On the night of the last 24th – Christmas Eve – a group of people threw two Molotov cocktails at the headquarters of the producer of the humor channel Porta dos Fundo. The next day, a group that calls itself the "Nationalist Popular Insurgency Command of the Brazilian Integralist Family" took responsibility for the attacks in a video posted on social networks.
On the other hand, the Brazilian Integralist Front published a note stating that it has no connection to the incident or the other group that claims to be integralist. According to them, one of the principles of Integralism is transparency, which does not match the masks worn by the perpetrators of the attack.
In the midst of confusion lies the question: what is integralism? The movement was founded in October 1932. It had great strength throughout the 1930s, but was losing relevance from the 1940s.
Integralism is not exactly a unique group of people, but an ideology. In general terms, it is a far-right doctrine that preaches ultranationalism, conservatism, defense of Christian values and unity of the Brazilian people. On October 7, 1932, the writer and politician Plínio Salgado launched the October Manifest, which brings together all the principles of integralism.
Any resemblance to fascism is no mere coincidence. The international context of Nazifascism inspired integralism not only in the ideals but also in the symbolism of the movement. The greeting among the Integralists was right-handed and very Heil Hitler. The difference is that the Brazilians shouted Anauê, a Tupi word meaning "you are my brother".
It doesn't stop there. The main symbol used by integralists to this day is the sigma, a Greek letter that represents summation, living up to the idea of unity of the Brazilian people. Italian fascism used a bundle (hence the name) of sticks to represent the same idea – unity and fraternity.
Even with the growth of ideology, integralism still had no direct influence on government. That was when the figure of Getúlio Vargas emerged. Although not integralist, Vargas nodded to authoritarianism and conservatism, creating proximity to the values of the movement.
In 1937, the Integralists supported the coup of the Estado Novo, which decreed the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas. According to Odilon Caldeira Neto, professor of Contemporary History at UFJF (Federal University of Juiz de Fora), the movement's leaders saw the opportunity to gain government positions and even turn the regime into integralist.
But the shot backfired. When Vargas took office, he neutralized the integralists and extinguished all political parties. In 1938, the movement attempted to strike a coup, which became known as the Integralist Uprising. Unsuccessfully.
… And decay
It was from this moment that the movement began to lose strength. From 1945, with the end of World War II, fascist ideology became (very) badly regarded. For integralists, it was no longer interesting to be associated with a failed anti-Semitic regime.
Even so, the movement was still cohesive. At that time, all integralism was centered on the figure of Plínio Salgado, its founder. It was not until 1975, with the death of the leader, that the movement began to fragment.
Integralists had to reorganize and think of strategies to continue existing without their main figure. That was when they began to split into smaller groups with divergent ideas and values. Some remained more conservative to traditional integralism, while others added new concepts to the movement, but this pulverization led to a near disappearance of integralism.
And even after so long, there are still integralists in Brazil?
The movement never completely "died". It still exists through smaller groups, but without great political force. In 2004, the Brazilian Integralist Front, the most prominent group today.
But he is not the only one. The video in response to the Porta dos Fundo attack shows that there are still other integralists scattered throughout Brazil. In the past, some have even approached violent groups such as skinheads.
However, current groups still need to put some issues in the balance. While seeking to uphold the values of the original movement, it is important to keep some distance from some fascist discourses, as the apology for Nazifascism is a crime in Brazil.
Despite not having the political strength to form a party today, Professor Caldeira Neto points out that integralism is inserted in a context of neo-fascism insurgency around the world and contributes to the increase of political radicalism.