Looking at the Aginter Press, and the attempted intrigue and neo-fascist contamination by the Far Right, which with Portuguese sponsorship, reached into the anti-revisionist movement involves a transnational look at Switzerland and beyond. The contradictions and weakness of the first Swiss anti-revisionist organisation, the Swiss Communist Party, led by Gerald Bulliard, secretary general of the party, provided an avenue for attempts from the Far Right to infiltrate those international forces engaged in anti-colonial armed struggle in Africa through maoist solidarity activity based in Switzerland. This preliminary attempt to unpick the various strands that are woven into a narrative of far right intrigue draws upon the existing literature in the absence of archival evidence or known Marxist-Leninist analysis.
The French leftist daily Liberation reported disturbing allegations that Portuguese documents reveal journalistic cover of the European press service, “Aginter Press” for an international fascist group. Evidence pointed to Aginter director Yves Guillou, alias Guerin Seracy and another Frenchman, Robert Leroy, as being the principle organizers of many of the bomb explosions in Italy associated with a “strategy of tension” including the one in December 1969 at a Milan bank, leaving sixteen people dead and over one hundred wounded. Several leftists are arrested and charged with the bombings and jail on false convictions.
According to Italian police report, Aginter Press served as a cover for an international fascist organization responsible for the planning and execution of many fascist attacks throughout Europe in the late 1960 early 1970s.
It also link group to bombings and counter insurgency and arms traffic. Liberation reported, an investigation by officers of the Portuguese Armed Forces Movement (MFA) that overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship in April 1974, corroborated the findings of the Italian investigation.
“On the night of May 2l, 1974, the questioning of one PIDE agent revealed that the Lisbon-based Aginter Press Agency had served as a base of support for PIDE, and as a center for the coordination of the activities of related fascist organizations in other countries.”
A searched of the deserted offices of Aginter Press, revealed information and archives on the activities of the agency, as well as facilities for the manufacture of false documents. This archive provided the main source for the prime exploration, the French-language study by Frederick Laurent, L ‘ Orchestre Noir published in 1978 in Paris.
Propaganda and Intrigue
Swiss Maoism was one of the stories Julia Lovell’s interesting global history of Maoism choose not to dwell on.[i] Certainly it was of negligible effect upon Swiss society but there was a disproportionate interest in the early days of the anti-revisionist movement there, not least due to the presence of, what was thought to be, the centre of China’s propaganda effort based in Switzerland, which aroused the interest of state agencies domestically and externally.
Switzerland, in January 1950, was one of the first Western nations to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Switzerland soon became a hub for the PRC’s diplomatic and trade activities throughout Western Europe, and was regarded as the centre of their propaganda effort in Western Europe. [ii]
The Chinese embassies were often the first call for the curious and did have a supportive role in developing friendship diplomacy, answering queries and supplying material on China such as pamphlets and Chinese magazines (and later the Little Red Book) on request. Adverse comments on the implication of Chinese authorities in the functioning of the friendship associations, proved more speculation than evidence about the role of the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland.
In the early 1960s Switzerland had two large Chinese diplomatic establishments – in Berne and Geneva – as well as the offices of Hsinhua (Xinhua News Agency / New China News Agency). The Berne-based staff in the embassy was larger than that in London, and only the Americans and Soviet embassy staffing was larger. Although Knüsel (2020) notes the Chinese staff included its catering and support staff unlike other embassies which used local services. Sections of the Swiss establishment took the view (shared by intelligent agencies) that Switzerland had been selected to play an important role in China’s strategy on the European continent – a position weakened when the Chinese embassy in Paris was established in 1964. By August 1967, as China withdrew its diplomatic staff worldwide, there were only 37 Chinese diplomats and officials left in Switzerland
A domestic factor was the anti-communist hysteria of the time that had shaped Swiss politics reflected in local media comment on the activities of the Chinese embassy. The Zurich weekly, Schweizer Illustrierte alleged
“It is beyond all question that not only is there gross overstaffing in it, but for years subversive and secret service activities have been organised there for a substantial portion of Europe.” (February 17th 1967)
Commenting on the atmosphere of the time, one journalist observed
“Political and cultural life in Switzerland in the 1950s was characterized by a particularly fervent anti-Communism. This position was sustained by Swiss authorities as they promoted “spiritual national defense,” a policy that consisted—in the struggle against Soviet influence—of subsidies for patriotic works of art or essays and the covert prosecution of citizens (in particular, intellectuals and artists) suspected of having Communist sympathies.” [iii]
The “Schweizerische Aufklärungsdienst” (Swiss Enlightenment Service, known by its initials SAD), founded in 1947 as the private successor to a state propaganda organisation, was a key player. SAD members sought to explain the dangers of Communism at lectures and conferences across the country, often with state financing. Only made legal in 1945 the Swiss Labour Party (Partei der Arbeit, or PdA) was mocked as the “Party of Foreigners” (Partei des Auslands) and its members were declared to be the enemy within. Their premises were attacked, several were fired from their jobs, and others were physically assaulted. [iv]
The Berne office of the New China News Agency provided reports, or propaganda as western commentators inevitably described them, for other pro-Chinese publications and interested parties. In 1963 it was commonly referred to as “a centre for the distribution throughout western Europe of Sino-Albanian propaganda”. The local Swiss media would inform its readers:
“This work, which is conducted by international agents for the cause of Mao Tse-Tung, is naturally supplemented in Western Europe by a heavy interlarding of suitable propaganda materials from the translator’s offices of the Chinese missions. But now everybody knows there are only three of them in Western Europe, namely in London, in Brussels, and in Bern.”[v]
The commercial distribution of magazine like Peking Review[vi] lay with local subscriptions agents often associated with the local communist party thus there was some diversification of suppliers to various non-revisionist groups. In Switzerland Nils Andersson, of a small progressive publishing house in Lausanne, played a part in the distribution of Chinese produced pamphlets stating its anti-revisionist case as well as Pekin Information. Andersson had published books censored in France in the midst of the Algerian war, followed by the publication of Mao Tse-tung’s works in French. Accused of subversion, in1967, the Federal Council voted for his expulsion for “endangering the internal and external security of Switzerland”.
The local Swiss media alleged that another group led by Gerard Bulliard had received large subsidies from the Chinese Embassy in Bern for their publication L’Etincelle over a period of fourteen months.[vii] The Zurich weekly Schwezer Illustrierte claimed Bulliard himself had received about £23,800 (286,000 francs), payment ending when he “lost favour” and the Chinese began supporting Nils Andersson.[viii] The Chinese authorities subscribed to hundreds of copies of Andersson’s Octobre publication through the state bookstore for foreign languages. This import of foreign books and periodicals did help to finance the emerging pro-Chinese movement in Switzerland and elsewhere. The Swiss Federal police had intercepted the order from China in its monitoring of the organisation.
Drawing upon Albanian archives Elidor Mehilli made the observation that in the early 1960s
“Albania’s party devised a special hard currency solidarity fund to assist Marxist-Leninists groups around the world. Initially it consisted of 700,000 US dollars. China issued half a million, and the rest came from internal funds. Here was the ruling party of a country that still struggled to feed its inhabitants, projecting itself as a source of revolutionary activism in the Third World and in Western Europe. In 1964, the party Secretariat disbursed money to marginalized Polish Marxist-Leninists; the Belgian Communist Party; the Communist Party of Brazil; the Communist Party of Peru; the Italian Marxist-Leninist paper Nuova Unita; and groups in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Columbia. Activists in Australia and Ceylon were hired as foreign correspondents for the party daily. Small sums also went to a coterie of Marxist-Leninist characters in Paris and London (the short lived Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity), as well as in Vienna. The United States-based Hammer and Steel received modest contributions as well.”[ix]
The visits of foreign Marxist-Leninist to Albania were noted by the security forces: approximately one trip to Albania each year by Swiss Maoists in the period of 1964-1970 and 974-77. These contacts, note Cordoba and Liu, aroused the curiosity of the police and led to a lot of speculation about possible subversion and guerrilla and espionage training camps.[x]
By late 1966, Knüsel (2020) calculates about 50 pro-Chinese organisations were thought to exist in Western Europe. The Embassy in Bern was regarded as been the hub for contact with these organisations, and the Swiss government suspected that the Embassy assisted these groups financially. Chinese officials also collected information about left-wing organisations and their publications.[xi]
Swiss media carried red-scare reports that the Swiss police had proved that the Chinese Embassy in Berne had promoted and supported subversive ventures through Europe. Schweizer Illustrierte alleged that 18 pro-Chinese Austrian communists had been on unspecified training course at the embassy and half a dozen pro-Chinese French communist had been given money and material by the Chinese embassy to split the much larger Moscow-orientated Parti Communiste Français, PCF. (February 17th 1967)
Whereas, unlike the courses provided for some by China’s military training at the Nanjing military academy [see Lovell, Maoism: A Global History] , the Swiss activists annual political pilgrimages to Albania mainly coincided with significant state and party anniversaries and had the character of political tourism with a more familiar itinerary of factories, schools, cultural events and historical monuments. Other visitors, like the Spanish MLs, had a different itinerary and agenda in Albania.
Politicised friendship as expressed in friendship associations saw the creation of pro-regime groupings throughout Europe, often energised by maoist activists but not always controlled by them. Cyril Cordoba and Liu Kaixuan, building upon dissertation work entitled “Beyond the Bamboo Curtain: Sino-Swiss cultural relations and political friendships (1949-1989)”, discusses the implication of Chinese influence in the functioning of the friendship associations, especially the role of the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland. This was never crudely directive rather a more self-correcting mechanism by members seeking “friendship with China”.
The Associations suisses d’amitié avec la Chine in Switzerland which spread “friendship with China”, were unofficial regarded as part of the global Chinese “foreign affairs [waishi]” system that has attracted academic interest in recent years. The friendship associations throughout the world received material from the Chinese export company Guozi Shudian for distribution at generous discounts, if not free and they could use the benefits of the sales and magazines subscriptions as an important source of income. The role of such associations were part of the people-to-people tier of Chinese foreign diplomacy and while reflecting Chinese foreign policy priorities, they were not lobbying or influencers on their local state although occasional strayed into the realm of foreign diplomacy.
An uncritical allegiance to whatever was coming out of China was a characteristic of most of the friendship organisations that reflected the orthodoxy of supportive analysis whether it was from Maoist activists, young radical academics or old cultural friends of China. No Swiss city had a Chinatown or a district with a form of residential concentration, as one can find in Paris or London. Until the 1970s, the Chinese in Switzerland were few and highly qualified, often diplomats, international civil servants or people from wealthy families.
While active and having membership of the wider association, overall their political importance was peripheral – perhaps offering an introduction to the radical left party, and with the debate over three world theory, an audience and outlet for analysis and a substitute for a more overtly political commitment, they were never simply controlled or run by the Maoist organisations.
The Swiss friendship association took on a different character, suffering a severe reduction in membership after the death of Mao due to political disillusionment. Cordoba and Liu (2018) looking at the cooperation and contradictions between local Maoist parties, friendship associations and Chinese authorities conclude that they finally began to depoliticise – although supporting the post-Mao regime – and professionalise themselves from the 1980s , establishing a travel agency in 1983 and engaging in twinning agreements between Swiss and Chinese cities. The association failed to survive the negative influence of the 1989 Tiananmen Square repressions, and officially dissolved in 1992.
[i] Lovell, Julia (2019) Maoism: A Global History. London:Bodley Head
[ii] Ariane Knüsel (2020) ‘White on the outside but red on the inside’: Switzerland and Chinese intelligence networks during the Cold War, Cold War History, 20:1, 77-94, DOI:10.1080/14682745.2019.1575368
[iii] David Eugster (2019) How the Swiss viewed Communism in the Cold War years swissinfo.ch October 2, 2019
[iv] In fact, the extent to which the secret services and police tried to document and monitor supposed political infiltration only became clear at the end of the Cold War. The so-called Secret Files Scandal of 1989 revealed that notes had been made on the politically suspicious behaviour of almost 700,000 people. The focus was not just on communists but on anyone who criticised mainstream society: those with any sort of left-wing tendencies, Greens, alternative thinkers, Third World activists, or feminists. Eugster (2019) How the Swiss viewed Communism in the Cold War years
[v] The Pro-Chinese Communists in Switzerland. Neue Zuercher Zeitung , Foreign Edition #306 (Zurich) November 7th 1963 p13
[vi] The English edition of Peking Review/ now Beijing Review was launched on March 4, 1958. Bi-weekly editions in French and Spanish began fortnighly in March 1963, then Pekin Informa became a weekly from January 1964. (The Spanish edition was discontinued around 2004.) A weekly German edition (called Peking Rundschau) began on Sept. 22, 1964. English language archive at http://www.massline.org/PekingReview/
[vii] The Swiss organisation was not amongst the Marxist-Leninist groups recorded as having sent greetings to the fifth congress of the Party of Labor of Albania held in Tirana early November 1966, and published in a 212 paged booklet from the <Naim Frasheri> Publishing House.
[viii] Schwezer Illustrierte February 17 1967
[ix] “From Stalin to Mao, Albania and the Socialist World”. Cornel University Press 2017 p218. Activity explored when the Albanian archives opened up to western academics such as the aforementioned Elidor Mehilli and see Nicolas Miletitch, ‘Revelations des archives de Tirana’, Cashiers d’histoire sociale #6 (Spring /summer 1996) pp 83-96
[x] Cyril Cordoba and Liu Kaixuan, Unconditional Followers of the PRC? Friendship Associations with China in France and Switzerland, 1950s–1980s in: Europe and China in the Cold War Exchanges beyond the Bloc Logic and the Sino-Soviet Split. Brill 2018 Series: New Perspectives on the Cold War, Volume: 6 p101
[xi] Ariane Knüsel (2020) ‘White on the outside but red on the inside’: Switzerland and Chinese intelligence networks during the Cold War, Cold War History, 20:1, 77-94
Intrigues amongst the Comrades
The fractious origins of the anti-revisionist movement in Europe was reflected in some of the relationship between comrades ostensibly on the same side of the ideological barricades which led, regardless of the subjective calls for unity, to complications in attempts to consolidate the anti-revisionists into an effective expression of international co-operation .
There were multitudes of conflicting relations between ML groups, domestic rivals (as in Switzerland) and internationally as illustrated in July 1975 when Austrian MLs related to the MLPO Marxist-Leninist Party of Austria, raise public criticism of the KPD / ML regarding the distribution in West Germany of “Selected Programs of Radio Tirana” a booklet published by the MLSK-Vienna” .It was available in West Berlin at “practically at all ‘left’ book stores, except the ‘Roter Morgen bookstore’ because the KPD / ML leadership “openly boycott the publication despite a shared allegiance to Albania but part of a wider dispute between the groups.
A decade earlier, in March 1965 L’Etincelle of the Swiss Communist Party stoked up an internecine discord amongst anti-revisionist groups aboard when its supplement announced,
“the Revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist Spanish Communist party (PCERML) had been officially created “by demand of several hundreds of Spanish workers throughout Switzerland, Belgium, France and England… and with the accord of Communists in Spain.”
At the time of the formation of the Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) in the autumn of 1964, the PSC had called “our Spanish comrades” not to adhere to these new groups which pretend to represent them. (L’Etincelle September 1964). The communique issued on behalf of the PCERML stated that the fault lay with Andersson and the Lenin Centre. L’Etincelle (September 1964) warned against “the sweet words and promises of the Centre Lenine.”
“We announced that in October 1964 the soi-disant Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) was created in Geneva…Unfortunately, yet another time some adventurers with a large number of Asiatic credits wanted to deceive and throw powder in the eyes of those who closely follow the situation in Spain, and attempted in this way to harvest funds, of which the receivers would never be Spanish.”
Allegations continued claiming the first pro-Chinese Spanish communist party had been a dismal failure,
“Fortunately, thanks to the vigilance of true Spanish Marxists, the false politicians have been unmasked and will be judged as is necessary by the world’s revolutionaries. A page is turned on this sad event, and the Grippa group, falling apart and in flight, will not disappear from the scene more pitifully than it would have lived with foreign funds.”
L’Etincelle also suggested that a second Marxist-Leninist grouping had arisen in Belgium to challenge the Jacques Grippa-led Communist party.
“A delegation of the Swiss Communist Party, led by our comrade Gerald Bulliard, secretary general of the party, recently visited Brussels” The March edition of L’Etincelle reported, “In our next issue, we will publish the joint declaration drawn up between the leaders of the MOVEMENT OF PROGRESSIVE WORKERS OF BELIGUM (Marxist-Leninists) and our leaders. This meeting was fruitful and contributed to the reinforcing of the fraternal understanding between Belgium and Swiss Marxist-Leninists”
The Swiss Communist Party led by Gerard Bulliard reporting on the creation of an International Revolutionary Front that both the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties were more concerned with “its own national prestige” than defending the world revolution. Expressing sympathy for both Fidel Castro and Enver Hoxha the PSC sought to “join forces with the comrades of several countries and professing different ideologies but sharing identical goals” in the CFIR – Committee for an International Revolutionary Front – founded in Paris in November 1965. [L’Etincelle No,16 January 1966]
There was a swipe at parties who labelled others “as American agents, an expression quite popular these days and the obsession of the gangster Grippa, in Brussels.”
A known incident of infiltration of the anti-revisionist movement concerns Richard Gibson, the Black American journalist, formerly secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in the United States. Besides being responsible for the English-language edition of Revolution associated with Jacques Vergès, Gibson was active as an informer and spy for the CIA.[i]
Such activity to establish an ideal vehicle of infiltration was repeated after Bulliard’s explusion from the SCP and under the name of the PPS Parti Populaire Suisse, Italian investigators named Bulliard as an informer for the Servizio Informazioni Difesa (SID) Italian Secret Service when investigating right-wing terrorism around the Galido phenomenon in 1996.[ii]
“GERARD BULLIARD, former secretary of the pro-Chinese Swiss Communist Party, in contact with the SID from March 1967 to July of that same year, he proposed itself to provide the Service with news on the activities of the pro- Chinese parties in Switzerland and in other European countries, with particular reference to ITALY…. had attended the planning meeting for the foundation on 22-10-1967 in TURIN of the Clandestine Marxist Leninist Revolutionary Front.” [iii]
Busky notes that hopes of forming a “Revolutionary International” had resulted in the establishment of the less ambitious Committee for an International Revolutionary Front, with Bulliard as its secretary.[iv]
The ambition of Bulliard to solidify a network of international groups on the basis of factional activity and without the political support of agreement from China was farcical –Bulliard had complained that “the comrades in Peking would think twice before following certain recommendations by their delegates in luxurious European embassies” – the PSC could not expect recognition or publicity to endorse their actions.
Grippa also complained of China’s lack of distinction between authentic and imposter Marxist-Leninist groups, others were also suspicious of their international colleagues. The British-based activist, William Ash (writing in his 1978 published memoirs) raised the thought that one-time leading European Maoist and veteran communist, Jacques Grippa
“ was quite possibly a Russian agent pretending to be Peking-orientated in order both to mislead…and to render an account to the Kremlin of who the main dissidents were.” [v]
The Belgian party led by Grippa was active in interventions in the arguments of other parties, raising criticism of surrounding revisionist parties in the pages of La Voix du Peuple of the Dutch (March 27 1964) and French (April 10 1964). Attention was also given to the emerging ML groups and judgement was unsparing on the Swiss activities, Grippa complaint to the Albanian authorities of the lack of scrutiny for ideological trustworthiness and proper ML credentials. The Lenin Centre, whose credentials were impressive, countered the slanders from Bulliard published in L’Etincelle (The Spark), dismissing them as:
“..low provocateurs without any liaison either with the Marxist-Leninist International movement or the militant Swiss workers.” [vi]
Building an international network saw pole of attraction move from Brussels, from Switzerland to Paris with the editorial board of the slickly produced pro-Chinese journal, Revolution but eventually falter on the disengagement in such a project from China, Grippa noted ‘in dealing with us, China’s representatives in Europe were not ideological comrades, but bureaucrats, who feared the consequences of contacting with us’. [vii]
Accusations and mistrust in pro-China anti-revisionism in Britain was also evident with the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain (who eventually came out in support of Liu Shao-chi rather than Mao) explaining events through a conspiracy prism as a result of intrigues against them and in favour of all the elements supposedly seeking to disrupt the developing Marxist-Leninist Organisation. As far as this minor English group were concerned, they saw themselves as the victims of “the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic service of the People’s Republic of China [that] were already dominated by counter-revolutionary agents of the Chinese capitalist class long before the “cultural revolution” began.” [viii]
Visitors would come for badges and copies of Mao’s Quotations – the Little Red Book- and talks with Chinese officials. Gaining “recognition” was a time-consuming vanity project for some activists seduced by the euphoria of revolutionary opposition. Good relationships with the office of the Charge d’Affaires and the Hsinhua News provided access to material, prestige and a reflective political vindication. There was another side to the relationship as Muriel Seltman’s memoirs observed:
Like others in the so-called Anti-Revisionist Movement, we regularly visited the Chinese Legation for talks on the progress of the ‘struggle’ in England. There was an element of competitiveness in this, each small group vying for the honour of ‘recognition.’ Again, we did not realise that the personnel at the legation were using us for their own advancement and their political fortunes and jobs depended upon the degree to which they could convince their superiors they were recruiting support in England for the Chinese Party. They were probably assessing the likeliest “winners” in the stakes for a new Communist Party. Everybody behaved correctly, of course, but at this time we had no idea that claiming support from abroad was part of the power struggle in China.” [ix]
There was no mention made in the ‘publication of recognition’, the daily bulletins of the Hsinhua News Agency, of the Conference of Marxist-Leninist Unity held in September 1967, nor of the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain set up by that Conference! Except on one occasion, no invitations to receptions and film-shows at the Office of the Chinese Charge d’Affaires were extended to leading members of the group, and people who had long been on the official invitation list of the Chinese Charge d’Affaires office were dropped from it as soon as their membership in the M.L.O.B. became known.
“It is clearly no accident” claimed the MLOB that an expelled member was closely associated with “the representatives of the People’s Republic of China in London”. Furthermore, “Certain diplomatic representatives of the People’s Republic of China in London went so far as to disseminate verbally slanderous attacks against certain of the leading members of the A.C.M.L.U. and later of the M.L.O.B…. In general, the office of the Charge d’Affaires and the Hsinhua News Agency gave support and publicity respectively to “broad organisations” of friendship with China, such as the “Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, Ltd.” and the “Friends of China”…. an organisation of friendship with China as one to foster support for the faction headed by Mao Tse-tung; it functions, therefore, as a propaganda arm of the Chinese capitalist class in Britain, and also, through its “leftist”, “revolutionary” pronouncements, as a net to catch anti-revisionists and divert them from the developing Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain.” [x]
These feuds and clashes attributed to the rough-and-tumble of politics were, setting aside the conspiracy prism, understandable phenomena but in Switzerland (and as disclosed years later, in the case of the Marxistisch-Leninistische Partij Nederland or MLPN) there were more sinister aspects to the intrigue.
[ii] Daniele Ganser (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge
[iii] SPECIAL CARABINIERI OPERATIONAL GROUPING Criminal proceedings against Rognoni Giancarlo and others. Rome, July 23, 1996
[iv] Busky (2002) Communism in History and Theory: the European experience. Westport: Praeger Publishers. A report by Italian Special Carabinieri Operational Grouping notes the planning meeting for “the foundation of the Clandestine Marxist Leninist Revolutionary Front” on October 22nd1967 in Turin. At the meeting was also present the Swiss Maoist, and source for SID Italian intelligence service, Gerard Bulliard.
[v].Ash, W (1978) A Red Square. London: Howard Baker.
[vi] State spying on dissident groups have a long recorded history, see note xx[vi]
[vii] Marku, Yibel (2017) Sino-Albanian relations during the Cold War, 1949-1978: An Albanian perspective (Doctor’s thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from http://commons.ln.edu.hk/his_etd/11/
[viii] See: Report of the Central Committee of the M.L.O.B. On the Situation in the People’s Republic of China. London: Red Front Special edition, January 1968
[ix] Seltman, Muriel (2010) What’s Left? What’s Right? Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc.
[x] MLOB – Red Front, January 1968
Provocations & Infiltration
‘Red China’s Far Right Friends’ makes for an eye-catching headline, peppered with references to interference from its secretive embassies sponsoring far left activities and you have a classic conspiracy scenario.
The attempt to infiltrate the movement in those moments of factional fighting within it during the earlier stages of its history were real, and in perspective, temporarily successful in the case of the use of the PSC. The argument becomes unstainable, over-extended when construct an interlocking network of relationships to taint a single movement with extensive speculation. There is a picture painted of Far Right infiltration, citing their own publications and using a few examples of actual attempts, as if the exception was the rule.
Flirting with the Left is treated at face value rather than taken as the attempted intoxication and manipulation it tactically represents for the far right activists. A flirtation assumed to be reciprocal, and accepts as factual the Far Right testimony offered, without challenging their printed analysis as an actual reflection of what was happening. As if the ideas expressed by these neo-fascist provocateurs and infiltrators were not questioned, challenged and rejected by the Maoist left at the time. The mainstream interpretations of the relations between Maoists and the Western far right was one of hostile opposition, anti-fascism being one of the active platforms that Maoist militants throughout Europe were engaged evident in any reading of the publications of the time.
An objective presentation of the existing documents and materials, based on the testimonies of the participants and secondary sources is seldom achieved when exploring such topics. A review of the literature has the few examples overstated and repeatedly drawn upon the same source material with a journalistic approach that conditions the narrative.
There is a narrative of a supposed marriage of convenience that side-lines important considerations, and builds upon exceptional incidents to draw a broad conclusion resting on the filmiest of accounts, decontextualized selectivity of the evidence, and subjective desires, their own version of the truth which is not compatible with the others. Compelling evidence is absent, and given the furtive nature of subject unlikely to found.
The use of PSC & the enigma of Bulliard
Gérard Bulliard, expelled from the PvD, as secretary general was the public face of the Swiss Communist Party – PCS created in September 1963.
He had a militant background in Vevey of the Workers Party and Popular Vaudois, section of the Swiss Labor Party, PvD. He had visited Albania in the summer of 1963 before breaking away to establish the PCS. Bulliard had a chequer career in the anti-revisionist movement. Within three months of its founding former members were establishing an alternative, and more successful grouping in the Lenin centre publishing Octobre, and a few months after that Bulliard adopts anti-Chinese positions (whilst remaining anti- CPSU) because of Chinese support for that alternative grouping around the journal Octobre. Described as “Megalomaniac and mythomaniac”, Gérard Bulliard never succeeded in developing his small group, from which he was himself expelled by an “Extraordinary Congress” on May 29, 1967.
The temperamental Bulliard most constant factor, according to the CIA-funded Radio Free Europe, was “a visceral anti-Semitism” speculating which may have eased infiltration by fascists agents. [i]
The subsequent behaviour and politics of Bulliard would suggest a rapid move to the right after his expulsion from the PCS. He therefore continued his activities, from September 9, 1967, in a group called Parti Populaire Suisse – PPS, led by Marc Chantre, and, under the influence of a former French SS, Robert Leroy, will make the PPS an anti-Semitic organization serving as a cover to far-right that would last until media exposure at the end of August 1969.
The PPS publication retained the name of that founded by Gérard Bulliard who had published 29 issues of l’Etincelle, and of which this new number was presented as the continuator. An editorial by Bulliard, which specifies that his new party remains pro-Chinese but that “the most concrete example for us as regards the creation of our socialist society is the German Democratic Republic” where Bulliard has just made, in August, a study trip. This stance should raise questions about his anti-revisionist credentials. The paper also publishes several articles, in particular on” the Angolan revolution “, by Jean-Marie Laurent, presented as an” excellent comrade “and who was in fact a former member of the OAS, working with Robert Leroy in Africa then in Italy.
What was disclosed by research following the 1974 Carnation Revolution was that a Lisbon-based “news agency” Aginter Presse had initiated a series of operations aimed at weakening and destroying guerrilla groups fighting for national liberation in Portuguese Africa. These activities were undertaken at the behest and with the direct assistance of the PIDE/DGS which began in 1966. It was argued that “the infiltration of pro-Chinese [Maoist] organizations and the use of this [leftist] cover was one of the great specialties of Aginter”.[ii]
Aginter Presse correspondents reported
“Pro-Chinese circles, characterised by their own impatience and zeal, are right for infiltration. Our activity must be to destroy the structure of the democratic State under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities; we have already infiltrated some of our people into these groups.”[iii]
Aginter found the vehicle to use, an ostensibly Maoist organization headed by Gerard Bulliard. The Aginter man responsible for arranging this was Robert Leroy. It is alleged that with support from the Chinese embassy in Berne, which was believed to be the Chinese overseas intelligence agency’s main headquarters in Europe, Bulliard was persuaded to hire Robert Leroy and other Aginter personnel as correspondents for L ’Etincelle.
Armed with these credentials, Leroy and Jean-Marie Laurent were able to penetrate “liberated territory”in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique in order to “interview” several African guerrilla leaders. After doing so, they engaged in intoxication operations to provoke dissension within the resistance movements, and Robert Leroy later exercised his talents in Italy.
An article in the Italian weekly news magazine ‘L’Europeo’ (November 1974) on the activities of Aginter Press noted that in Africa it planted people inside the national liberation movements. There is a lengthy document, in the records accessed at Caxias prison, setting out the attempt to spring from a Kinshasa jail one Aginter-Press agent arrested “for Maoist propaganda”. [iv]
Laurent, suggests that in addition to their African ventures, Aginter “correspondents” also infiltrated the Portuguese opposition in Western Europe by posing as Maoist journalists. [v]
The work [vi] of Jeffrey Bale challenges what is a complex narrative which, in one line, is that Bulliard’s party was a genuine Maoist organization which was manipulated by Leroy into providing Aginter operatives with legitimate left-wing credentials. This is what Bulliard himself claimed after the activities of Aginter were exposed in revelations after the Carnation Revolution of 1974.[vii]
However American academic Dr Bale disagrees and suggested that Bulliard was himself a neo-fascist provocateur who had consciously established a phony Maoist party which could be used as a cover by the far right.[viii]
That would raise questions about Bulliard’s previous involvement and commitment in the PvdA: was the PSC an existing agent moving into a potentially more radical stream rather than a duped, and increasingly reactionary personality alien to the maoist movement? Is Bale wrong in his assessment?
Bales draws upon a Swiss source to add to the charge with evidence that Bulliard was working as a paid informant for Marc-Edmond Chantre’s virulently anti-Communist Aktion freier Staatsburger organization in 1964, the very same year he formed the PCS.[ix] Chantre, a former member of the Action Nationale, and his post-war group, (like the Economic League in Britain) compiled a large archive of files on suspected leftists in Switzerland prior to its dissolution. [x]
Furthermore, Bulliard was said to be in contact with Manuel Coelho da Silva (alias “Manuel Rios”), a PIDE/DGS informant within the major anti-Salazarist opposition group, the Comite Portugal Libre in Paris. Adding to the prosecution’s case was that Italian investigators named Bulliard as an informer for the Servizio Informazioni Difesa (SID) Italian Secret Service when investigating right-wing terrorism around the Galido phenomenon in 1996.[xi]
In other words, Bulliard was undoubtedly for Bale a “player” rather than a dupe. At the time the question of whether Bulliard was a deceived naive or an agent of the extreme right from 1963 was not settled. Is this web of connections strong enough to support a judgement either way? The argument that there is evidence that as leader of the PCS, Gérard Bulliard, was in fact a neofascist provocateur, and his party a phony organization brings forth a Scottish judgement of unproven. It may well be that Bulliard was reflecting in his eclectic political practice a cultural legacy of the predominate imperialist social democratic ideology of Swiss society.
[i] Kevin Devlin, ‘New Left’ opposition to Swiss CP. Radio Free Europe Release 0317 October 7, 1969
[ii] Laurent, Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir Paris: Stock. p148. (Unseen)
[iii] Quoted in many accounts including Stuart Christie (1984) Stefano Dell Chiale: portrait of a black terrorist. Refract publication
[v] Laurent, Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir Paris: Stock, pp. 148-9, 151
[vi] Bale, J.M. (1994) The “Black” Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the “Strategy of Tension” in Italy, 1968-1974. Doctorate Thesis University of California at Berkeley
[vii] See his letter to the post-coup Portuguese authorities in Laurent, Orchestre noir, pp. 148-51; Bale recommends that for the Bulliard affair, see the 11 April 1975 letter from the SDCI investigators at Caxias to the Portuguese consulate in Paris, plus appended documents in Laurent pp. 148-51.
[viii] See Jeffrey M. Bale, “Right-Wing Terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in Post-World War II Europe: Collusion or Manipulation?”. Lobster #18 October 1982:2-18 note 108.
[ix] Citing Claude Cantini, Les ultras: Extreme droite et droite extreme en Suisse. Les mouvements et la presse de 1921 a 1991 (Lausanne: En Bas, 1992), p. 161, note 136. (unseen)
[x] ibid, pp. 89-91;
[xi] Daniele Ganser (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge
The tangled web of accusation and conspiracy around the exposed intrigue of fascist infiltration and manipulation to achieve their goals in Switzerland that centres on the activities of Aginter Press are based on facts. Aginter Press did attempt to successfully infiltrate via the Parti Communiste Suisse, which was subject to monitoring by Swiss domestic state services. Was the CIA and KGB twiddling their thumbs? Willy Wottreng, a former leading member of the KPS/ML, informed Ariane Knüsel (2020) that when China opened an embassy in Rome, the Swiss Marxist-Leninist Party (KPS/ML) suspected that the Chinese missions in Switzerland were under surveillance and usually travelled to Rome instead of Bern or Geneva whenever they wanted to meet Chinese diplomats.)
Aginter Press (aka “Central Order and Tradition”) was a pseudo press agency set up in Lisbon, Portugal in September 1966, under Salazar’s dictatorship (so-called Estado Novo). Directed by Captain Yves Guérin-Sérac, a Catholic anti-communist activist who had taken part in the foundation of the OAS in Madrid, a far-right terrorist group which struggled for “French Algeria” during the Algerian War (1954-1962), Aginter Press was in reality an anti-communist mercenary organisation. The news agency, simply a cover to allow Aginter’s operatives to travel freely. Besides its journalistic cover, it trained its members in covert action techniques amounting to terrorism, including bombings, silent assassinations, subversion techniques, clandestine communication and infiltration and counter-insurgency.
An internal document summed up Aginter’s key beliefs:
The first phase of political activity ought to be to create the conditions favoring the installation of chaos. [ . . . ] In our view, the first move we should make is to destroy the structure of the democratic state under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities. [ . . . ] Moreover, we have people who have infiltrated these groups and obviously we will have to tailor our actions to the ethos of the milieu—propaganda and action of a sort which will seem to have emanated from our communist adversaries.
After 1969, Aginter shifted its focus from Africa to Europe. In this second phase, which lasted from 1969 until Aginter’s formal dissolution in 1974, agency personnel offered their specialized guerre revolutionaries training to a number of authoritarian regimes in Latin America, and were in fact hired to provide it in Guatemala and post-Allende Chile.
For Aginter Press, Robert Leroy was responsible for this “collaboration” who specialized in obtaining information on the left acting on the cover of journalism. Robert Leroy, imprisoned in France for collaboration from 1945 to 1955, worked for an alleged press agency, Aginter Press, created to promote the infiltration of pro-Chinese organizations in order to use them as cover to approach and liquidate guerrilla leaders in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, installing provocateurs there, creating false resistance groups and infiltrating the Portuguese opposition in exile.
From 1968 to 1970, according to his own admission, Leroy collaborated with Guillou at Aginter until his left-wing cover was “burned” by various journalists and he lost his ability to continue conducting “infiltration and intoxication” operations although disputed sources raise implications in assassination – no proof in the normal corridor of mirrors that speculation leads you down.
The narrative moves to Italy
The exposure of the contamination in Switzerland is followed up by looking at the activity of Aginter Press elsewhere, specifically its activists in Italy. Here again what came to light followed investigation and exposure of a vast conspiracy by the right wing, in concert with state actors, to use the Left.
The conspiracy narrative ties in the action of Aginter Press and others with the wider existence of the anti-communist Gladio project[i] the Western European network of equipped and trained resistance “Stay Behind” groups to fight a Soviet invasion disclosed in November 1990. Supposedly to thwart future Soviet invasions or influence in Italy and Western Europe, in fact, implicated in a strategy of tension, a campaign of false flag bombings and attempted coup d’état organised by the Italian neo-fascists with support from Masonic Lodge Propaganda Due (P2) and Gladio, NATO’s stay-behind anti-communist networks during the Cold War. The objective of this ‘strategy of tension” was to ensure that leftists and Communists could not come to power in Italy by creating a psychosis of fear of the left among ordinary Italians and a desire for strong, authoritarian government.
The “Strategy of Tension” itself was outlined in a document which came to light in October 1974. Dated November 1969 it was one of a number of dispatches sent to Lisbon by Aginter’s Italian correspondents. The document is entitled “Our Political Activity” which it explains thus:[ii]
“Our belief is that the first phase of political activity ought to be to create the conditions favouring the installation of chaos in all of the regime’s structures. This should necessarily begin with the undermining of the state economy so as to arrive at confusion throughout the whole legal apparatus. This leads on to a situation of strong political tension, fear in the world of industry and hostility towards the government and the political parties… In our view the first move we should make is to destroy the structure of the democratic state, under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities. Moreover, we have people who have infiltrated these groups and obviously we will have to tailor our actions to the ethos of the milieu – propaganda and action of a sort which will seem to have emanated from our communist adversaries and pressure brought to bear on people in whom power is invested at every level. That will create a feeling of hostility towards those who threaten the peace of each and every nation, and at the same time we must raise up a defender of the citizenry [sic] against the disintegration brought about by terrorism and subversion… “
The report goes on to describe the political situation in Italy and the emergence of the extra-parliamentary left: “Outside the present contingencies these people are possessed of a new enthusiasm and huge impatience. This fact should be carefully considered. The introduction of provocateur elements into the circles of the revolutionary left is merely a reflection of the wish to push this unstable situation to breaking point and create a climate of chaos…” The unknown author concludes: “Pro-Chinese circles, characterised by their own impatience and zeal, are right for infiltration… Our activity must be to destroy the structure of the democratic State under the cover of communist and pro- Chinese activities; we have already infiltrated some of our people into these groups…”
According to the Italian Senate report on Gladio and on the strategy of tension, headed by Senator Giovanni Pellegrino, the CIA has supported Aginter Press in Portugal. The Commission stated that:
“Aginter Press was in reality, according to the last obtained documents acquired by the criminal investigation, an information centre directly linked to the CIA and the Portuguese secret service that specialized in provocative operations.”
In the televised testimony of unrepentant neo-fascist bomber Vincent Vinciguerra, he described the international co-ordination by European and American intelligences agencies – referred to as the Berne Club – which had been active during the Cold war period in the internal Italian political battles because of the initial fear of possible PCI involvement in national government.[iii]
Italian magistrate Guido Salvini, in charge of the investigations concerning the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, explained to the Italian senators that:
“In these investigations data has emerged which confirmed the links between Aginter Press, Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale… It has emerged that Guido Giannettini [one of the neo-fascist responsible of the bombing] had contacts with Guérin-Sérac in Portugal ever since 1964. It has emerged that instructors of Aginter Press. .. came to Rome between 1967 and 1968 and instructed the militant members of Avanguardia Nazionale in the use of explosives.”
[i] Ganser, Daniele (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London:Routledge
[iii] Quoted in BBC2 TV three-part Time Watch documentary on Gladio – available on YouTube – broadcast June 1992.
False Flag Operations
This has been built upon and widen to encompass the involvement of far-right terrorist actions in Italy, and Aginter Press played an important role in implementing its “tension strategy” in Italy, and some researchers of the deep state have constructed what they characterise as a “Nazi-Maoist” operation. This ideological incoherent position is built upon reasoning that it would be in the interest of the CIA to deepen the communist fracture of the Sino-Soviet split therefore its agents strengthen and develop the “Maoist Left”, a senario where, specifically, CIA agents were responsible for encouraging the spread of that ideology (Maoism).
There are example of a phoney left being used to disrupt and disintegrate groups by Dutch and American security forces [i] that saw disruption of a small number of activists, far from the scope of the Western “tension” strategists, and there is nothing novel to suggest that the state infiltrated agents to spy on radical and progressive campaigns but seriously to develop a left, especially Maoist, in opposition to pro-Soviet communism.
It is easy to stray from a focus on the limited extent the Far Right did actually infiltrate Left wing, specifically maoist groups in the 1960s and 1970s into the intoxicating intrigues and manoeuvres that occurred during the covert Cold war period. The extent of material available on the internet is phenomenal as the dimpliest search would demonstrate . Most conspiracy theories (apart from David Ickes and his Alien Reptilian Legacy) tend to be a mixture of facts and imagination. Historical facts provide some scaffolding for other speculations, sometimes plausible with amusing leaps of speculation raising a large number of interesting possibilities, and chiselled details which supports the unfolding narrative included. The narrative such work creates offers the untold account through assertion, assumption and alternatives of evidently undiscovered connections underpinned by deductive reconstruction.
Like a series of interlocking wheels constructing an intricate mechanism that when critically engaged there are sharply differing assessments by readers. Believability in the story-teller can create the spell of confidence and conviction that purports to provide a sensational account of history, however carefully crafted, but goes against every known piece of public information and revelations from the archives, but still finds ideological partisan support for the conspiracy paradigm.
False flag operations now familiar tools of counter-insurgency strategy, undertaken by the state and its NGO allies, succeeded to discredit, disrupt and destroy progressive and radicals’ movements. Even the accusations raised can have a disproportionate effect as with the characterisation of nazi-maoist stream, in Italy the neo-fascist terrorism associated with Franco Freda. One of the representatives of the sematic oxymoron nazi-maoism was Enzo Maria Dantini, one of the many neo-fascists who were “recruited” in the Gladio network, whose motivation was neither based on materialist doctrines nor to serve the people.
Not so much as infiltration as contamination was the strategy behind the so-called “nazi-maoist” Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, responsible for the bomb attacks at the Milan Trade fair and railway station in April 1969 and Plaza Fontana, Milan on December 12 1969, with blame deflected onto anarchist circles by the far right. Over 150 Italian anarchists were brought in for questioning by Inspector Luigi Calabresi, acting head of the Milan political police squad. One of these anarchists, Giuseppe Pinelli, was thrown from Calabresi’s fourth floor office window to his death in the yard below, or perhaps he was dead prior to the fall.
The fascist movement Avanguardia Nazionale, the organization of the terrorists Stefano delle Chiaie and Mario Merlino, was used for this. Avanguardia neo-fascists “disguised” themselves as “Maoists” promoting the use of Maoist propaganda with posters throughout Italy. They were never accepted as part of the vibrant Maoist movement in Italy or able to infiltrate and direct the politics of the Maoists regardless of the language they tried to use. There was never a dialogue with the left.
The campaign occurred in 1972 the far right AN “were given the task of putting up maoist posters. This was, in effect, an attempt to create an ‘ultra-left’ even more extreme that the [PCI] communist party” drawing militant support away from them. [ii]
This strategy was seen in operation in Italy where in 1968 a young Italian fascist, Mario Merlino , member of the Avanguardia Nationale (AN) made attempts to approach Maoist groups boasting of having contacts with the Swiss journal, L’Etincelle. After rebutted after approaching Avanguardia Proletaria, Merlino tried Linea Rossa where he was unknown but exposed when his name appeared in the press in connection with a fascist attack on the PCI headquarters in Rome. He re-emerged in May 1969 when Merlino approached a militant of the Unione del Communisti Italiani (which he tried to join) to hold some material for him. It was fuse wire and detonators. This was shortly after the Palace of Justice had been bombed. A police raid on the militants’ home two days later found nothing, he had previously disposed of the material and Merlino was finished trying to use Italian Maoists.
When the Italy-China Friendship Society was established in Ferrara in 1972 as a vehicle to infiltrate the ML environment, the official Italy-China Society denounced its activities as provocateurs. The exposure and rejection of such approaches from known Far Right activists was the common response from the pro-China groups. Other identified right-wing infiltrators include Domenico Poili (of Ordine Nuovo) and Alfredo Sestili (of AN) who joined the PCI/ML and created confusion before being identified as provocateur. Claudio Mutti, an Italian protégé of Thiriat and associate of the terrorist Stefano delle Chiaie, adopted the name Lotta di Popolo for his involvement with the Italian-Libyan Friendship Society and a pro-Chinese student group.
Relationships of Thieuart
While some on the right advocated working in left groups, the idea that an ideological alliance between such groups never had any traction in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Research into far right conspiracies has unveiled real actual attempts to manipulated and divert groups in Italy but when the likes of Freda, and the Belgian Jean-Francois Thiriart loom large in the narrative of right wing infiltration, they are not surprisingly on the margins of post 1945 mainstream European fascism, and of zero influence on the Left. Immersion in the intricacies of that covert political world and a critique of its methodology and with a critical appreciation of its findings narrows the perspective. The right’s flirting in a one-sided courtship of the Left is taken at face value rather than treated as the attempted intoxication and manipulation it tactically represents for the far right activists.
Among those recycled as evidence is the activity of Jeune Europe a far-right organization on the margin of the fringe Right, it was never engaged with left-wing parties of any political allegiance. It was a failed enterprise. The claim it “sought a rapprochement with Maoist China in order to oust the Americans from Europe” says nothing about Chinese intentions and actions with regard to the group.[iii] Thiriart attempted in vain to obtain Chinese support for Jeune Europe reflects more upon his geo-political ideas, expressed in Empire de 400 million, than a cultivation by the Chinese. Paeans to communist China appeared with increasing frequency in the pages of JE’s publications. See, for example, die 15 October 1964 issue of Jeune Europe: Organisation Europeenne pour la Formation d’un Cadre Politique—the internal bulletin of JE which was sent exclusively to the organization’s militants—which attacked the idea of an “Atlantic Europe” and argued that Europe had to support Chinese imperialism against Russian and American imperialism. In the 27 October 1964 issue of the same bulletin, he went so far as to praise the development of an atomic bomb by China, presumably as a counterweight to the nuclear monopoly of the United States and the Soviet Union.
Pan Europeanism on the far right had been promoted post-war by marginal failures, the likes of the wash-up British fascist, Oswald Mosley and by Jean Thiriart in Belgium. In October 1965, Thiriart dissolved JE and incorporated the rest of his loyal followers into a new organization, the Parti Communautaire Europeen (PCE). Its’ cocktail of conflicting ideological positions and appearance reflected an eclectic and self-declared “national communism” on the artificial construct of racist-based European identity.
Thiriart had planned strategy on a globe: his 1964 blueprint, Europe – An Empire of 400 Million Men’ saw China as a tactical ally as a means of unsettling the Soviet Union. He Argues that neo-Nazis had a “China Option”, the fantasy sketched out by Thiriat is of Chinese financial assistance so that he could organise anti-American attacks in Europe, with China providing finance and sanctuary for his “guerrilla bands”. However after setting up this straw man argument, adopted the slogan “Neither Moscow nor Washington” calling for a united European homeland: “The Fourth Reich will be Europe, the Reich of the people from Brest to Bucharest”.
Thiriart had said to develop a relationship with Ceausescu’s Romania, being an admirer of its “national communism”.
His attempted cooperation was at a ‘strategic level’ rather than an approach to the domestic anti-Soviet left. Such musings would have been lost and forgotten if were not for a story repeated by commentators on the extreme right.
MEETING CHOU EN-LAI IN BURCHAREST?
“In its initial phase,” Thiriart recounted, “my conversation with Chou En Lai was but an exchange of anecdotes and memories. At this stage all went well. Chou En-Lai was interested in my studies in Chinese writing and I in his stay in France, which represented for him an enjoyable time of his youth. The conversation then moved to popular armies — a subject that interested both of us. Things started to go downhill when we got to concrete issues. I had to sit through a true Marxist-Leninist catechism class. Chou followed with an inventory of the serious psychological errors committed by the Soviet Union.”
Thiriart tried to persuade Chou En-lai that Europe could be an important partner in a united struggle waged by all the world’s anti-American forces, but he made little headway. He then asked the Chinese foreign minister for financial assistance so that he could establish a revolutionary army to carry out anti-American attacks in Europe. An elite military apparatus of this sort also needed a base outside Europe, and Thiriart hoped that China would provide sanctuary for his guerrilla brigades. A sceptical Chou referred Thiriart to contacts in the Chinese secret service, but these never bore fruit.[iv]
The Russian author Anton Shekhovtsov, in Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, retells the tale of Thiriart that “despite the rupture with the Chinese” – but his previous sentence says “the collaboration with the Chinese apparently never materialised”, so what was the rupture , a non-existent relationship ? But ignore this contradiction because – the author asserts , “the PCE and European branches of Jeune Europe collaborated with the Maoists at the end of the 1960s.” [v]
“Thiriart acted as a liaison between the Chinese Embassy, the Parti communiste Suisse/marxiste-leniniste (Swiss Communist Party/ Marxist-Leninist (PSC/ML)) and the Portugal-based Aginter Press.”
However Bulliard’s organisation was the PSC, its newspaper L’Etincelle; he continued publishing it, from September 9, 1967, under the imprint of Parti Populaire Suisse – PPS. It was not until 1972 that the organisation associated with Nils Andersson, the Organization of Communists of Switzerland, adopted the title Parti Communiste Suisse/Marxistes-Léninistes. (Something is a wry)
Returning to the subject of alleged Chinese assignation with the outer fringes of European neo-fascism, Bale asserts that,
“In 1966, after making contact with the Beijing government through the intermediary of the Rumanian Departmentul de Informatii Externe (DIE: External Intelligence Department), Thiriart traveled to Bucharest to meet with Zhou Enlai. Shortly thereafter, he allegedly began exchanging information about the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe (SHARPE), and NATO installations in Belgium with Yang Xiaonong, chief of the Parisian bureau of the Xinhua news agency, and Wang Yujiang in Brussels, both of whom were operatives of the Chinese secret service”
Note the use of the adjective: “he allegedly”. [vi] In 1962, Yang Xiaonong had became the official Xinhua correspondent in Geneva, causing him to often travel between Paris, Geneva, and Bern, thereby identified as the conduit between the missions in Switzerland and the Embassy in Paris after diplomatic relations between France and China were established in 1964.
Shekhovtsov’s account[vii] has Thiriart breaking off the collaboration.
The story gets repeated[viii] but no researcher on the Far Right has evidence that tangible cooperation was established; what they have is a story that originates with Thiriat himself, quoted in De Jeune Europe aux Brigades rouges: anti-americanisme et logique de l’engagement revolutionnaire (Nantes: Ars, 1986 and other editions).
How reliable a creditable witness is he in the absence of collaborating evidence or verifiable details? We know Chou Enlai was on a state visit to Bucharest in 1966 but the rest is speculation and supposition.
In late 1968 the PCE was officially dissolved, after which Thiriart seems to have withdrawn from politics altogether for a number of years, resurfacing with another “ideological transformation” (?) in the 1980s praising the Soviet Union right up to his death in late 1992.
To present the existence of some kind of Thirirat “maoist” movement is gross disinformation and deception. While Thiriart would say Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were heroes neither Castro nor Che themselves should be blamed : The Left bears no responsibility for the misinterpretations and presentations from the political right as with Franco Freda and other neo-fascist activists in Italy during the late 1960s and the early 1970s of their politics whereas the so-called “nazi-maoists”—assuming that they were not mere provocateurs attempting to disrupt and discredit genuine Maoists with slogans such as “Hitler and Mao united in the struggle”— appropriated symbols and slogans from the radical left, appreciated Mao for what they called his advocacy of an alleged “ascetic warrior mystique”.
There is neither the scope nor focus to delve into the interminable doctrinal disputes amongst, what passes for, fascist intellectuals, advocating an operational alliance. In reality the right-wing activists FAILED to exert any significant influence on the ideas or behaviour of left-wing revolutionaries.[ix]
[i] eg BVD ran the phony Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands, its own newspaper, De Kommunist, written and edited by the secret service. To add authenticity, the party let a handful of other true believers join its otherwise non-existent ranks, telling them that they were part of a network of underground cells. Chinese diplomats in Holland invited the man they knew as Chris Petersen to their mission in The Hague and gave money to help finance a Maoist newspaper secretly edited by the BVD. He was invited for visits to Beijing.
There are US examples: the Ad-Hoc Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party, the work in Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists (Zero Books, 2015), and A Threat of the First Magnitude—FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration: From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union—1962-1974 (Repeater Books, UK, January 2018). And in Britain, Donal O’Driscoll of the Undercover Research Group writes of the Police Infiltrated of the anti-revisionist Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front (INLSF).
[ii] BBC2 TV three-part TimeWatch documentary on Operation Gladio , part of a post-World War II “Stay Behind” program set up by the CIA and NATO.
[iii] If , or when, access to the relevant Chinese archives are available that judgement could be subject to modification, but in practice there is very little evidence of such intentions (or capabilities) at the time.
[iv] Shekhovtsov (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. Abingdon: Routledge p28
[v] Ibid Shekhovtsov (2018)
[vi] Bale J.M. (2017) The Darkest Sides of Politics, I : Postwar Fascism, Covert Operations and Terrorism. London: Routledge.
[vii] Sourced to Patrice Chairoff, Dossier néo-nazisme (Paris: Ramsay, 1977), p. 445. (Unseen)
[viii] i.e. Anton Shekhovtsov (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. Abingdon: Routledge and Martin Lee (1997) The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists. London: Little, Brown and Company pp.168- 175.
In his retelling of the tale, The Beast Reawakens, investigative journalist Martin A. Lee also sources “Right-wing view on foreign affairs,” Patterns of Prejudice, May-June 1967 and C. C. Aronsfeld, “Right-wing flirtation with a Chinese alliance,” Patterns of Prejudice, July-August 1969; “Right-wing over the East,” Patterns of Prejudice. September-October 1968. (Unseen)
[ix] The very opposite consequences occurred with the political defection to the left casually the impression of a web of influence and causality in the connections is created. So referring to Claudio Mutti, a leading figure in Giovane Europa, the Italian branch of the Jeune Europe, as a member of the ‘nazi-maoist’ Organizzazione Lotta di Popolo (Organisation of People’s Struggle) established in 1969 by Serafina Di Luia, a member of the Avanguardia Nazionale connected to the Aginter Press and influenced by Thiriart’s ideas, tries to build an alliance of collaboration in the mind of the reader.
Whereas the consequences was that for some individuals there may have been transformation in their thinking; this in 1971 a founding member of Giovane Europa, Claudio Orsoni would create the Centre for the Study and Application of Maoist Thought. Was that part of the deception? Fascist journalist, Pino Bolzano went onto lead the daily paper of the extreme Left group Lotta Continua. Former associate of Thiriart would join the Marxist-Leninist Italian Communist Party before going on to found the Red Brigades radical leftist organization which was active in the 70s and 80s in Italy. The forementioned Claudio Mutti would form the Italian-Libyan Friendship Organization after Muammar Gaddafi took power in Libya, and later meet Russian demagogue Aleksandr Dugin in the1990s before arranging for Thiriart to visit Russia.
Main sources drawn upon the French-language work of Laurent Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir Paris: Stock. Work based primarily on documents discovered at PIDE and AP headquarters by leftist officers of the MFA Movimento des Forcas Armadas and the Aginter-Press archives then held in Caxias prison.
Bale J.M. (1994) The “Black” Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the “Strategy of Tension” in Italy, 1968-1974. Thesis University of California at Berkeley
Bale J.M. (1989) Right-wing terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in post-world war Two Europe: Collusion or manipulation. Lobster #18 October 1982:2-18
Christie, Stuart (1984) Stefano Dell Chiale: portrait of a black terrorist. Refract Publication
Ganser, Daniele (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge
Lovell, Julia (2019) Maoism: A Global History. London: Bodley Head
Lee, Martin (1997) The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists. London: Little, Brown and Company
Richards, Sam (n.d.) Against Lies, Provocations & Infiltration. Unpublished MS
Shekhovtsov, Anton (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. London: Routledge
Special Carabinieri Operational Grouping – Eversion Department
Criminal proceedings against Rognoni Giancarlo and others . Annotation on psychological and unorthodox warfare activities,(psychological and low density warfare ) carried out in Italy between 1969 and 1974 through the “AGINTER PRESSE” . Rome: July 23, 1996.
[Original : RAGGRUPPAMENTO OPERATIVO SPECIALE CARABINIERI – Reparto Eversione –
Procedimento penale nei confronti di ROGNONI Giancarlo ed altri.
Procedimento penale sulla Strage di Piazza della Loggia – Nuovo Rito.
Annotazione sulle attività di guerra psicologica e non ortodossa, (psychological and low density warfare) compiute in Italia tra il 1969 e il 1974 attraverso l’ “AGINTER PRESSE”.
As reported by the American alternative news service, LIBERATION News Service (#677) February 12, 1975
The Formation of Aginter Press
But the Portuguese documents tell a different story. According to them, Aginter was formed in 1962 largely by former members of the German Gestapo and the French Secret Army Organization (OAS). With strong links to PIDE, Aginter quickly offered its agents courses in sabotage, espionage and terrorism. These “skills” were learned primarily from their experience in the OAS during the war for Algerian independence in the late fifties and early sixties.
After 1965, with the help of PIDE funding, the agency began a coordinated effort to infiltrate European left and extreme left movements.
At the time, their activities were concentrated in Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.
According to the archives in Lisbon, Aginter also developed into a recruitment and training program for rightist terrorists and mercenaries operating throughout the world. The documents say Aginter provided lessons in sabotage and counterinsurgency programs, as well as a manual of instructions on how to resist interrogation.
Aginter was involved, as well, in counterrevolutionary activities in the 1960s in many African countries such as Guinea-Bissau, the Congo (now independent Zaire), Gabon, Senegal and Angola.
The documents also link the former press agency to a network of European neo-Nazi organizations currently active throughout Europe such as Europe Action, the Black Order (an Italian organization with suspected involvement in a recent conspiracy for an ultra-rightist takeover of the Italian government), and the New European Order.
And the archives are said to name several high ranking political figures in France and Germany as involved in these organizations.
In the most recent development, dozens of rightists met in Lyons, France, December 27, 28 and 29, 1974, at a quiet congress of the “New European Order.” They represented fascist organizations in France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Latin America. The meeting also included Czechoslovakian and Yugoslavian exiles, according to the New York Times report.
Among the participants was Yves Guillou, former director of Aginter Press.
“New European Order” was founded in 1951 by former Nazis who escaped execution at the end of World War II. Its founders still head the organization. They are Gaston Amaudruz, former Gestapo agent now living in Lausanne, Switzerland, a Swedish Nazi named Per Engdahl, and Maurice Bardeche from France.
A declaration issued after the congress demanded the immediate release of Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess, still in jail in West Germany. The Order says Hess has been “imprisoned for more than thirty years for having wanted to re-establish peace, along with numerous comrades who fought for Europe.”
Among others mentioned by the Order’s declaration was Jacques Vasseur who, according to Le Monde, was well known to the French resistance as a collaborator with the Gestapo in France.
Following the conference came a report from Italian magistrates revealing a heavy arms traffic from Marseille to Africa, controlled by “MGM,” an Italy-based import-export agency, controlled by European fascists.
Formed in the early ’70s, its alleged purpose is “the acquistion and sale of all commercial products,” but the organization, it has been revealed, is mainly involved in buying heavy military equipment including tanks, bomber planes, missiles and submachine guns. The Italian investigation has linked several Italian participants at the fascist congress in Lyons with MGM.
MGM apparently buys arms from French, Swiss and Belgian manufacturers, through two middlemen, Gilbert Lapeyrie, a former Gestapo agent, and Cesar Dauwe. The arms, then, have been primarily sold in Africa. Dauwe was arrested and temporarily freed when his involvement with an arms shipment bound for Ghana was discovered.
“What is particularly disturbing in this affair,” wrote the French paper, Liberation, recently, “is that fascists can control a flow of arms of such importance and particularly to Africa. You can count those who are capable of selling these kinds of weapons on the fingers of one hand. And when you understand the French and American interests in this area, it’s clear that this traffic couldn’t take place without their knowledge.”