MAB: The Tipping Point Must Be the Point of No Return


We live in a moment of deep global crisis. Through the open veins of Latin America, the people’s blood is draining even more.

Thirty years of neoliberalism have shown that capitalism is in constant crisis, to which the mainstream responses are nothing but quick fixes that demand the relativization of democracy and more and more exploitation of people and nature.

The recent transformation of capitalism to a digital financialized model have not taken away the material need for the capitalist energy model. This model is based on the demand for high rates of profitability, requires the overexploitation of workers, the extraction of surplus value from social reproduction, and the economic advance on nature. It is marked by highly concentrated private capital, with international control in the hands of large corporations, generating an unequal production of maldistributed wealth and the destruction of essential natural systems. Capitalism in its neoliberal phase continues to reinforce the process of unrestricted accumulation and the priority of capital over nature and all spheres of life, reinforcing its power over states and their sovereignty.

In Latin America, the imperial power of the United States is developing a brutal offensive in which transnational corporations (TNCs) play a key role. In the last period, we have suffered the blockade of Cuba and Venezuela and the threat of military aggression against Venezuela, coups d’état in Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia, as well as extensive manipulation of electoral processes across Latin American, in which both the US state and TNCs were clearly protagonists. The current trajectory almost everywhere in Latin America is a move away from democracy, toward a no less capitalist fascism and authoritarianism, with harsher austerity for the people and bailouts for the market. The fight against TNCs today requires, more than ever, the development, promotion and defence of a popular political project that allows us to dispute not only the territorial, but the political arena in an anti-capitalist, anti-racist, feminist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist perspective rooted in class struggle.

In just reaction to this policy of destruction of life, the populations affected by these enterprises have organized. One of these organizations, with a history of more than three decades of resistance, is the Movement of People Affected by Dams in Brazil (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens, or MAB), and more recently the Movement of People Affected by Dams in Latin America (Movimiento de Afectados por Represas, MAR) that brings together organizations from 20 Latin American countries. It is from this place of political organization that we build our practical action.

The history of MAB and MAR is marked by the struggle for a popular energy project and the rights of affected populations in Brazil, which led to a profound reflection on the country’s energy model. This work led to the conclusion that if we follow the existing paradigm, we will lose our natural and human habitats, and we will be hungry, even though we live in a nation among the world’s wealthiest in water, oil, gas and minerals.

The solutions presented by capitalism do not solve our problems. If we think about the debate over the use of alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and even hydroelectric dams, it is clear none of them alter the condition of intense deterioration of nature. This is because they do not change the dynamics of the energy model. On the contrary, they maintain the structure of inequality, as they do not question the economic orientation for maintaining profit, in favor of a “development” paradigm that the planet does not support.

In this sense, we need a radical transformation process, and the central debate is about changing the model. Let’s go further and think about alternatives to production modes, social projects, alternatives to development models and popular energy projects. That is how we built our first statement regarding the need to speak of an energy model as the primary reflection, before thinking of an energy mix. If we do not discuss the values and principles that presuppose production, the organization of work and circulation as a model, we can adopt “renewable” energy sources like hydroelectric generation without challenging the perversity of existing social and environmental structures . Even though solar and wind energy are drawn from other natural sources, they can also be accompanied by unequal access and distribution of wealth.

The important questions are: Energy for what? For whom? And how? We have worked for the past 15 years to study and understand the structure on which the capitalist model of generation, distribution and commercialization of energy is based. We have thought boldly about the possibility of building another society, through profound structural change and through the construction of other social relations among human communities and between humanity and the notion of nature. We want a social model with a high degree of human development along with adequate environmental sustainability, based on principles and values different from those prevailing in contemporary society, through which we can ensure that nature and people can reproduce with dignity.

The second key element of this project is the construction of the historical subjects that carry it forward. In Latin America, we built MAR and joined other movements affected by the energy model to resist the extractive offensive and the construction of dams, allowing us to carry out articulated and more effective actions against large projects and companies. Each man, woman, youth and child can understand the contradictions of the current model, and contribute to an emancipatory process of liberation in a cooperative, collective way. It is worth noting that for us, both the rupture of current social relations and the coming transformation depends on the recovery of a feminist perspective. This is an exercise at local, national, regional and global scales, feeding back emancipatory processes and transforming the dynamics so intertwined in relations of global oppression.

At the core of these efforts is an articulation with energy workers’ unions, who are also affected by the model. We have coordinated with oil workers, electricians, urban workers, education workers and the water sector, youth organizations to organize the Water and Energy Workers and Peasants Platform (Plataforma Operaria Camponesa da Água e Energia,or POCAE). In the heart of this, we managed to build our popular energy project, with which we can test our plans for energy model transition.

There are a wide variety of existing initiatives in different countries, taking advantage of natural sources available for the decentralized and community-controlled production and distribution of energy, ensuring greater autonomy for local people. Examples include biogas generation, solar panel installation, small hydroelectric power plant construction, the production of solar energy under reservoirs, all organized cooperatively and ensuring local yields, production, distribution, and the reduction of environmental impacts.

These initiatives show that educational and popular organization processes strengthen emancipatory energy generation alternatives, albeit on a smaller scale. They prove that the connection between workers and their product of their work allows greater opportunity to rethink consumption practices. It is integrated into the production, circulation and consumption of those affected by the existing energy model.

Consequently, it is urgent and necessary to expand and unite existing and potential struggles, and take up the challenge of developing a strategy for our AbyAyla that transcends borders. It is time to defend the organizational and political initiatives that strengthen this project of social and cultural transformation, to defend the struggle of popular and union movements, and to encourage youth to engage and share in this dream. We are in a moment of resistance, but we have “faith in life, faith in humans, faith in what will come.”

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Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens

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