Neo-Nazi National Alliance Struggles to Survive Under New Chairman Erich Gliebe

After the unexpected death of its leader, the neo-Nazi National Alliance struggles to survive under a new chairman

At the end, he called in his inner circle one by one, dispensing orders from his deathbed as the darkness closed in around him. For 10 days this July, William Luther Pierce instructed his subordinates, working feverishly to try to assure the survival of his National Alliance, America's leading neo-Nazi group.

It was an old-fashioned death for a man who conceived of himself in decidedly old-fashioned terms — as a lord among serfs, an elite leader uniquely capable of leading "his people" to victory over Jews, "race traitors," and a whole host of other enemies.

The question in the mind of the dying Pierce was the same one that came to haunt followers and enemies alike after his July 23 demise: Could the National Alliance, a group built around a single man, survive that man's departure?

Pierce's death came at a critical moment. A quarter-century after birthing the Alliance from the rubble of a George Wallace youth support group, Pierce, 68, had finally remade his outfit into a remarkably professional organization. Much of the previous two years had been spent building up a talented staff, learning how to run a profitable business, and intensifying recruiting and propaganda.

By this spring, the Alliance was bringing in more than $1 million a year, had a paid national staff of 17 full-time officials, and was better known than at any time in its history. In just five days in June, Alliance members in 20 states distributed 70,000 leaflets.

Six days after Pierce's unforeseen death from kidney failure and cancer, a committee of his key staffers announced that the Alliance had found a new leader.

Erich Gliebe, the hard-edged former boxer who fought professionally as "The Aryan Barbarian," would be the new chairman, although all agreed that no one could replace Pierce, who was memorialized as "Our Eternal Chairman," comparable to Hitler himself.

"We have a leader," announced Billy Roper, the Alliance's deputy membership coordinator and a man many members had touted to succeed Pierce. "There is no crisis. There is no dissension, and there should be no factions."

'Freaks and Weaklings'
Although Gliebe is not expected to have the kind of total authority that Pierce enjoyed — the inner core of the Alliance's national staff is likely to act as a kind of collective leadership — his ascension was unsurprising.

He is considered smart and ruthless, even if humorless and without charisma. More importantly, he is the well-established manager of Resistance Records, the white power music label that has brought the National Alliance financial success and political attention.

Gliebe had also shown himself intensely loyal to Pierce, who viewed him as a son. That was made apparent once more at an April 20 "leadership conference" held at the compound, during which Pierce gave his last speech.

While some Alliance members were taken aback by Pierce's fierce attack on the "defective people" who make up other hate groups, Gliebe was not among them. Following Pierce to the podium of this highly secretive gathering, Gliebe launched into a harangue about the "morons" and "hobbyists" who inhabit other groups and sometimes even manage to slip into the Alliance.

"We have a great opportunity to really shape the future of our struggle and task at hand," Gliebe barked, "and to totally wipe out this make-believe world otherwise known as 'the movement.' As most of you know, there is no movement, although quite a few people out there think there may be."

Pierce returned to the podium to pound that message home to the 80 members who had been invited, many of whom had never met Pierce and were being vetted for possible larger roles in the future.

"To sum up," Pierce told them, "the Alliance has no interest at all in the so-called 'movement.' We're not interested in uniting with the movement, and we're not interested in competing with the movement for members. If anything, we should be grateful that the movement is out there to soak up a lot of the freaks and weaklings who otherwise might find their way into the Alliance and make problems for us.

"In this regard, I was sorry to note Aryan Nations and the [World] Church of the Creator [the two other major neo-Nazi groups in America] have, for all practical purposes, died in the last few weeks. I hope one or two replacement groups spring up to draw away from us the defectives."