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The Integralists were a fascist political movement in Brazil, formed in 1932 by Plinio Salgado and effectively defunct after the "Pajama Putsch" of 1938. Salgado was inspired by the Fascist movement in Italy, and like the Italian fascists did not include racism as part of the Integralist program. In fact, the slogan of the Integralists was "Union of all races and all peoples", which was more suitable to Brazil's rich mix of races and ethnic groups. The movement's political party, Brazilian Integralist Action (AIB) played a prominent role in the ascension to power of Getulio Vargas.

Superficially, the Integralists were identical to the Fascists and Nazis. There was a paramilitary organization with green-shirted uniforms, highly-regimented street demonstrations, and rhetoric against Marxism and liberalism. However, aside from the lack of a racist policy, the Integralists viewed nationalism as a shared spiritual identity in the context of a heterogeneous, tolerant nation influenced by Christian values enforced by the State. This made them more similar to Irish blueshirts or the Catholic traditionalists who eventually made up the bulk of the Falange under Franco; like the Falange, the AIB was primarily a party of the bourgeoisie that also enjoyed support in the military, particularly among Navy officers.

At this point it's necessary to review Brazilian politics of the 1930s. President Getulio Vargas had by 1935 carefully pulled the teeth of the Left by co-opting many of their demands. He had instituted a New Deal-style social welfare policy, and his 1934 Constitution formalized the corporatist evolution of Brazilian society by increasing workers' rights under the law while buying off the industrialists with protective tariffs. As in Italy, Vargas had successfully trumped class warfare with nationalistic populism, all the more so since his presidency, born of the 1930 coup d'etat, had begun as a revolt of the urban bourgeoisie and junior military officers against the stagnant and corrupt Old Republic, tied as it was to the cafe com leite system that effectively allowed Sao Paulo to dominate the country, with some input from Minas Gerais.

The Integralists reached their peak of power between 1935 and 1938. Attracting much support from the German and Italian ethnic communities, the AIB took to the streets against the Communists throughout the early 1930s with the approval of President Vargas and eventually, the legal backing of the Brazilian Congress, which passed a national security act in March 1935 that allowed the President to proscribe not only the Communists but their allies on the left (socialists, liberals, and progressive), some of whom were the same junior military officers who had taken part in the 1930 coup that brought Vargas to power. Having already resorted to military force in the 1920s and failed, the Communists were reluctant to try again, but in November 1935 they and the rest of the ANL tried to ignite a popular uprising. Vargas and the Integralists, who had become the new mass movement behind what was becoming the Estado Novo, crushed the rebellion savagely. This would be the effective end of the political left in Brazil for forty years.

At this point, the Integralists felt that they were close to being able to take power in Brazil. With the elimination of the Communists, there was no other political movement with its own paramilitary forces. However, Vargas had his own plans for Brazil that did not include the AIB or Plinio Salgado; while the latter's Presidential aspirations were well-known, Vargas intended to keep that job for himself. In November of 1937, the government alleged that a Communist plot against the government had been discovered. Vargas dismissed the Congress and declared the establishment of the Estado Novo. A new constitution was proclaimed giving judicial and legislative power to the President, and dissolving all political parties including the AIB. The Integralists struck back in the "Pajama Putsch" of May 1938, in which their paramilitary forces staged a late-night assault on the Presidential Palace in order to depose Vargas. Military and police units reacted swiftly, however, and put down the coup attempt with only twenty killed.

The failure of the "pajama putsch" and the legal dissolution of the AIB marked the end of Integralism as a force in Brazilian politics. Salgado would re-form the AIB as the Party of Popular Representation (PRP) in 1945, but while preserving the ideology, the PRP did away with the paramilitary trappings. It would last until 1965, when the military junta dissolved all political parties. Most of the members joined ARENA, the party of the junta. Individual Integralists scattered to all points of the political compass; some would be part of the military junta that removed President Goulart in 1960, and some would serve in Goulart's administration. Perhaps the most well-known of the Integralists was Dom Helder Camara, who became Archbishop of Recife and Olinda, but is better known as one of the seminal figures of liberation theology.


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