The partnership with gangster drug traffickers in Sicily was mirrored in the CIA’s partnership with the Corsican underworld in Marseilles, a battleground in the Cold War. The labor unions, dominated by Communists, were strong and dockworkers were refusing to load military supplies on French ships headed to French Indochina, where Ho Chi Minh was leading the fight for independence. Also, Marseille was a major entrepôt for supplies shipped into Europe under the Marshall Plan.
In 1945 a coalition of Communists and Socialists swept to power in Marseilles and made it an early order of business to declare war on the Corsican gangs. Such developments alarmed not only the Corsican gangsters but the United States and Charles de Gaulle as well. A counterattack was swiftly organized.
The aim was to divide and conquer by splitting the fragile left coalition. The CIA turned to American organized labor in the form of the AFL-CIO, which, from the end of the war to the early 1950s, funneled $1 million a year to the Socialists, the price tag being severance of all political ties to the Communists. By 1947 De Gaulle’s party had regained power, and Marseilles’ new mayor was the right-wing Michele Carlini. He imposed an austerity regime that included hikes of bus fares that soon prompted strikes and boycotts, culminating in a large rally on November 12, 1947 after [Corsican mobster Berthelmy] Guerini’s thugs, acting on Carlini’s orders, had attacked Communist members of the city council.
In response to these attacks, people poured into the streets, only to be met by a fusillade of bullets fired into them by the Guerinis and their men. Dozens were wounded and one man was killed. Although there were plenty of witnesses identifying the Guerinis, Carlini’s prosecutors declined to press charges. A general strike broke out across France, with 3 million workers walking off their jobs. In Marseille the docks fell silent.
The CIA sent a team to Marseille with arms and cash for the Guerinis, which were duly delivered by CIA officer Edwin Wilson […]. The CIA’s gangster agents embarked on a swift program of executive action, killing key strike organizers, paying legions of scab workers and stirring up riots on the docks. By early December the strike had been broken.
Three years later the pattern was repeated. Once again a strike closed down the Marseilles waterfront, aimed specifically at shipments of weapons and supplies destined for French forces in Indochina. Once again the CIA, working with the French Secret Service (SDECE), rallied the Guerinisto lead a terror campaign against the strikers. CIA funds sluiced into Marseilles, and into the Guerini bank accounts. Again the strike was beaten down, with many union organizers murdered, often by being pitched off the docks.
–Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press