Hammerskin Nation, began a decade ago as a small Dallas Skinhead organization has emerged as a harder, more disciplined international group.
In the 1980 animated film adaptation of "The Wall," Pink Floyd's rock anthem for angry youth, a little fascist character struts across a stage and rouses his followers to violence against minorities. The fans are portrayed in the film as a mass of marching twin claw hammers.
Today, these crossed hammers signify the best organized, most widely dispersed and most dangerous Skinhead group known: Hammerskin Nation (HN).
For more than a decade, the conventional take on Skinheads by law enforcement, monitoring organizations and even some white supremacists was that they were little more than drunken street thugs, full of beer and venom and good to go with knife, bat and gun. They were seen as dysfunctional yobs stumbling in and out of jails and given to fighting among themselves — brawlers who couldn't be organized or controlled.
All of them failed.
Mahon learned the hard way when a handful of Skins stabbed him and beat him senseless at a Georgia get-together.
The hard-nosed, beer-swilling Skinheads weren't much interested in rallying around a platform full of elder "Aryans" droning on about a white revolution somewhere in the vague future. They needed action. Immediately.
For them, it was far more satisfying to discharge violence helter-skelter — not only on minorities, gays and anti-racists, but on each other as well. This uncontrolled behavior, combined with their shaved heads, steel-toed Doc Martens boots and bodies swimming with racist tattoos, made Skinheads easy targets for the cops.
Then came the Hammerskins.
From Dallas to Europe
"The seeds have sprouted and the youth have now become the adults," Hammerskin Press, the official publication of HN, said last fall. "Our enemies are seeing a movement far more advanced than the movement of 10 years ago. Camouflaged in society and rooted deep into the system, we're no longer an easy target, but a revolutionary force."
The Hammerskins first appeared in the late '80s as the Dallas-based Confederate Hammerskins and spread to Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. More namesakes followed: the Northern Hammerskins in the Great Lakes region, the Eastern Hammerskins in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the Western Hammerskins in Arizona and California.
By 1989, HN emerged as the unifying organization for these dispersed groups. Within a few years, HN had become global, jumping from North America across the Atlantic to the east and the Pacific to the west. Today, HN has viable chapters in Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Russia.
Like outlaw motorcycle gangs such as the Hell's Angels, HN has a strict recruitment policy that requires not only "face-time" with prospective members but a three-month probationary period. Going into the Hammerskins is not like joining most white supremacy organizations, which typically ask for little more than mailing in a cursory application along with a few dollars to a post office box.
But unlike criminal street gangs, HN has a focused and — considering the crudity of other Skinhead propaganda — relatively sophisticated political outlook.
"We can model ourselves to the next generation and pave a more positive road from our hardship and trials over the years," one HN publication suggests. "Teach by example is the most productive form of recruiting, not to mention, the safest! ... Not only are we in a Race struggle, but we're in a Class struggle as well.
This is something the reactionary right-wingers ... have failed to acknowledge. This is something we will continue to stress! We will continue to focus on race and economics. ... Avoid the Nationalists, Capitalists, Marxists, Left/Right, and Judeo-christian rhetoric, and labor with a Race First motto."
Prison and the Hammerskins
Loyalty to HN is paramount. Hammerskins are permitted to also join neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance or Aryan Nations, but they are Hammerskins first and always. As they declare: "HFFH! Hammerskins Forever, Forever Hammerskin!"
Today, HN is led by matured young men, a number of whom have done serious prison time for violent crimes ranging from assaults and bombings to attempted murder and murder. Leadership in the HN does not stop behind bars: such Hammerskin "heroes" as Louis Oddo and Sean Tarrant command intense respect and wield influence far beyond the confines of their prison cells.
Since 1996, HN has vigorously and effectively recruited within juvenile correction facilities. Guided by disciplined ex-cons such as Jimmy Miller (see ... And Another Springs Up), an HN leader out of Mesa, Ariz., the Hammerskins are adept at reaching out to young men within the prison system and bringing them into the group.
Miller, who went into adult prison at age 17 for a series of firebombings, has the kind of no-nonsense reputation that appeals to violent young offenders. He and two other Hammerskins once used a mat knife to carve a Hammerskin tattoo from the body of a Skinhead who had betrayed the group.
The other recruiting tool for Hammerskin Nation is the same as that for Skinheads worldwide: the white power rock concert. HN has sponsored at least seven of these since March of this year — in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Budapest, Hungary.
Hammerskin-affiliated bands include many of the most popular white power bands: Max Resist, Midtown Boot Boys, Dying Breed and Bound for Glory.
The International Scene
With the number of European Hammerskins now exceeding 2,000 and the frequent trans-Atlantic travel of U.S. and European Hammerskin contingents, HN cannot be viewed as a provincial problem. British neo-Nazi fugitive Del Connor lived safely among his fellow Dallas Hammerskins for almost a year until he made an ill-advised return to England in June, where he was promptly arrested by British law enforcement.
While in Texas, Connor, a former leader of the British neofascist group Combat 18, ran from afar an underground faction in the United Kingdom called the White Wolves. It is this group that claimed credit for three nail-bomb attacks in London this spring.
The international connections go further. Over the past year, law enforcement agents in Arizona, Florida and Texas have reported the presence of British and German Hammerskins among the ranks of their local Hammerskin units. What's more, the European skins seem to be learning essential lessons from their U.S. counterparts.
German Hammerskins, the journalist Eike Wunderlich wrote in 1998, "are organized like a political party. [They] attempt to present themselves as an elite force of politically convinced and trained nazi skinheads. This politicization goes back to the US Hammerskins and their theory of 'leaderless resistance.'
"The organizational form adopted by the Hammerskins consists of single, decentralized, autonomously organized nazi cells united on the basis of a common commitment to national socialist ideology. The hitherto unreliable and loose structures of the skinhead scene have evolved into a more organized form, coordinated by 'cadres,' to create a much more political movement."
The German Hammerskin publication, Hass Atacke, has a circulation of 1,000. And Wunderlich has reported that there are at least four other Hammerskin publications with equivalent circulations.
A New Generation Arises
But the key to the Hammerskin Nation's success thus far has been the American Hammerskins. Hammerskin Nation, the official publication for HN, comes out of Springfield, Mo. The HN web site, which also hosts the official German Hammerskin site, is operated from New Jersey.
According to the British Hammerskins, HN expects to soon have its own Internet service provider, an expensive but highly effective tool that will allow Hammerskin Nation an unfettered presence on the global Web.
Arising out of Hammerskin Nation is a new generation of leaders on the white nationalist revolutionary front. Many of these leaders have survived the prison system and have come back to the streets more hardened, better disciplined and better educated than their predecessors on the racist right, most of whom have done nothing more risky than marching down the street with a swastika on their sleeve.
The Internet and inexpensive airfares have drawn the Hammerskins into a transnational movement that beats everywhere to the same pulse. Texas Hammerskins think nothing of flying to Budapest to attend a major meeting of HN. Nor do German Hammerskins have any problem showing up at a Hammerskin concert in deep East Texas.
With the exceptions of White Aryan Resistance's Tom Metzger and the National Alliance's William Pierce, the old neo-Nazi leadership has little relevance to this up-and-coming generation of racist revolutionaries.
The "dinosaurs" of organized white supremacy (see One Generation Fades ...) are giving way to a leaner, meaner and smarter species of neo-Nazi, one that follows not the banner of the Third Reich but the twin claw hammers of the new pan-Aryan movement.