Social barbarism and economic crisis



Stopping looting and dispossession seems to be a first and necessary move by organized social forces.

The Brazilian conjuncture is accelerating in a double converging condition: the installed social barbarism and the deep economic crisis. Analyzing this conjuncture cannot be limited, as we have seen a lot, to short-term interaction, we have to visualize the long-term logic that is behind the current historical construction. I believe that the dynamics of what we call “accumulation by dispossession” constitutes the axis of the historical trajectory we are on, so we will first dedicate ourselves in this article to dealing with the readers the theoretical and historical meaning of the term “accumulation by dispossession” or “accumulation by dispossession”. dispossession”, its concrete forms in Brazil and, finally, how this imperative of dependence relates to our present barbaric and lethal conjuncture.

National capitalism has developed over the last two centuries based on profound subordination to international capitalism, notably since its colonial life Brazil has been a territory of dependence and transfer of wealth from domestic production to the international circuit. What is conventionally called accumulation by dispossession constitutes precisely this continuous exploitation of national labor forces with a view to the interests of forming the average profit of international capitalism.

Accumulation by dispossession constitutes a historical mechanism for the reproduction of capital based on the appropriation or “dispossession” of previously existing wealth or properties, capable of giving rise to conditions for capital expansion in the face of recurrent crises of capitalism. This form of accumulation refers to the preconditions for the development of the capitalist mode of production, which Marx called primitive accumulation of capital. What is historically posed is that the conditions for the reproduction of capital in the imperialist center require a continuous “colonial” expansion or reinvention of “neocolonial” processes.

These forms of dispossessing accumulation are very diverse, but they have a common point: they are mechanisms of a high degree of social and environmental degradation. In this way, the exploitation of natural resources and mineral neo-extractivism are quite characteristic of a high-scale exploration process. Here are five points to clarify:

(i) The return on capital worldwide has been declining since the 1970s (see data at:, which required growing regions or accumulation boundaries continually being established. As classical Marxism observed, neocolonialism has the function of solving the problems of profitability and gains of central capitalism.

(ii) Since the end of the former USSR, capitalism has returned to a form of international interaction very close to that existing in the 1970th century, that is, colonial and neocolonial relations are part of the imperialist rule. It is worth noting that after the second war, US imperialism sought a more “cordial” form of interaction with a portion of peripheral regions, the Brazilian case being a central example, something that came to an end and defined, since the XNUMXs, a new neocolonial order.

(iii) Dependency as an international economic order has established patterns of financial subordination over the last seventy years. The transfer of values ​​oscillates along the historical path, being greater in moments of greater crisis of profitability in the central countries, especially in the 1990s and now the interests of imperialist rentier accumulation impose a greater bleeding of values ​​and wealth of the peripheral countries, which Brazil constitutes a fundamental territorial base for a greater transfer of values.

(iv) The partial solution to the decline in the profitability of capital in central countries is the increasing transfer of values ​​from the periphery, something that in previous decades was theoretically questioned, but the data and the very way in which capitalism has been conformed in the last twenty years left this form of value transfer as something little debatable.

(v) Finally, accumulation by dispossession has become a central phenomenon in Brazilian daily life. As a historical “dejá-vu”, we return to the Brazilian colonial center: basically we produce and export ores, soybeans, corn and coffee. A curious return to the colonial form, the problem is that we are now an urban society of more than two hundred million people, something that cannot be maintained sovereignly only with this simple form of social reproduction.

In the last six decades we have had at least three waves of “accumulation by dispossession” in Brazil. The dispossession of personal or public income has become a central point of the logic of gains in national and foreign capitalist rentism, and this dispossession manifests the crisis order of capitalism since the 1970s, but at an increasing pace of violence.

Even during the period of the military-business dictatorship, we had the first wave of dispossession. The military, through the FGTS legislation (Law No. 5.105 of 1966) which meant a first liberal reform against work, deepened the precarious conditions of labor relations, sanctioning the logic of overexploitation of the Brazilian workforce, a fundamental form of dispossession for relations between Brazilian peripheral capitalism and the US and European imperialist center.

It is worth noting that the “technique” of extracting surplus value based on the pure and simple dispossession of the worker, something that is established via compression of the average wage rate in various ways, such as the use of inflation, union repression and police violence . The Brazilian military and its civilian cronies were definitely one of the first neoliberal forces in Latin America, predating Pinochet's own Chilean fascist experiment.

It is also important to draw attention to the Mineral Code of 1967 and still in force today, including the reinforcement of more recent legislation, whose central characteristic is the complete transfer of the so-called mining rights to private interests, establishing complete control of the so-called mineral rents and the transfer of wealth to big international and national capital.

The presence of international capital in the mineral extractive industry dates back to the 1950s, including in the Brazilian Amazon, which established the close interaction between the control of mineral production by large international industrial and financial groups, and the complex condition of an economic dynamism solely centered on in extractivism with low capacity to radiate development to other sectors of the local economy, fulfilling, basically, the function of expropriating large liquid masses of material values ​​and transferring them to the reproductive circuit of international capital, considering that the Amazonian mines of iron, manganese , gold, bauxite (aluminium) and other strategic minerals guarantee the large mining companies differentiated profitability conditions.

The second wave of dispossession took place with the privatization of Companhia Vale do Rio Doce and Telebrás in the 1990s and under the FHC government, the well-known “privataria toucana”. CVRD was “donated” for three billion reais, something the company earned in just three months of revenue. But that's not all, CVRD as a state-owned company controlled three railway routes, the largest in the country and a considerable portion of the Brazilian subsoil that was transferred to the interests of transnational capital. The transfer of wealth is part of the logic of uneven development, enabling relative stability in the capitalist center, where central capital assimilates extraordinary gains produced in the periphery, at the cost of the misery and death of the “southern” peoples.

The English geographer David Harvey defines “accumulation by dispossession” as a historical mechanism of reproduction of capital capable of venting the conditions of accumulation in the face of recurrent crises of capitalism, which leads us to the hypothesis that the conditions of reproduction of capital require a continues “colonial” expansion or reinvention of “neocolonial” processes. The second wave of dispossession took place in a much more radical way: a gigantic portion of wealth accumulated over sixty years was expropriated, both in the case of CVRD and the Telebrás/Embratel System. We can suggest that the Brazilian neoliberal process of the 1990s was, together with the dismantling of the former Soviet Union and the radical dispossession that took place there, the two most violent processes of accumulation by dispossession at the end of the last century.

The third wave of dispossession develops after the 2016 coup d'état. It is worth noting that the logic of accumulation by dispossession did not stop at any moment, but the gradation and virulence of the wealth transfer process are gradual and linked to the interests of profitability of the capital of the central countries, even though in the case of the Public Debt, as already discussed by us in another article, it is continuous.

The current cycle of dispossession is established in three central formats: (a) firstly, the privatization of all public companies, especially the electricity sector, due to the mass of fixed capital involved and the “payback” time that allows transfer gains and securities securitization. The privatization of Petrobrás and Eletrobrás will be the biggest movement of privatization and theft of public wealth in the current cycle of global dispossession.

(b) According to the denationalization of land and natural resources, something that makes what happened in Russia in the 1990s something small. Thus, we will have both the expulsion and death of traditional populations, and the fate of huge areas of public land destined for speculation and exploitation by international groups. Elon Musk's arrival and negotiations prepare this gigantic round of dispossession, something that could lead to the undoing of the very idea of ​​a Brazilian nation.

(c) Third, as part of the continuity of the intense social dispossession that is taking place, we have the dismantling of all social rules and, via EC 95/16, the transfer of public funds to interests that control the tax base of the State, via debt state-owned.

The picture shown so far is quite gloomy, but the reality actually reveals a very critical context. What to do is the question so often asked throughout our history. Stopping looting and dispossession seems to be a first and necessary move by social forces, whether organized or not. If we do not have this ability, we will probably move towards the hypothesis listed above of undoing the very idea of ​​the Brazilian nation. Time is short!

*Jose Raimundo Trinidad He is a professor at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences at UFPA. Author, among other books, of Agenda of debates and theoretical challenges: the trajectory of dependence (Paka-Armadillo).



Karl Marx. Capital: critique of political economy, book 1. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2013 [1867].

David Harvey. the new imperialism. São Paulo: Loyola, 2008.

Ernest Mandel. late capitalism. So Paulo: Nova Cultural, 1985.

Jose Raimundo Trinidad. Six decades of state intervention in the Amazon. Bethlehem: Paka-Tatu, 2014.

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