Cold War Files: 10 Sinister Groups Behind the Cold War’s Craziest Conspiracy

In 1972, a fascist named Vincenzo Vinciguerra detonated a car bomb in the Italian town of Peteano. As Vinciguerra had planned, the attack was initially blamed on left-wing extremists. Years later, Vinciguerra explained his motives: “Our movement is pledged to target . . . ordinary people, to create conditions of anarchy. The resulting state of fear will mobilize public support for a strong regime, even at the cost of democracy. We call it the strategy of tension.”

In fact, Vinciguerra’s bomb was just one of a number of terrorist attacks carried out by a bewildering array of right-wing movements and front groups with the evident support of the Italian security services. The aim was to undermine support for democracy and discredit the communists and anarchists who would be blamed for the atrocities. The exact details of this conspiracy remain shadowy, but the basic outline of the strategy of tension is now clear, as are the names of a number of the groups involved.


10. The OAS


In the early 1960s, a mysterious French terrorist arrived in Portugal. His real name was Yves Guillou, but he usually went by a pseudonym, most commonly Yves Guerin-Serac. He had chosen Portugal because he admired its authoritarian government, which was waging a bloody war against the independence movements in its African colonies. Tens of thousands would die before the fascists were overthrown in 1974 and the new government agreed to independence for Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau.

This African bloodshed appealed to Guerin-Serac, who had been radicalized during France’s own disastrous colonial conflict in Algeria. Marked by horrendous brutality on both sides, the Algerian War killed hundreds of thousands and badly destabilized France. But the large European population in Algeria was determined to preserve the status quo and was horrified when President Charles de Gaulle announced a referendum on the issue, which produced large majorities for independence in both Algeria and France.

In response to this democratic betrayal, a group of right-wing Franco-Algerians formed the OAS (Organisation de l’Armee Secrete), which virtually took control of the European enclaves in Algiers and Oran and launched a series of terrorist attacks in France and Algeria, including multiple attempts to assassinate de Gaulle. As independence approached, the OAS oversaw a “frenzy of violence,” killing at least 2,360 people in the 15 months up to June 1962.

A decorated veteran of 1950s wars in Korea and Indochina, Guerin-Serac became an enthusiastic member of the OAS. But he wasn’t ready to give up terrorism after the organization collapsed in 1962: “The others have laid down their weapons, but not I. After the OAS, I fled to Portugal to carry on the fight and expand it to its proper dimensions—which is to say, a planetary dimension.”


9. Aginter Press

In Portugal, Guerin-Serac founded Aginter Press, supposedly a news agency along the lines of Reuters or the Associated Press. But this was simply a cover to allow Aginter’s operatives to travel freely. In reality, Aginter was a fascist paramilitary organization aimed at fighting communism around the globe. The group was openly hostile to democracy, which it viewed as weak, and developed the belief that false-flag terrorist operations could be a useful way of undermining the left and strengthening the extreme right.

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.

Read the Remainder at List Verse


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