The privatization of Eletrobrás

Image: Wojtek Pacześ


Water and energy crisis and environmental devastation tend to increase with privatization

Brazil has suffered several blows throughout its history, not only the political blows that changed the central power, from the night of agony in 1823, passing through the majority blow of 1840, the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, the 1903 blow with the closing of congress, be it the coups that gave birth to the Modern Brazilian State with Vargas in 1930 and again in 1937 and also in his deposition in 1945, reaching the most famous ones, the 1964 coup (with the coup within the coup of 1968) and finally 2016 with Dilma Rousseff.

But no, it's not just these blows that the country has suffered, we also have economic blows, which are countless, ranging from criminal concessions to foreigners since the imperial period, ranging from public cleaning to huge areas of 15 km on each side of the famous railway line Rio Grande do Sul – São Paulo, which triggered the Contestado War on the border between Paraná and Santa Catarina, even being sold in exchange for Vale do Rio doce. What the country is watching now, paralyzed, is one of the biggest blows ever given: the privatization of Eletrobrás.

Ikaro Chaves in his interview with Luiz Carlos Azenha on the website Viomundo was perhaps the only dissonant voice that sought to boast about such an event, whether within the left, paralyzed, glazed over in the parliamentary comedy of the CPI on COVID, or on the right, which like a crab, walks sideways so that everything stays the same, giving the impression that it is going forward with his “Bolsonaro out” more false than a three reais bill. Let's not forget that the crab lives in the mud and there things rot quickly. Chaves brings us some relevant data which we seek to make more complex here. In the first place, he mentions that the director of Aesel (association of Eletrobrás engineers and technicians) says that the estimated and desired price with the privatization of the company would be 25 billion reais in grants, reaching the final magic figure of 100 billion[I]. By way of comparison, the cost of the Angra I and II plants alone, are 8,4 billion and 17,2 billion, plus an estimated 25 billion to finish Angra III, only in structure Eletronuclear would be worth 50,6 billion (in market value it is worth, today , 3,3bn). It should be added that before the 2016 coup, the value of the company had reached 60 billion reais (ALVES, STATISTA, 2020[ii]), equivalent today to 97 billion. This in market values, quoted in the market, now the real value of the company, the value of the assets, how much the plants are worth, how much was invested there, is nowhere to be found, since it would show in a didactic way the crime that is the sale of the company for the crumbs that are staked. Cita Chaves:

The director of Aesel says that the estimated price of Eletrobras, of R$ 25 billion that would be paid to the Treasury, is a real scandal, considering that Eletrobras is profitable, has almost R$ 15 billion in cash and debts and receives R$ 44 billion.

That is, in the end, Brazil would lose BRL 34 billion in the long term by handing over control of the state-owned company, without considering that the increase in energy prices would impact the entire small and medium-sized national industry, in addition to day-to-day consumers -day

Any quick internet search will be seen by the average Brazilian as a unified defense of privatization. Investment sites, the best known of which were bought by BTG “which was and are, but are no longer” owned by the Minister of Economy, will see a fierce defense of privatization. At Valor Econômico, owned by Grupo Globo, the defense of the liquidation of public assets reached the point of ridicule, where the water crisis suffered by the country is linked to the fact that the company was not privatized by Temer in 2018[iii]. Joke.

The water crisis has other meanings, its origin is closely linked to two facts: first, the devastation in the Amazon, which caused a significant decrease in the strength of the continental Equatorial mass, gigantic currents of humid winds that run from the Amazon through the low altitude corridor (not plains, low altitudes!) that runs through the south of the forest through Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, especially in the Pantanal, enters the south of Brazil and reaches our Platine neighbors, via the Argentinean plain. With the reduction of the forest, which is on fire, the mass has lost its intensity, producing already in 2019-2020 a decrease in reservoirs and severe droughts (the south of Brazil has been going through this since this phase). But this had already been happening since 2014, but with even greater force after 2017, already being felt at that time in Argentina, where its agribusiness suffered a lot from the drought.[iv]. Secondly, a fact already warned by several scholars and widely studied in pre-university courses in these countries, that in 2021 we would have a La Niña year, when NATURALLY there is a considerable decrease in rainfall in the southern portion of the South American continent.

It was the devastation of nature, the unbridled advance of agribusiness that caused the water crisis and not some interference by Eletrobrás[v]! It sounds pathetic to think this way, however, this is the modus operandi of the priests of modernity, the neoliberal economists in the sense of Chesnais[vi] that create myths, which are reproduced almost uninterruptedly by the mainstream media in the eyes of the Brazilian people, it is the dissociation of the same process that the country is going through that projected the lack of water and energy onto the population, not isolated facts. It is the project that has been in vogue since the 2016 coup: Brazil as a source of capital, something that we have worked on before[vii] and this process goes from the privatizations so well seen in the eyes of the same media, which created the governmental chimera dividing a government between technical wing, ultra-religious wing and military wing, where such heads would be in conflict with each other. It is a falsehood, the current government is not a chimera, which would be killed by Bellerophon of the “centre right” in a broad liberal front (let us not forget that before being economy minister of Jair Messias, the “owner who is not owner” of BTG was the darling of Grupo Globo and a supporter of playboy Huck). No, the current government is not a chimera, but a unique monster that acts in concert.

But after all, why privatization, since it really won't improve the distribution of energy to the population of this country? The point is to understand that it is not something simple, a gratuitous evil of the priests of modernity of the media, investment banks and the high priest sitting in the chair as Minister of Economy, it is a way of producing capital from “nothing” and such This fact goes hand in hand with the performance of the priestess who, in the service of the hyenas that command the country's landholdings, acts to destroy what little remains of nature around the national territory.

Marx worked with the theme of the genesis of capital throughout several of his writings, both in reports to the International Workers Association (AIT), in the Grundrisse and in Books I and III of Capital. There he makes it clear that the origin of capital is primarily in the accumulation of money through the usurer, the one who charges interest on borrowed paper money and from this there is the possibility of capital production. As? Through the separation of work from the means of production, that is, the separation of the worker from the land where he works, which is transformed into merchandise and starts to have a price.

Marx teaches us: “Thus, p. For example, if in the originary development of money or value itself into capital an accumulation on the part of the capitalist is presupposed – be it through the economy of products or values ​​created with his own work, etc. – that he realized as a non-capitalist – if, therefore, the presuppositions of the transformation of money into capital appear as external presuppositions given for the genesis of capital”.[viii]

“The discovery of gold and silver lands in America, the extermination, enslavement and burial of the native population in mines, the beginning of the conquest and plunder of the East Indies, the transformation of Africa into a reserve for hunting blackskins characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic processes constitute fundamental moments of primitive accumulation”.[ix]

In other words, the transformation of something that is alien to the mode of production, which is OUTSIDE the marketing process, is what, when transformed into merchandise, enables the production of capital. Brazil is still a great saver of elements that are outside the logic of capital reproduction. Eletrobrás owns no more than 36 hydroelectric plants, 128 thermoelectric plants and the two nuclear power plants in the country and manages a very large area of ​​land which is, evidently, outside the speculative process, not private property. ipsis litteris, are very public. The privatization of the company, in addition to providing total control of national energy (and autonomy), also provides the possibility of transforming land that is off the market into private property! It provides the chance to price and consequently produce, out of thin air, money which accumulated becomes capital in circulation. It's a win-win game for the market.

It is then possible to notice how the water and energy crisis is intertwined with privatization, which tends to increase such a crisis. The environmental devastation will tend to be even more aggravated, with Brazil being a mirror of what the State of Paraná is today: a great agribusiness producer, environmentally devastated, with a mere 1,5% of the Araucaria forest and fields preserved, with devastation which advances precisely on top of that remaining percentage. Why? Because the rest of the forest is precisely in territories that are outside the land pricing process, in this case in state parks and peasant communities. The water crisis has been plaguing the state since 2019 and its largest river, the Iguaçu, with several large hydroelectric plants, is the symbol of the dialectical environmental destruction – production of private properties. While the parliamentary comedy of the CPI takes place, the Brazilian tragedy takes place in large steps with a Bonapartist, crude government, which is based on the mass of workers in rags, the lumpen, who see their salvation in proto-fascism; with a right that claims to be clean while embracing the high priest of the economy; a postmodern left whose central struggle is for the famous fragmented agendas, which risks the bizarre argument that the current agenda for reaching power is “post-material”… post-materiality in a country that is starving and where 110 million people survive on 438 reais in the month[X], or 2,85 dollars a day.

*Gustavo Felipe Olesko holds a PhD in Human Geography from FFLCH-USP.



[ii] ALVES, BRUNA, STATIST. Net Revenue of Eletrobrás in Brazil from 2013 to 2019


[iv] e

[v] Even Globo knows!

[vi] CHESNAIS, F. The globalization of capital. São Paulo: Shaman, 1996.


[viii] MARX, Carl. Grundrisse. Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1858. Outlines of the critique of political economy. Trans. Mario Duayer, Nélio Schneider (collaboration Alice Helga Werner and Rudiger Hoffman). São Paulo, Boitempo; Rio de Janeiro, Ed. UFRJ, 201, p. 377-378

[ix] MARX, Carl. Capital: critique of political economy. Book I: the capital production process. Trans. Rubens Enderle. 2nd ed. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2014. p. 821.


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