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The famous Integralist salute, "Anauê!", which means "you are my brother!" (believed by some to have originated in a Tupi language expression)
Integralist banner

Brazilian Integralism (Portuguese: Integralismo brasileiro) was a Brazilian political movement created in October 1932. Founded and led by Plínio Salgado, a literary figure who was relatively famous during the 1922 Modern Art Week, the movement had adopted some characteristics of European mass movements of those times, specifically of the Italian fascism, but differentiating itself from some forms of fascism in that Salgado did not preach racism (they even had as their slogan: "Union of all races and all peoples"). The name of the party was Ação Integralista Brasileira (AIB, Brazilian Integralist Action); the reference to Integralism mirrored the choice of name for a traditionalist movement in Portugal, Integralismo Lusitano. For its symbol, the AIB used a flag with a white disk on a royal blue background, with an uppercase sigma (Σ) in its center.



Plínio Salgado, Integralist leader

In its outward forms, Integralism looked as a copy of European fascism: a green-shirted paramilitary organization with uniformed ranks, highly regimented street demonstrations, and rhetoric against Marxism and liberalism. However, it differed markedly from it in specific ideology: a prolific writer before turning political leader, Salgado interpreted human history at large as an opposition between "materialism" - understood by him as the normal operation of natural laws guided by blind necessity - as opposed to "spiritualism": the belief in God, in the immortality of the soul , and in the conditioning of individual existence to superior, eternal goals. Salgado advocated, therefore, the harnessing of individual interest to values such as pity, self-donation and concern to others[1]. For him, Human history consisted in the eternal struggle of the human spirit as against the laws of nature, as expressed by the atheism of modern society in the twin forms of liberalism and socialism - capitalist competition leading eventually to the merger of private capitals in a single state-owned economy[2]. Therefore the fact that the integralists favoured nationalism as a shared spiritual identity[3], in a context of heterogeneous and tolerant nation influenced by "Christian virtues" - such virtues being concretely enforced by means of an authoritarian government enforcing compulsory political activity under the guidance of an acknowledged leader[4]. Integralism, therefore, had as its specific character the religious, traditional Catholic roots of its totalitarian ideology[5] - something akin to the contemporary Irish blueshirts. Like the European fascists, Integralists were essentially middle class. In particular, they drew support from military officers, especially in the Brazilian Navy.

Integralism being a mass movement, there were marked differences in ideology among its leaders under the influence of various international fascist and quasi-fascist contemporary movements, as in the issue of anti-Semitism: Salgado was more or less indifferent to it, while Gustavo Barroso, the party's chief doctrinnaire after Salgado, was known for his militant antisemitic views, being the translator into Portuguese of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as the author of various antisemitic works of his own (Judaism, Freemasonry and Communism; Sinagogues in São Paulo)[6]. This led to at least two serious ruptures in the movement: one in 1935 and the other, 1936, when Plínio almost renounced leadership of the movement.

One of the most important principles in an Integralist's life was the "Internal Revolution", or "Revolution of the Self", through which a man was encouraged to stop thinking only for himself, and instead start to integrate into the idea of a giant integralist family - becoming one with the Homeland, while also leaving behind selfish and "evil" values.

Attitudes of the Vargas regime

A 1937 Integralist propaganda poster that imitates the antologic Uncle Sam poster. The caption reads "Brazil needs you! Without Integralism, there is no Nationalism"

In the beginning of the 1930s, Brazil went through a strong wave of political radicalism. The government led by President Getúlio Vargas had a degree of support from workers because of the labor laws he introduced, and competed with the Communist Party of Brazil for working class support. In the face of communist advances, Vargas turned towards establishing the integralist Estado Novo, the only mobilized base of support on the right, building upon his intensive crackdown against the Brazilian left. With center-left tendencies out of the Vargas' coalition and the left crushed, Vargas gradually started seeking to co-opt the popular movement to attain a widespread support base.

Integralism, claiming a rapidly growing membership throughout Brazil by 1935, especially among the German-Brazilians and Italian-Brazilians (communities which together amounted to approximately one million people), began filling this ideological void. In 1934, the Integralists targeted the Communist movement led by Luiz Carlos Prestes, mobilizing a conservative mass support base engaging in street brawls. In 1934, following the disintegration of Vargas' delicate alliance with labor, and his new alliance with the AIB, Brazil entered one of the most agitated periods in its political history. Brazil's major cities began to resemble the 1932-33 street battles in Berlin between the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands and the National-Socialist German Workers' Party. By mid-1935, Brazilian politics had been drastically destabilized.

Crackdown and legacy

When Vargas established full dictatorial powers under the Estado Novo in 1937, he turned against the movement. Although AIB favored Vargas' hard right turn, Salgado was overly ambitious, with overt presidential aspirations that threatened Vargas' grip on power. In 1938, the Integralists made a last attempt at achieving power, by attacking the Guanabara Palace during the night, but police and army troops arrived at the last minute, and the ensuing gunfight ended with around twenty casualties. This attempt was called the Integralist Assault and the Integralist Pajama Putsch.[7]

AIB disintegrated after that failure in 1938, and some years later Salgado founded the Party of Popular Representation (PRP), which maintained the ideology of Integralism, but without the uniforms, salutes, signals, and signs. In 1964, many of the former members of Brazilian Integralist Action took part in the military coup that overthrew João Goulart; the Catholic bishop and famous socialist D. Hélder Câmara and the Brazilian leftist Leonel Brizola were both former integralists. Today, there are very small and powerless groups in Brazil which upholds the integralist tradition.


  1. ^ Cf. Ricardo Benzaquém de Araújo, Totalitarismo e Revolução: o Integralismo de Plínio Salgado, Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 1988, ISBN 85-85061-83-9 , pages 30/32
  2. ^ Benzaquém de Araújo, Totalitarismo e Revolução, 33 &46/48
  3. ^ Benzaquém de Araújo, Totalitarismo e Revolução, 57
  4. ^ Benzaquèm de Araújo, Totalitarismo e Revolução, 71
  5. ^ Benzaquém de Araújo, Totalitarismo e Revolução, 82/83
  6. ^ Philip Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, pp. 25-26; on Barroso's translation of the Protocols and antisemitic works, see Luiz Mario Ferreira Costa, "Gustavo Barroso e a Casa Do Brasil", page 8, available at [1]
  7. ^ R.S. Rose (2000), One of the Forgotten Things: Getúlio Vargas and Brazilian Social Control, 1930-1954, Westport: Greenwood, p. 86.  

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