 행복을 파괴하는 체계라는 것을 알면서도, 부지불식간에 자본주의를 지지하고 동의하는 행동을 멈추는 즐거움을 누릴 수 있다. 놀랍게도 혁명을 위해 다치거나 죽지 않아도 되고, 심지어 큰 불편을 감수하지 않아도 된다. 우리가 해야 할 일은 단 하나. 어차피 하기 싫었던 여러 일들을 이제 정말 그만두는 것이다.
These poems by Issa Shivji, lawyer, activist and Tanzanian public intellectual, were written at different times in different circumstances. They give vent to personal anguish and political anger. Mostly originally written in Kiswahili, here accompanied by English translations, and they are intensely personal and political.
Poems are clustered under several headings to provide a context. The first combines personal agony at the loss of comrades and friends with poems about love and affection for living ones. The second is about robberies of freedom, resources, and dignity and the loss of justice under neoliberalism. The third section, entitled Hopes and Fears, comprises short poems tweeted over the last five years expressing despair, fear and hope in the human capacity for freedom.
The last section are poems, concerned with Shivji’s period in South Africa in 2018, reflect on the emergence of neo-apartheid with its wanton and shameless exploitation of the majority.
Wonderfully translated by Ida Hadjivayanis.
You can read the entire book online here for free.