The National Alliance, America's leading hate group, is beset by internal battles, external attacks, and plunging revenues and membership.
The most important hate group in America is sinking. The National Alliance, the neo-Nazi organization that has produced and influenced more violent criminals in the last three decades than any other, may soon be facing irrelevancy.
In the last year, membership has plunged from around 1,400 to fewer than 800 who still pay their dues. The staff, once the largest of any hate group in decades, has been cut by nearly half. Income from selling white power music and paraphernalia, which with dues was said to be bringing in more than $1 million last year, has dropped to the point where the Alliance spends more than it takes in.
Alliance chapters in Boston, Dallas, Georgia, Maryland, Memphis, Phoenix and Southern California are falling apart or have been reduced to a few staunch holdouts. And a pitched battle for control of the National Alliance and its 423-acre West Virginia compound is under way.
"[T]he National Alliance appears to be well on its way to dissolution," wrote Wayne Sims, who was a key editor at the Alliance's National Vanguard Books until running afoul of the Alliance's current leadership this summer. "[G]rand as it was until July 2002, [the Alliance] has been stripped of its spirit and will, I think, soon lose its solvency. I recommend that its members find or create another group."
The group's fortunes have fallen fast. When Alliance founder and long-time leader William Pierce died on July 23, 2002, the organization was doing better than at any time since its founding in 1974. It had developed a successful business model, and was regularly adding staff to Resistance Records and National Vanguard Books, the chief income-earners for the group.
Its prestige, maintained by Pierce's essays, commentaries on current events and broadcasts over the Internet and shortwave radio, reached all the way to the European radical right. The Alliance was in the streets and in the news, and its members were never more optimistic.
Today, all of that seems little more than a distant memory. Since former boxer Erich Gliebe was named chairman six days after Pierce's death, the Alliance has been plagued by vicious internal battles and almost daily attacks from outside right-wing radicals. It now seems possible the Alliance could completely founder.
The Descent Into Darkness
The trouble began with Gliebe. Although he had earned Pierce's respect, bringing Resistance Records to profitability in a couple of years and making his Cleveland unit the most active in the country, Gliebe was no Pierce.
Where Pierce was a former university physics professor and an intellectual capable of bringing in recruits through his writings, Gliebe was a one-time tool-and-die maker who was hard-edged, humorless and remarkably clumsy in his dealings with other members.
Three months before Pierce's death, on April 20, 2002, both men spoke at the "leadership conference" Pierce held for some 80 leadership candidates. In speeches that were meant to remain private, both men pilloried members of other hate groups, with Pierce calling them "freaks and weaklings" and Gliebe parroting his words.
In September, the Intelligence Report revealed details of those speeches, setting off a storm among racist Skinheads and others who had been attacked by the Alliance leaders.
The brouhaha had serious consequences, as it was these Skinheads who were the chief customers of the Alliance's Resistance Records operation. Soon, many white supremacists were boycotting the label, even as more and more Alliance members went public with criticisms of the "elite" nature of their organization.
At the same time, Gliebe fired the group's deputy membership coordinator, Billy Roper (see profile Revolting in Arkansas), largely because Roper favored alliances with Skinheads and others, and in fact had worked hard to build those bridges. The firing signaled that Gliebe was taking a hard-line position and would brook no opposition to his policies. Soon, a number of other key activists and leaders began to trickle out of the group.
It didn't help when Gliebe went on the offensive, bitterly attacking Roper and the others who had left and then completely denying the Report's account of the leadership speeches as a "disinformation effort."
Although some may have believed him, 80 leading members of the Alliance had heard the speeches in question. It soon became widely known that Gliebe was perfectly willing to lie to his members.
The Alliance was already doing less well than was commonly believed. National Vanguard Books, which in 2000 had been grossing some $20,000 a month, was only making half that at the time of Pierce's death — almost entirely a result of the same books being sold more cheaply through online bookstores. At the same time, the Alliance was having to recruit more and more energetically, and with less selectivity, just to replace the members who were leaving every week.
By December 2002, a net membership decline had begun that has only picked up speed since. Even today, Alliance officials do not know the full extent of their losses. That's because hundreds of members who simply stopped paying their dues have been left on the membership rolls in the hope that they will return. This fall, the Alliance finally sent out letters asking members why they had stopped paying.
Gliebe faced a hard road. He had to reinvigorate the group, renew his followers' loyalty to the Alliance and its new leaders, and bring back Resistance and National Vanguard Books as profit centers.
Instead, as the next months played out, the Alliance chairman made a number of mistakes in judgment, alienating many inside the group just as a remarkable series of events threatened to destroy him.
Money, Loyalty and Criticism
Shortly after firing Roper, Erich Gliebe traveled to Georgia to solidify the shaky support of Chester Doles, the state unit leader. He stuck a gold pin of a "life rune" — the symbol of the Alliance — into Doles' lapel, and a few days later named Doles as one of a handful of designated Alliance spokesmen. But the flattery failed. By January 2003, Doles was publicly saying that he would no longer host meetings of the Alliance, which he characterized as replete with informants and enemies.
Two months later, on March 7, Doles was arrested after some 70 members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force raided his Dahlonega home, finding 13 firearms and charging Doles with being a felon in possession of guns. (After beating a black man driving with a white woman, Doles, a former Klansman with a swastika tattooed on one hand, had been sentenced to seven years. He served almost four.)
Gliebe showed little interest in helping the man who had apparently already decided to desert him. But many others in the group felt strongly about Doles, who was a very popular leader and had built a large and tightly knit Georgia unit.
The fact that Doles was jailed and left 11 children with no income behind him — as well as questions about the validity of the charges — brought Doles great sympathy.
By summer, a maverick Alliance member, Alex Linder (see profile Potty Humor and the Revolution), was writing about Doles on his personal Web site, Vanguard News Network (VNN), which had acquired great popularity on the white supremacist scene. It wasn't long before Linder announced that an anonymous donor had offered to match $25,000 in donations to a Doles defense fund.
Linder dubbed this anonymous donor "Jimmy Teuton, Goy Genius" — after the cartoon character "Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius" — and plugged his offer repeatedly. Soon, donations were flowing into VNN.
Meanwhile, financial trouble was becoming obvious inside the Alliance's compound near Mill Point, W. Va. Increasingly, members of the board that oversees the Alliance — made up of Gliebe, Fred Streed, Kitti Molz and Bob DeMarais — were aware of serious problems.
Gliebe was spending more than the Alliance was taking in, and DeMarais, a former college business professor, was making little headway in convincing Gliebe that changes had to be made. In early June, a frustrated DeMarais resigned from the board, although that fact was kept secret for another two months.
On July 4, Linder made a startling announcement. Donors had sent him $48,726, which meant that with the $25,000 matching offer, the Doles family could hire Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman, as its high-powered attorney. The same day, Linder launched his VNN Forum, an uncensored Internet chat group that would become a key venue for internal and external criticism of Gliebe and his regime. Not long after, Linder gave Doles' wife nearly $80,000, and she did hire Barr.
Linder had pulled it off. And Gliebe was not looking good.
Another Web site, overthrow.com, also played an important role in airing criticism of Gliebe. Operated by a former anarchist named Bill White (see profile The Gossip), Overthrow published reams of negative information about Gliebe and those around him — some true, some false, but all of it well read. White published letters from anonymous Alliance members, leaders and former members that added up to a chorus of attacks on Gliebe for failing to help Doles. By the time that Linder made his announcement, large numbers of Alliance members already despised Gliebe.
Gliebe loyalists went to bat. In particular, Kevin Alfred Strom — host of the Alliance's radio program "American Dissident Voices" and a particular target of Bill White's vitriolic scorn — cut a deal with Don Black, the proprietor of another popular white supremacist Web site called Stormfront. Black agreed to censor any negative comments about Gliebe and the Alliance from his site's very popular forum.
The battle lines were drawn. The war had begun in earnest.
In New Jersey, a Sideshow
On July 10, six days after Linder's announcement, a story appeared in the local paper in Hopewell Borough, N.J. A reporter, writing a profile of Marc Moran, named a week earlier to replace a departing city council member, ran a Net search and discovered that Moran was a member of the National Alliance and had written for VNN and other venues. Within two days, Moran had quit the council.
Although the Moran story provoked a flurry of local media coverage and Moran's promise to quit the Alliance, it was only later that some key facts came out. It turned out that Moran was the anonymous "Jimmy Teuton" and had provided key funding for Linder's VNN and VNN Forum. He also had reportedly paid Bill White, who is a computer consultant, to run the technical side of Linder's Web operation.
These revelations added to the storm. Now, Gliebe and his faction began to portray Linder, his internal critic, as in the thrall of White, who was pictured as a former Communist with extremely suspect motives. Questions were raised about White, whose rabid attacks on the Alliance did often seem difficult to explain, given that White described himself as a born-again white nationalist and anti-Semite.
At the same time, the financial situation at Alliance headquarters seemed to be worsening. Resistance Records, which had grossed almost $50,000 in its peak month of March 2002 (four months before Pierce's death), brought in less than $7,000 this July.
Almost all Alliance periodicals were far behind schedule and Alliance customers were growing furious at the poor service, if any, that they received after sending money in for music, publications and other merchandise. Gliebe had begun a round of staff firings that would continue through August as he sought to get rid of anyone who had criticized his stewardship of the organization.
Privately, many were deeply worried about these problems. Then, suddenly, it all went public.
On Aug. 3, Fred Streed — a board member who was widely seen as steady, hard-working and deeply loyal to the Pierce legacy — publicly resigned. Principally, he was angered that Gliebe refused to act on repeated warnings about the financial situation. But he also flogged Gliebe for refusing to listen to any criticism and for attacking Linder and White rather than making use of their forums to reply. He described some of the group's financial problems, and he revealed that DeMarais had quit.
"Erich seems to be almost constitutionally incapable of making hard decisions," he wrote. "His reaction to repeated warnings that the NA is overextending financially is just to ignore it and keep spending money as if no problem exists."
"Erich Gliebe," Streed concluded, "must resign."
The Counterattack Begins
Now it was all out in the open. Two of the Alliance's four board members had quit — foolishly, from their point of view, because they had the power as a board to fire Gliebe from his post as Alliance chairman. Only Gliebe and Kitti Molz, a Streed sympathizer, were left. But there were no longer enough votes to remove Gliebe.
Gliebe's counterattack wasn't long in coming. On Aug. 5, Strom attacked Streed in a public posting. On Aug. 6, it was the turn of David Pringle, membership coordinator, who described Streed's resignation as "basically a coup attempt," said that all was well with the Alliance, and claimed membership was rising. By Aug. 12, when Pringle posted another denunciation, his tone had grown almost desperate.
"Jews aren't our greatest enemy," he said. "Traitors inside the gates are."
Then he launched into a bitter attack on Molz, who three days earlier had told nine senior unit coordinators in a teleconference of her dissatisfaction with Gliebe, and even repeated an allegation that Gliebe had secretly bootlegged some 700 CDs of a band with the Resistance label. Molz also had tried to stop Gliebe and his faction from drawing checks from Alliance bank accounts, but ultimately failed.
Molz, Pringle wrote, was "waging a campaign of backstabbing and betrayal," a "Brutus style assassination attempt on our Chairman." He demanded that she resign, and asked others to write her, too. But Molz declined to quit.
Reaction to the loyalists was not good. One Alliance member, identifying himself as Jack Newport in an E-mail to Linder's VNN, said he was planning to leave if Gliebe did not soon make changes.
"I'm a middle-class, proud Aryan with a wife and kid who lives in a neighborhood that is chock full of the type of people the NA says it's trying to recruit," he wrote in remarks that had to be troubling. "Problem is, I have serious reservations about the very foundation and future of the organization. It definitely isn't the program or ideology, it's the people running the show."
Then, on Aug. 16, Gliebe issued what purported to be a legal document firing the directors of the National Alliance and National Vanguard Books (they included Streed, Molz, DeMarais and Sims). The trouble was, Gliebe had no such power — it is the board that can fire him — and so his document was simply ignored.
Late in the month, Shaun Walker, a prominent Alliance member from Salt Lake City, wrote another defense of Gliebe. But it was filled with lies and half-truths about the power of the board (he said Gliebe had power over the board, not vice versa) and a large number of other matters. As a result, the letter's main effect was to galvanize still more anger and opposition to the Gliebe cabal.
On Aug. 29, it was announced that Walker — one of a rapidly diminishing number of well-known members supporting Gliebe — had been named the Alliance's "chief operating officer." "We are stronger than ever," Pringle wrote in making the announcement. But then he said Walker would need to devise a new business plan.
Finally, on Sept. 3, Gliebe issued a conciliatory letter defending his firings, wishing members of other hate groups "the best of luck," conceding that "mistakes have been made," and insisting that his administration was open to "constructive criticism." On the same day, Pringle posted an ad for "dependable people" with a minimum of one year as Alliance members to join the headquarters staff.
Whither the National Alliance?
A remarkable series of events seems to have coalesced that may ultimately wreck what has for years been the most important hate group in America. The unexpected death of William Pierce; the naming of a man to replace him who had none of Pierce's intellectual qualities and few people skills; financial woes almost certainly due to poor management; the appearance of several Internet sites that aired all kinds of movement criticism of the Alliance; and the failure of Gliebe to raise money for a member in trouble — have all contributed to the present situation.
Hundreds of members have left the Alliance and key units are coming close to collapse. Although Gliebe claims to have added new chapters since Pierce's death, the reality is that these units are generally far smaller than the six-member minimum that Pierce insisted on, and they often consist of people who are brand new.
At press time, Gliebe had actually managed to fire or alienate everyone on staff who understood how to access the Alliance's membership database, which is protected by a sophisticated system of passwords at various levels. Presumably, he will regain access to the database, but even the temporary loss is telling.
Many former and present Alliance members think that various units of the organization will spin off and become independent groups. There has even been talk of "growing a new head" — that is, spinning off a new national group from units of the present Alliance and then choosing an entirely new leadership to head it.
Gliebe may yet pull the Alliance back from the brink. But with the huge amount of animosity he has created, with many of his former key activists now in leading roles of other groups, and with his own finances flagging, it seems almost impossible that the Alliance can regain the influence it once wielded.
Today, what seems more likely is that the struggle over the Alliance will eventually devolve into a simple battle over the substantial commercial assets the group still controls.