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

A Conflict Within
That kind of sneering analysis — which will come as a rude shock to the many hate groups that sent their condolences over Pierce's death — was not shared by all in the National Alliance.

Billy Roper, in particular, has worked hard to build alliances with the very groups Pierce and Gliebe despised. Roper brought racist Skinheads and other "white nationalists" to Alliance-sponsored rallies and even joined them in the streets of York, Pa., where they battled hundreds of anti-racists last Jan. 12.

That did not sit well with Pierce.

"There was this unity thing in the air for a while back at the beginning of the year," Pierce said at the April conference, "this idea that the freaks and sieg-heilers could somehow be a benefit to us, especially if we got in street fights with the Jews and reds and blacks. ... We are not strong enough at this time to effectively fight in the streets against the kind of opposition that could have been anticipated in York. ... We don't do that sort of thing."

Roper's outreach, along with his continuing ties to Skinheads and others who would never be allowed into the elitist National Alliance, has alienated him from other staff members who live on the group's isolated, 346-acre headquarters compound just outside Mill Valley, W. Va.

To them, Roper was ignoring a basic tenet of Pierce's — that the Alliance is a vanguard party, an elite group that will lead the "lemmings" of white America to ultimate victory. But that did not prevent Roper from emerging as the other candidate for chairman.

Indeed, Roper could be seen jockeying for position after Pierce's death, even boasting by E-mail that he'd been named "White Activist of the Year" by Volksfront, a small neo-Nazi outfit in the Northwest.

Roper's strength lies in the so-called "units" of the 1,500-member National Alliance located around the country — 51 chapters in 25 states — where his allies are concentrated.

That has led to speculation that if Roper is eventually kicked out, as seems possible, he could form a rival group drawn from his less ideologically "pure" friends around the United States. But that is not likely to happen any time soon, as the Alliance struggles to keep intact the organization that Pierce built.

Pierce, a former university physics professor, clearly foresaw the difficulties that could beset the group after his death. Robert Griffin, a sympathetic academic who wrote a 2001 biography of Pierce (see review), says Pierce worried that the Alliance was not well organized to perpetuate itself into the future. Griffin paraphrased Pierce as saying "that the pattern of one-man organizations — and the Alliance is that, really — is for them to fade away when their leader passes."