American White Supremacist Groups Have History of International Conflict
American hate groups are notorious not only for the bigotry they spew, but also for their frequently vicious internal disputes.
After American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell was assassinated by one of his own followers in, for instance, infighting eventually destroyed his organization. The Ku Klux Klan, which in the 1920s was largely a centralized, nationwide political machine, is now a bickering collection of some independent groups.
Organizing for white revolution has as often as not taken a back seat to stealing other groups' membership lists or accusing rivals of everything from informing to homosexuality.
But today, operating out of a small apartment in Falls Church, Va., a soft-spoken British expatriate named Mark Cotterill is doing what no fire-breathing leader on the American radical right has managed since World War II: He is uniting a significant number of American extremist factions, all in the name of raising funds for the neofascist British National Party (BNP).
Cotterill's group, the American Friends of the British National Party (AFBNP), has provided a meeting ground for hate groups as disparate as the neo-Nazi National Alliance and the more mainstream, neo-Confederate League of the South.
Featuring speeches by a stellar cast of foreign and domestic racist leaders, the AFBNP's frequent gatherings also have helped these groups to increasingly see eye to eye on issues as narrow as NATO's alleged injustices in the former Yugoslavia and as broad as the importance of "pan-Aryan" internationalism.
"I particularly like the fact that the AFBNP seems to operate as an 'umbrella group' for a number of other racial nationalist organizations," is the way one supporter put it in a letter to the group's bimonthly magazine, Heritage and Destiny.
"Our failure to cooperate with one another over the years has been a major factor in the enemies [sic] marginalization of us in the States. ... Clearly the AFBNP is on the right track."
That track includes what the British call "entryism" into the mainstream — an uncommon strategy for American extremists, who have more often than not rejected working within the system.
During last fall's U.S. presidential race, the AFBNP nearly succeeded in its explicit strategy to "infiltrate" and "hijack" several state chapters of the Reform Party, which was already heading to the far right under presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
And the tens of thousands of dollars that Cotterill's group has raised for the BNP — money donated in possible violation of both British and American law — contributed this summer to the most successful campaign in the history of Britain's most dangerous extreme-right party.
Race as the International Nexus
"Although we are all nationalists, here today we are only one nationality — white," Mark Cotterill told a recent AFNPB meeting, according to his own report in the group's Internet newsletter.
"It is not an American fight or a British fight or a German fight. It is a white fight, and we have got to win it."
To pave the path to victory, Cotterill has managed to bring in racists of almost every stripe, clearly helped by the primordial attraction to American white supremacists of his British background.
Besides the National Alliance and the League of the South, AFBNP meetings have featured Steven Barry, editor of the neo-Nazi Resister magazine, and white supremacist lawyer — and neo-Confederate enthusiast — Kirk Lyons.
Cotterill is especially close to Klansman-turned-politican-turned-expatriate David Duke and his racist European-American Rights Organization.
In all, Cotterill claims to have 100 dues-paying members in 40 states, with 1,000 people receiving his E-mail newsletter — people who are among the most active on the American white supremacist right.
AFBNP meetings are a far cry from backwoods Klan cross burnings. They're held in ordinary-looking meeting rooms and restaurants in cities like Arlington, Va., West Palm Beach, Fla., and Fort Lee, N.J. On the inside, though, racist rhetoric and ritual make the meetings feel like a world apart.
With walls draped in elaborate displays of the Union Jack and white power flags, tables are loaded with neo-Nazi paraphernalia like National Alliance leader William Pierce's racist novel, The Turner Diaries, and, in at least one case, a popular condiment for the hungry anti-Semite — "Holocaust Hot Sauce: Six Million Served."
Although they typically begin with a tepid rendition of "God Save the Queen," one recent meeting opened instead with a moment of silence — not for prayer, but for remembrance of Byron de la Beckwith, convicted murderer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
A February 2001 gathering closed with a particularly strange and solemn ceremony. Illuminated by torchlight, Cotterill stood next to a portrait of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee. With Scottish bagpipes playing low, according to the AFBNP newsletter, Cotterill "read out the names of ... martyrs who had died for Britain, the Confederacy and the Racial Nationalist Cause."
Cotterill, now 40, would seem to cut a frightening figure himself. Seasoned in the bitter sectarian conflict of Northern Ireland and the early days of the British neo-Nazi Skinhead movement, he has sought out revolutionary racists at every turn.
But a personal meeting with Cotterill betrays this radical image. A pasty figure typically clad in deck shoes, chinos and a polo shirt, Cotterill looks more like a pudgy yuppie congressional aide than a major nexus of American hate.
His deferential, even bland, style has clearly been instrumental in smoothing over differences between America's contentious extremist factions. In his newsletters, Cotterill adopts the chirpy, upbeat tone of a church social organizer.
Cotterill's style also has been important for putting a new public face on hatred. Operating out of a down-at-the-heels, two-bedroom unit in a multiracial Falls Church apartment complex, he has worked patiently and tirelessly to make white nationalism palatable for public consumption, and he does not want any Hollywood Nazi to ruin his efforts. Cotterill is adamant that the AFBNP avoid any association with the more garish trappings of radicalism.
"Please note that the wearing of combat gear, high boots, paramilitary-style or Nazi-style uniforms, or T-shirts etc. of a nature that could be used by the media against the protest organizers, is strictly forbidden," Cotterill said in reference to a recent rally held to protest German restrictions on "hate" speech and to support a convicted German neo-Nazi murderer facing deportation from America.
"Anyone turning up wearing such items will be asked to leave."