Welcome to the fifth installment in my ongoing examination of the origins of the mysterious outfit variously known as Le Cercle, the Pinay Circle, the Pesenti Group, and so on. The Cercle complex had its origins during the early 1950s, beginning as an auxiliary of the infamous Bilderberg group. But while Le Cercle had its fair share of wealthy capitalist backers, the core of its membership has typically derived from the European aristocracy and reactionary Catholic orders such as Opus Dei and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM). As such, the politics of the Cercle complex have tended to be much more right wing than those of their globalists counterparts in Bidlerberg. Indeed, these factions appear to have become increasingly antagonistic of one another throughout the 1970s, leading an eventual break with the Rockefeller family around this time.
But the purpose of this series is the Cercle complex's origins, not what its been up to over the past seven decades. For more on these sordid details, check out my prior series of Le Cercle, which can be found here.
As the title of this particular series implies, it is my contention that the Cercle complex had its origins in the various "stay-behind" networks that the intelligence services of the UK and US established in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War across Western Europe and beyond. In theory, these networks would wage a guerrilla war with the support of UK and US special operations forces in the event of a Soviet invasion, but considerable evidence has come out since the 1990s that these networks were frequently used to destabilize host nations, ensuring their subservience to US (and to a much lesser extent, UK) interests.
These networks had their origins in resistance and stay-behind networks established by the UK's Special Operations Executive (SOE), the US's Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and Nazi Germany's Amt VI-S of the Reich Main Security Office (RHSA) during WWII. The first installment of this series provided additional details about these organizations and their secret armies. Part two explained how many of these SOE, OSS, and Amt VI-S assets were transferred to the private sector in the aftermath of the war via conglomerates such as the British American Canadian Corporation (BACC), the World Commerce Corporation (WCC) and SOFINDUS. Eventually, the BACC and SOFINDUS fell under the umbrella of the WCC, which became a kind of super private intelligence agency specializing in covert operations. As such, the WCC was considered in further detail in the third installment.
|the insignia of the SOE, OSS and SD (Amt VI)|
The fourth and most recent installment shifted gears a bit and began to focus on the early post-war stay-behind networks. There this researcher attempted to show evidence of multiple stay-behind networks in nations that have been particularly ravaged by terror. In the case of both Italy and Belgium, there appear to have been private stay-behind networks under the control of Cercle-connected politicians in those respective nations in addition to the "official" stay-behind networks under the control of the intelligence services of those countries.
From there, I turned my attention to France. As the Cercle complex was largely a French initiative in the early days, the history of French stay-behind networks is especially relevant to this series. As was noted there, the initial French stay-behind network was known as Plan Bleu. It was established in 1946 and exposed by the French Socialist government during the next year. The Socialists, however, appear to have objected more to the far right elements the UK and US had recruited into this network rather than the idea of a stay-behind network in and of itself. To wit, the Socialist government would greenlight the establishment of a second stay-behind network, this one known as Rose des Vents (Compass Rose).
Indeed, the French Socialists would prove to be vigorously anti-Communist and appear to have taken the lead in anti-Communist efforts during the late 1940s. As such, I would like to focus on the initiates taken by the French Socialists during this period as their efforts may have contributed to the creation of Le Cercle.
"... the CIA in the Fourth Republic targeted also the French police. After in the spring of 1947 when the Communist Ministers had been expelled from the French government the whole administration was purged from Communists while the anti-Communists were promoted in the police forces. Prominent among them was commissar Jean Dides who during the Second World War had closely cooperated with the OSS and now was promoted to become the commander of a clandestine French paramilitary anti-Communist police unit operating under Interior Minister Jules Moch. The embassy of the United States was pleased with progress made..."
(NATO's Secret Armies, Daniele Ganser, pg. 89)
Pleven served as French Prime Minister twice in the postwar years, first from 1950-51, and again from 1951-52. Cercle founder Antoine Pinay served in both of Pleven's administrations as Minister of Public Works, Transport, and Tourism, while Moch also served as Minister of Defense during the first administration. Pinay and Moch would also serve together in the third administration (1951) of Henri Queuille in the same cabinet posts as well.
While there is some dispute as to just when exactly Paix et Liberte was founded, the general consensus is that it was up and running by 1950. Its' official founder was regarded as a rising star in French politics.
"It was during this period that French politician Jean-Paul David, with the backing of the French government, attempted to fill the gap. His organization, Paix et Liberte, made its appearance in France in September 1950. Prime Minister René Pleven had called a meeting of like-minded political leaders to propose the formation of a new organization to confront communist 'fifth column' infiltration in French society. David, at 37 the leader of the Rassemblement des gauches republicaines (RGR), deputy for Seine et Oise, and mayor of Mantes-la-Jolie, 'was not an intellectual but an organizing genius, a courageous man endowed with some straightforward ideas, notably an urgent need to combat Marxist influence'. Finance in the region of two to three million francs a year was assembled from French industry and banks, and a high-profile campaign was begun utilizing posters, brochures explaining the communist threat and the reality of concentration camps, radio transmissions, and even a film, Creve-Coeur, about the French battalion fighting in the Korean War. Links were also made with like-minded groups across Western Europe..."
(Western Anti-Communism and the Interdoc Network, Giles Scott-Smith, pgs. 21-22)Before getting to those "like-minded groups," a few points need to be made. Let us start with the Rassemblement des gauches republicaines (RGR: Rally of Republican Lefts). This was a political coalition that brought together several largely center-right parties in opposition to the Communists, the Socialists and the Christian Democrats. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, it dominated French politics. And it was the 37 year-old Jean-Paul David who led it. As such, David was clearly a major player in French politics by this point despite having never held a cabinet position or other such prestigious postings.
"... Nevertheless David, who gained notoriety as the network's spokesman, became the point man for a determined attempt in 1952-53 to take it a step further by establishing a psychological warfare section within NATO itself. With the backing of French Foreign Minister Georges Bidault, David carried out an intensive rolling tour of NATO countries during this period in order to raise governmental understanding and support for psychological warfare activities. Always received at the highest levels, David's visit to the US in February 1952 was recorded in the New York Times and was intended to link up with like-minded American organizations and send a strong message that Europe was rearming not only militarily but also psychologically in the struggle against communism..."
(Western Anti-Communism and the Interdoc Network, Giles Scott-Smith, pg. 22)Georges Bidault was the foreign minister in the administration of René Mayer, the RGR candidate who succeeded Pinay as the Prime Minister in 1953. But Pinay was the Prime Minister during David's initial foray into the United States in 1952. Given that Paix et Liberte was sponsored by the French government, Pinay must have approved of David's efforts on some level. Despite different coalitions holding power in France during the crucial 1952-1952 period (the same time frame Le Cercle was founded, incidentally) the rise of Paix et Liberte appears to have continued unabated.
Finally, David himself and key figures of Paix such as Pierre Rostini were veterans of the Resistance. What's more, Ludwig (writing in the Transnational Anti-Communism and the Cold War collection) describes other early supporters as "various militants from the RPF [Rassemblement du peuple francais]" (pg. 82). This is almost surely a reference to the Service d'Order du RPF mentioned in the last installment. This network was essentially a private intelligence service within the SDECE loyal to de Gaulle. It eventually became the dreaded Service d'Action Civique (SAC). Both networks were deeply involved with establishing the French stay-behind networks. As such, there are clear links between Paix et Liberte and French security services involved in stay-behind operations.
Finally, there's the question of American involvement in Paix. For years, it has been alleged that Paix et Liberte was principally funded by the CIA. For instance, Ganser writes: "American historian Christopher Simpson estimated that covert action units such as 'Paix et Liberte' were funded by the CIA during the secret war against the Communists with 'well over a billion dollars yearly'..." (NATO's Secret Armies, pg. 89). Of course, Paix was but one organization among many that this billion dollars was earmarked for. While there seems to be little question that some funding was provided by the CIA, Scott-Smith calls into question the general assumption that it was largely a CIA project.
"... The Dutch report on September 1953 does state that 'it cannot be denied that the movement in France is mainly sustained from American funds' but does not say what information this remark is based on. Regnier contends that even if American funding was involved it must have been a small percentage of the overall budget provided by French professionals and employers organizations..."
(Western Anti-Communism and the Interdoc Network, Giles Scott-Smith, pg. 270 n36)
Accounts of what some of the regional partners received appear to confirm Scott-Smith's instance that these funds were not substantial. Writing in Puppetmasters, Philip Willan notes: "A secret service report declared that the Milan office of the United States Information Service (USIS) 'appears recently to have made a payment of 3 million Lire... to the Peace and Freedom Association for their anti-communist struggle...' " (pg. 108). While this may sound impressive, 3 million Lire is only akin to several thousand US dollars --hardly enough for any kind of significant operations. As such, it seems likely that private sources of income is what chiefly fueled Paix.
Scott-Smith noted that David had met with high ranking figures in the US intelligence community such as Allen Dulles and Walter Bedell Smith in 1953 to pitch his concept of Paix leading NATO psychological warfare efforts. The Americans were unmoved, however, and refused to back Paix as a NATO venture. As such, while there can be no question that the Americans had some involvement, Paix et Liberte appears to have been principally a European project, and one largely controlled by the French.
Despite being rejected for a formal role by the Americans, David was undeterred. He continued to build up his network both domestically and across Europe. In France, one of the crucial partners he picked up was a Georges Albertini, a former socialist turned Nazi collaborator. Albertini would become a leading figure in European anti-Communist circles throughout the Cold War, in addition to a crucial figure in the Cercle's French section for decades. Much more information on Albertini can be found here.
|the enigmatic Georges Albertini|
"...The Volksbund, ostensibly a civil society organization, was put to use as the strong arm of the government, particularly by the Ministry for All-German Affairs. Unlike Paix et liberte, which was led by a politician, the protagonists from the VFF were – or had been – close to government circles, and took advantage of connections with intelligence circles. This was particularly so in the case of the founder of the organization, Eberhard Taubert, a former executive in the National Socialist Ministry of Propaganda. In 1933 he had created an association similar to the VFF, the Antikomintern. The anchoring of the VFF at the heart of the state apparatus was made possible by the extensive anti-communist consensus that reigned in Bonn, built particularly around the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and its extended network. A key figure for the VFF was its vice president, Arthur Ruppert, a journalist and CDU militant from the Ruhr who had participated in the party's reconstitution in Hamburg and across the British zone, making him a key contact for the future chancellor Konrad Adenauer."
(Transnational Anti-Communism and the Cold War, "Paix et Liberte: A Transnational Anti-Communist Network," Bernard Ludwig, pg. 82)In other words, it had its origins in Nazi Germany. Hence the reason that Paix took the lead in establishing a European wide network despite the VFF predating it and arguably having even more elite connections. Indeed, the VFF appears to have had a direct line to Konrad Adenauer, another Cercle co-founder. But Adenauer was hardly the only VIP in post-war Germany VFF founder Eberhard Taubert could count among his network.
He would later go to serve as an "adviser" to another Cercle co-founder, future German Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss. Even more curious is the individual he sought out to pitch what became the VFF in 1948: Per Ludwig, it was none other than US diplomat Robert D. Murphy. Murphy was one of the most powerful State Department officials of his era, and also a member of the Bilderberg group's steering committee. He reportedly played a role in the stay-behind networks, with Ralph Ganis alleging in The Skorzeny Papers that it was Murphy who greenlighted the use of the World Commerce Corporation to participate in such activities. Much more will be said of Murphy in a future installment, so do keep him in mind dear reader.
Naumann was especially close to Martin Bormann, the head of the Nazi party apparatus. Indeed it was Naumann who first raised the specter of Bormann's survival during 1953. Bormann managing the post-war Nazi international from some distant location in South America would become a popular conspiracy theory in the second half of the twentieth century, with proponents that included elements of the Mossad, and high ranking intelligence officers in both the USSR and US such as Lev Bezymenski and Frank Wisner, respectively. Curiously, Naumann alleged that Bormann was a Soviet spy who fled to Moscow in the aftermath of the war.
This was hardly the only intrigue Naumann became involved in during the postwar years either. Indeed, the great Kevin Coogan in his classic Dreamer of the Day notes that Naumann was one of the key figures in the postwar SS underground. Naumann was a member of the Bruderschaft (Brotherhood), a crucial postwar Nazi network involved in smuggling various war criminals to South America and the Middle East.
Around this time, Naumann also became the manager of the H.S. Lucht Company, which was then owned by the widow of another former Ministry of Propaganda man. The Madrid business manager of the company was none other than Otto Skorzeny, who as noted in part one was essentially the figure head of the postwar SS underground.
All of this was unfolding during the early 1950s as Taubert was setting up the VFF. As such, there is a strong chance that Taubert himself was part of these intrigues due to his access to the well-funded Paix network. Naumann was arrested by British authorities in 1953, bringing an end to these plots, though Taubert appears to have emerged mostly unscathed. This researcher suspects that Taubert was effectively a bridge between "overworld" figures like Adenauer, Strauss, and Murphy on the one hand, and the SS underground on the other.
"... At the end of spring 1951, a Paix et liberte committee was also set up in Brussels under the leadership of Marcel Paternostre, president of the World Committee of Political Refugees from Central Europe and member of the Belgian section of the Comite international de defense de la civilisation chretienne (CIDCC). But the true architects of the Belgian wing, officially created on 4 October 1951, were Marcel De Roover and Maurice Keyaerts. De Roover had run the Societe d'etudes politiques, economiques et sociales (SEPES), a private anti-Communist organization that represented the Belgian section of the EIA, from behind the scenes prior to the Second World War. At the start of 1951 he served as David's intermediary in the creation of a Dutch Paix et liberte committee (Vrede en Vrijheid) under the leadership of E. P. van Dam Isselt, secretary of the Benelux committee, the body for trilateral cooperation."
(Transnational Anti-Communism and the Cold War, "Paix et liberte: A Transnational Anti-Communist Network," Bernard Ludwig, pg. 84)As was noted before here, the Comite international de defense de la civilisation chretienne (CIDCC: International Committee for the Defense of Christian Civilization) shared a lot of members in common with the Cercle complex, including founders Antoine Pinay and Jean Violet. Another Belgian CIDCC member who later became involved with Paix was the uber-connected Paul van Zeeland. He was a former Belgian Prime Minister and a founding member of the Bilderberg group. According to Ludwig, Van Zeeland became the president of Paix's international committee in 1954, shortly before the organization was rechristened the Comite international d'action sociale (CIAS).
"... Sogno advocated a Gaullist-style presidency in the government of technocrats to tackle what he saw as the moral and economic decline of the country. He became a member of P2 in 1979. Born into an aristocratic family in Turin in 1915, Sogno had been a hero of the Resistance, working with the forces of the British Special Operations Executive and winning an American Bronze Star for his bravery during the war. As such he was an ideal leader for the anti-communist struggle, being untainted by fascist associations. After the war he became a diplomat, serving at the Italian consulate in Paris before becoming director of the NATO Planning and Co-ordinating Group in London in 1954. He returned to Paris, to the NATO Defense College, which he addressed on one occasion on 'The communist menace in Italy'. It was during the 1950s that he made his contribution to the Cold War by founding the Peace and Freedom Association (Pace e Liberta), which became a vehicle for a rabidly anti-communist propaganda campaign. He was ably assisted in this endeavor by Luigi Cavallo, a former communist journalist and secret service agent provocateur. In the 1960s Sogno moved to the United States, where he served in the consulate in Philadelphia and then as a counsellor at the Washington embassy, before ending up as an ambassador in Rangoon, Burma. He returned to Italy in the 1970s, just in time to play his part in saving the country from chaos and communism."
(Puppetmasters, Philip Willan, pgs. 107-108)
The above-mentioned P2 was of course Propaganda Due, the notorious Masonic lodge that has also been linked extensively to Italian stay-behind efforts (noted before here). P2 also had compelling links to the above-mentioned Belgian AESP, as was noted before here). Through the AESP, P2 also had links to the Cercle complex.
|the Lord and Lady Douglas-Hamilton|
"Paix et Liberte operations may also have included assassination as described in Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia: 'Several leading Peace and Liberty activists were directly implicated in anti-constitutional political activity, including serious acts of violence and anti-government coup plots.' A former member of the Belgian Paix et Liberte organization 'confessed on his deathbed' that the group had carried out the 1950 assassination of Julien Lahaut, head of the Communist Party of Belgium."
(The Skorzeny Papers, Ralph P. Ganis, pg. 134)Such allegations are not without merit. As was noted above, the principal figure behind the Belgian branch of Paix was Mercel de Roover, who later became a leading figure in the Belgian-based AESP, an organization with extensive ties Italian and Belgian terrorists, in addition to the infamous Aginter Press. As was noted before here and here, was a right wing terror network founded by former Organisation armée secrète (OAS: Secret Army Organization) militants after their efforts to topple de Gaulle failed. As was noted in the prior installment, the OAS appears to have used elements of the French stay-behind network in the efforts to overthrow de Gaulle.
De Roover was not the only member of Paix's Belgian section that was later linked to the OAS.
"Perhaps even more important was the role played by Pierre Joly's Jeunesses Nationales. Joly began his political career as a member of the left-wing Etudiants Progressistes (Progressive Students) at the University of Liege in 1949 and 1950, but then quit and began actively collaborating with the Belgian branch of the Union Democratique pour la Paix et la Liberte (Peace and Freedom Democratic Union) organization, an international CIA-funded anti-Communist front created in Paris in March 1949. In 1952, he founded a short-lived Ecole Internationale de Cadres Anti-Communistes (International School for Anti-Communists Cadres) and published a pamphlet praising Franco and Salazar. Later that same year he appeared in Algiers right around the time of the notorious bazooka attack on General Raoul Salan. Five years later he published an anonymous treatise on counterrevolutionary warfare that synthesize the writing of some of the most influential guerre revolutionnaire specialist within the French Army, such as Commandant Jacques Hogard and Colonels Gabriel Bonnet, Charles Lacheroy, and Roger Trinquier, which soon became a sort of vademecum for right-wing subversives in Algeria and Europe. In May 1958, he participated in the Algiers demonstration which precipitated the collapse of the Fourth Republic alongside Pierre Lagaillarde, a right-wing student activist and future leader of the OAS. He then worked closely with the Mouvement Populaire 13 (MP13: Popular Movement 13 [May], commemorating the 13 May 1958 military coup in Algeria), and became the Belgian spokesman for Joseph Ortiz upon his return home. Indeed, up until September 1961, Joly collected money for Ortiz using the Aide Mutuelle Europeene (European Mutual Aid) organization as a cover. Between 1960 and 1961, he helped sponsor and contributed to the monthly publication Reac, the organ of the Etudiants Nationales. His own Jeunesses Nationales organization was the first Belgian group to establish a close relation with French activists, and after the assassination of FLN activist Akli Aissou and pro-FLN professor René-Georges Laperches in Belgium by the so-called Main Rouge (Red Hand), a front group created by the French secret service that was used to carry a politically sensitive operations ponctuelles, Joly's organization was suspected of having lent its support to the killers. In January 1962, Joly and René Boussart were accused of sheltering General Salan in Liege, although this was never actually proven..."
(The Darkest Sides of Politics, I, Jeffrey Bale, pgs. 97-08)Clearly, the Belgian branch of Paix had its fair share of militants, and given their later ties to the OAS and the Belgian strategy of tension, the possibility that this organization was used to carry out assassinations cannot be dismissed out of hand. As for coups, at least one member would later turn up in such efforts in France during the early 1960s.
The Italian branch of Paix offers even more striking evidence. There can be little doubt that this branch was engaged in espionage under the auspices of the stay-behind networks.
"... Pace e Liberta was an offshoot of a French anti-Communist organization, Paix et Liberte... One of the principal activities of the Italian branch was spying on Fiat workers with communist sympathies and drawing up intelligence dossiers on them. This was the work of Cavallo, who was paid for it by both Fiat and the secret service Office of Economic and Industrial research, run by Colonel Rocca."
(Puppetmasters, Philip Willan, pg. 108)
According to Ganser in NATO's Secret Armies, it was Colonel Renzo Rocca who headed Ufficio R within the Italian secret service. As was noted in the prior installment, it was this office that oversaw stay-behind efforts in Italy. The above-mentioned Cavallo was Luigi Cavallo, a former journalist and intelligence asset who became Count Edgardo Sogno's chief collaborator in the Italian branch of Paix. Later both men would get up to quite a bit of mischief together.
"The culmination of Sogno's plans was to have been reached in August 1974 with the seizure of the presidential Quirinale Palace. President Giovanni Leone would be forced to dissolve Parliament and appoint a government of technocrats headed by Randolfo Pacciardi, another non-communist Resistance hero and a former Defense Minister. The plan was never implemented as the secret services had got wind of it but, more importantly, because there was insufficient political and military support to guarantee its success. Sogno and Cavallo were arrested in 1976 and charge with trying to overthrow the government by violent means. The nature of their project was clearly outlined in the number of documents confiscated from Cavallo..."
(Puppetmasters, Philip Willan, pg. 109)There were numerous coups plotted in Italy during the 1970s, but Willan insists that Sogno's had the greatest chance of success. This is a bit debatable, as it never seems to have gotten off the ground to the extent of the Borghese coup, but there's no question Sogno had support at the highest levels of NATO. This was likely due to his war time background with the Special Operations Executive. Willan suggests that the growing threat from the Communist Red Brigades (RB) played a role in the decision to call off the coup as it was felt that the RB would pave the way for a democratic center-right coup like the one Sogno had plotted. Naturally, Sogno and Cavallo were ultimately cleared of all charges and the aborted coup was promptly swept under the rug.