Myanmar is in a dangerous and uncertain moment following the military coup on 1 February 2021. The articles in this Special Forum provide timely contextual analysis. Written before the coup, the articles delve into the politics of agrarian transformation in the context of (what was then) an ongoing (but fragile) opening up of political space. This introduction outlines three themes that connect the articles and now also shed some light on what the future may hold: (1) the limited character of the 2010–2021 ‘democratic transition’; (2) the struggles around land and natural resources amidst a social reproduction crisis and (3) the responses of rural working peoples. The contributions are authored mainly by social movement activists, providing grassroots activist perspectives on key issues in agrarian politics.