This paper argues that confronting the deepening ecological crisis in a just transition could contain the embryo of a democratic eco-socialist future. The core of eco-socialism is to link the principles of ecological sustainability and social justice. This implies that the socialist emphasis on collective ownership and democratic control of production needs to be connected to a number of other alternative concepts such as food sovereignty. New social forms are emerging from the margins of South African society around these concepts, involving grass-root networks marked by relations of reciprocity, cooperation and solidarity. They embody fragments of a vision of an alternative postcapitalist future.