The most of us would probably put Russia at the leading position on the list of countries where antifas have the hardest life. However the interview with Dement – brasilian punk and antifascist – reveals that Brasil could hold this title as well. Interview is published to draw attention to new Czech movie “Message from Dement”.
Most people in Europe, when they think about Brazil, would probably never associate it with neo-Nazi violence. Can you tell us little about what is happening in Brazil?
Brazil is a huge country. When we talk about neo-Nazis, it is mainly the reality of the state of Sao Paulo and the states further south that have a strong tradition of Italian, German and European immigration. This phenomenon is not so strong in Rio or in northern parts of the country. But in big cities in south, like Sao Paulo or Curitiba, you can easily find these people. Unfortunately, the extreme right has been growing fast in last couple of years. There are many neo-nazi gangs in Sao Paulo. Nowadays, there are at least eight large neo-Nazi gangs operating in Sao Paulo.
Why do you think the Nazis are growing?
When there was a center-right goverment, the punk movement was really strong in Brazil. When goverments changed, which was something more than 10 years ago, extreme right started to grow. This is connected with the fact that the goverment is so corrupt and many young people started to associate left-wing politics with corruption and started to radicalize to the right. Sure, this mentality is stupid, but the fact remains that they are growing ever since.
When you talk about Brazilian nazi gangs could you tell us something more about their ideology?
This really depends on the particular gang. When you talk about the old school bonehead gangs like Carecas do ABC or Carecas do Suburbio, their roots lay in Integralismo, which was a Brazilian fascist and nationalist movement back in the 30's. They were always nationalists and fascists, but they have black members as well as people from the north-east. They were never against them. On the other hand they have always hated gay people, Jews, communists, anarchists, punks... Then in the late 80's, strictly white power gangs emerged. These would never allow a black or nordestino to be one of them. They were strictly white.
So the roots of Brazilian neo-Nazi movement are strictly in skinhead subculture?
You know, bonehead gangs were very low in activity through the 90's, during that times punk was really strong. Also the internet was adopted quite slowly in Brazil so until the end of millenium, all the punks in Brazil were anarchists or extreme left and all the skinheads were extreme right. We did not even know this concept of SHARP or RASH skinheads exists before, as well as we did not know about Nazi Punks. In early 2000's as the internet spreaded and the government changed, nazi punks or punks close to fascists started to emerge and hang out with white power gangs. At the same time left-wing skinheads like RASH, or SHARP started to appear. This is something very new to us, it started about 10 years ago. There is a really old punk scene here in Brazil. The first punk bands started in 1978 during the military dictatorship. So it was really hard for all of us to understand this new reality. It took us some time to look into the mirror and realize that not all punks are anarchists and not all the skinheads are Nazis. When the government changed they came back, and became much stronger than ever before. Especially here in Sao Paulo and in Curitiba. Here, they are really strong.
Is there a typical social profile of a Brazilian Nazi or his target?
Not really, it is all mixed. They are not much political, they are just violent and stupid. Nazis in Brazil are tied strictly with skinhead subculture. They now have some people who try to act more political and break these ties, but they are all originally boneheads. These people are mostly of European descent, from conservative families, but not all of them. Many of them are mixed race and from poor families. Because of this hypocrisy, they especially hate and target gay people. They kill gay people here in Sao Paulo.
You know, these guys are cowards, there are millions of black people in Brazil and they are not brave enough to openly attack them. They are not strong enough for this. Same thing is with people from the north-east of Brazil, especially here in Sao Paulo which is full of them. If a Nazi gang runs into one or two of them, sure they might attack them, but they are not their primary target. Their main target are gays, street kids and homeless people, they kill a lot of them. Of course if they are in a large group they also try to attack other targets, such as punks or antifas. We have always had many fights between punks and fascists, but now it became an open war between us. We have people being stabbed, seriously injured or dying all the time. This happens all the time. As you can see in the movie, this happend to Johni but short after that it happend also to other people. Nazis killed one antifascist recently in Curitiba and antifas killed one of their own. In Sao Paulo they have stabbed another guy, which appears in the movie. They have stabbed him at least ten times. Now one of these Nazi scums is in the hospital with several broken bones.
Is police doing something about the Nazi violence?
No. A huge problem here is that they kill people all the time and they do not go to jail. And if they go, nothing really happens to them. When you look into Johni's case, there were at least ten murderers on their side. In the fight itself there was about 50 people on each side, but out of fifty it was ten of them who murdered him. And from these ten people only one is charged and he is now walking free. He has spent about a year in prison and now he is awaiting the verdict in March.
Do you think this is caused by their incompetence or their sympathy to the cause?
Mix of both. It is incompetency as well as support from the police. We have experienced this many times. I remember when we were marching with Johni and other punk rockers, protesting against a military parade and the nazis were waiting for us. There was about 40 of us, both boys and girls and around 120 of nazis. They were chasing us, armed with knives and other weapons, and police was just watching and did nothing. After a while they started to detain some of us, so I came to a cop and asked him: „Why are you arresting us and not them? We do not have any weapons, we did not attack anybody. You have seen it yourselves, these guys are armed and attacked us in front of everyone.“ I even showed the policeman some of them who had weapons on them, but they did nothing. Same thing happened when Johni was killed and they were investigating the murder scene. They ran into the guys nearby. There were about 40 neo-Nazis, the cops stopped them and then they realeased them without even checking they IDs.
Are there any cops who are directly involved with the neo-Nazi gangs?
There are few Nazis who are cops themselves, so sometimes it is easy for them to escape. It is their dream job. If police stops them, the cop will come up and say: „Hey, I am just hanging out with friends, we are cool...“ and the police will let them go. The cops are like a corporation, they are loyal to each other. Actually, I will tell you a story that happened to me once. I was arrested during a fight inside the underground station, it was a couple of months before they killed Johni, and the police took us to the station and released us after a while. But three days later information about me appeared on a Nazi internet forum, and the guy who posted my address wrote there: „It is so good to be a cop, ain't it?“
What is the perception of this violence by the public?
You know, Brazilians are too calm, in a bad way, we really take too long time to react. And most people do not get involved in anything that does not seem to be their business. This is one of the reasons why you see Sao Paulo flooded by Nazis. It is paradox situation, since Sao Paulo is full of black people and people from the north, but they are all too busy with keeping their job and they do not have time to realize these things. Youth in big cities have different perception of this, because if you go out and go clubbing, you can see the reality. But if you are older and you just move between your job and your home, you simply do not care. That is why they are strong, they are using this fact as an advantage.
When we talk about Brazil, we can’t skip talking about football. Is this something that is involved?
When you are talking about a skinhead culture, you are of course talking about hooligan culture, about torcidas. This goes on both sides - left or right wing. But there are no strong direct links between football and politics. Sure you could say that most carecas support Palmeiras club, since it was founded by Italians, but you have many many of them also in clubs like Corinthians that actually has left-wing roots. Link between the politics and football is definitely not so clear or strong as it is in Europe. But we have an anarchist football club here in Sao Paulo called Autonomos!
Are there any historic ties between the Nazis and the military dictatorship? And on the other hand are there links between antifascists and revolutionary movements from 70's?
The Nazis are for sure strongly influenced by the military dictatorship. They are even trying to revive the old pro-dictatorship ARENA party nowadays. The military dictatorship would be an ideal state for all these types. So yes, they would like to try bringing it back. When it comes to us, it is slightly more complicated, it is kind of a one-way experience. We support the people who fought in the 70's against the military dictatorship and we admire them for this, but we have nothing in common with them. We are much more anarchists rather than communists. I would say they do not even recognize us as a political force, they are too old for that. Most of them are living in other reality, they are either established in politics or really old, and the majority of the good ones is dead. Maybe if Carlos Marighella lived, he would support us. Yes, I would say he would love us :) Let's stop talking about Nazis and talk about the Antifa a little bit.
Can you tell us something about your political views? Would you describe yourselves as anarchists?
Yes, I would say so. Most of the antifas and most of RASH skinheads have roots in punk. The situation in Brazil is very different from the situation in Czech Republic. We have roots basically only in one subculture, other subcultures do not support us and do not take antifascist stance. We of course agree with many communist ideas, but we are not surely impacted by their totalitarian side. The vast majority of us is anarchists, there are only few people who are communist, supporting Cuban or Russian Bolshevik type of ideology.
Can you tell us how did you start to organize?
One day we went to the military parade I was already talking about, and the Nazis attacked us in a broad daylight. They were beating us in front of media, old people, children and the police didn't do anything. After that we realized that we have to organize ourselves in a different way. Punk movement is huge in Brazil, but it is disconnected. We realized we need to do more that that. When the skinheads attacked us on that day, there were white power skinheads attacking us along with carecas, which are mixed ethnicity nationalists. This was the first time such thing happened. Before that, the white power skins would never shake hands with someone black or from the north. But they somehow got together. And at that moment, when they got together, we knew that we have to get together too.
What are the main problems you are facing?
Antifa is really young in Brazil and we are much more a family than a political organization. At this moment it is much more about protecting your brothers and sisters, rather than something that has a potential to attract someone from outside. There are many people who were punks but joined the other side. And I think this is caused by the fact that many people were not in the scene because of the ideology. In such case when you are surrounded by a larger group, you can easily change sides. When you are really attached to the ideology, when you are in a subculture because of the ideology, you do not change sides. One of the strongest moments in the documentary is the part where you grandma appears.
Can you talk a little bit about this background that formed you?
My grandmother was born in Czechoslovakia to a Jewish family. She, her family and relatives were deported into concentration camps where most of them were murdered. Apart from her, only two cousins survived. They all ended up internated in north Africa from where she and one of the cousins moved to Brazil, while the other one moved to Israel. So I was naturally raised with this mentality that racial prejudice is cancer. I also have a black uncle that was adopted, so we were always taught that people are equal. And this is something common in Brazil. We have Arab people neighbouring with Jewish people and there are no fights. You have blacks living alongside with white peacefully. We are a peaceful culture and that is why I cannot accept this right-wing shit. These are my roots, the rest is mixed between Italian and Portuguese decency.
How do you see your future?
Our main focus at this moment is to keep the scene alive, to keep our people alive. You know, you want to be sure that everyone returns home alive after the concert. I am around in the scene for some 19 years and these are the most violent times I have expeirenced. It causes all the things to change. You have less people around. When you have so much violence happening, a lot of people want to be safe. They do not want to be associated with Antifa, because when you are Antifa, it means street war. Thank you for the interview Dement!
Dement plays in the band Juventude Maldito which will be touring Europe in second half of March. They will apreciate any help with the tour. All raised money goes to legal expenditures.
Anti-fascist Action is preparing limited edition of 100 T-shirts which will be also beneficial for the brasilian anti-fascists. Keep checking our site. Cooming soon !