Editor: This article details the re-emergence of government narcotics trafficking during the 1930’s as both a tool of foreign espionage and domestic political control. The model created by Carbone, Spirito and Sabiani would go on to be used by governments and intelligence agencies worldwide to control the flow of international narcotics.
Heroin Fascism: Marseilles, the ‘30s
by Anonymous (1983)
“The first link between the Corsicans and the political world came about with the emergence of the 1920’s of Marseilles’ first ‘modern’ gangsters. Francois Spirito and Paul Bonnaventure Carbone (the jolly heroes of the popular 1970’s French film Borsalino). Until their rise to prominence the milieu was populated by number of colorful whose most stable form of investment was usually 2 or 3 prostitutes. Carbone and Spirito changed all that…their 20-year old partnership permanently transformed the character of the Marseilles milieu.
The enterprising team’s first major venture was the establishment of a French staffed brothel in Cairo in the late 1920’s. Upon their return to Marseilles, they proceeded to organize prostitution on a scale previously unknown. But more significantly, they recognized the importance of political power in protecting large scale criminal ventures and its potential for providing a source of income through municipal graft.
In 1931, Carbone and Spirito reached an “understanding” with Simon Sabiani, Marseille’s Pro-Fascism deputy mayor, who proceeded to appoint Carbone’s brother director of the municipal stadium and open municipal employment to associates of the two leaders of the French underworld. In return for these favors, Carbone and Spirito organized an elite corps of gangsters that spearheaded violent Fascist street demonstrations during the depression years of the 1930s.
All across Europe fascism was gaining strength: Mussolini ruled Italy, Hitler was coming to power in Germany, and emerging French Fascist groups were trying to topple the republic through mass violence. Communist and Socialist demonstrators repeatedly rushed to the defense of the republic, producing a series of bloody confrontations throughout France. In Marseilles, Carbone and Spirito were the vanguard of the Right Wing.
In February of 1934, several days after an inflammatory speech by a Fascist army general, massive street demonstrations erupted on the Canbiere, Marseilles’ main boulevard. The thousands of leftist dock workers and union members who took to the streets dominated the political confrontation until Carbone and Spirito’s political shock force fired on the crowd with pistols. The national police intervened, the workers were driven from the streets and the wounded were carted off to the hospital.
After 4 years of battling Sabiani’s underworld allies in the streets, the left settled its political differences long enough to mount a unified electoral effort that defeated Sabiani and placed a Socialist mayor in office. Although the leftist electoral victory temporarily eclipsed the Fascist-Corsican Alliance, the rise of fascism had politicized the Marseilles underworld and marked its emergence as a major political force in city politics.
Although they had lost control of the municipal government, Carbone and Spirito’s economic strength had hardly declined. The emergence of organized narcotics trafficking in the US provided Carbone with the opportunity to open a heroin laboratory in the early 1930’s, while the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War enabled him to engage in the arms traffic.
Carbone and Spirito found their political influence restored in 1940, when German troops occupied Marseilles. Faced with one of the more active resistance movements in France, the Nazi Gestapo unit assigned to Marseilles became desperate for informants and turned to the most prestigious figures in the underworld, who were only too willing to collaborate.
On July 14, 1942 the French Resistance showed its strength for the first time by machine gunning the headquarters of a pro-German political organization in downtown Marseilles (the PPF, who director was the ex-mayor Simon Sabiani). The following afternoon Carbone and Spirito handed the Gestapo a complete list of all involved. For these and other invaluable services, they were lavishly rewarded. This prosperity was short lived, however, for in 1943 Carbone was killed en route to Marseilles when his train was blown up by the Resistance and following the Normandy landing in 1944, Spirito fled to Spain with Sabiani.
In 1947, Spirito came to the US where he enjoyed an active role in the New York-Marseilles Heroin traffic. However he was arrested in New York 3 years later on a heroin smuggling charge and sentenced to 2 years in Atlanta Federal Prison. Upon his release he returned to France, where he was arrested and tried for wartime collaboration with the Nazis; however, after only 8 months in prison, he retired to manage restaurants in the French Riviera, where he remained active in the heroin business.”
*Article from Blacklisted News: Secret Histories From Chicago to 1984
– The Green Chazzan