The once-powerful National Alliance loses its key leaders, a huge swath of members and its claim to neo-Nazi preeminence.
The National Alliance, for decades the powerhouse of the neo-Nazi radical right, is on the ropes. It has lost almost all of its key leaders, most of its income and its prestige. Its chairman recently stepped down under fire. And, with a hemorrhage of followers flowing into other groups, the Alliance's dues-paying membership has plunged to under 200 people, less than a seventh its size just three years ago.
The rapid-fire developments this spring came after almost three years of worsening political chaos unleashed by the unexpected July 2002 death of Alliance founder William Pierce. A series of embarrassing revelations, highlighted by the marriage of Chairman Erich Gliebe to a former stripper, has reduced the once-proud group to a menagerie of squabbling gossips desperate to hold onto power.
"The revolt against misrule by two people at the top that began when David Pringle resigned in protest as our Membership Coordinator in August of 2004 has now expanded to what must be over 90% of us," Jamie Kelso, an ex-member well-connected to other radical leaders, wrote in a late April Internet essay.
Gliebe, a former boxer who replaced Pierce after the founder's death, was already widely disliked at the time of Pringle's resignation. He had managed to alienate constantly increasing numbers of Alliance members, invited strippers to pose for an Alliance calendar and to attend a semi-annual "leadership conference," earned enmity by paying himself far more money than other staffers, and won a reputation for lying to his followers and wrecking the group's formerly successful businesses.
It didn't help that Pringle was popular in many quarters, or that he released an essay entitled "Demand an Audit" after his departure that detailed money wasted by Gliebe and Shaun Walker, the Alliance's chief operating officer, in a series of failed business ventures. "The days of Erich Josef Gliebe telling people to 'keep quiet' about internal problems because 'our enemies' might exploit the situation are over," Pringle wrote. "In the last year, 'our enemies' have not made disastrous decisions that have cost us most of our cash savings. Our leaders have. Our enemies have not caused us to lose more than half of our rank-and-file membership and almost two thirds of our organizational revenue in the last year. Our leaders have."
The 'Dues Brothers'
Late in the year, attempting to stop what threatened to become a mass exodus, Gliebe and Walker set up an executive committee composed of Alliance officials — Kevin Strom, Rich Lindstrom, Charles Ellis, Robert Pate and Roger Williams — in a bid to give the group a more democratic look. But, as Gliebe explained months later, it had only advisory powers. It did almost nothing to stem mounting criticism. On one Web forum after another (see list), Gliebe and Walker were pilloried as self-interested money-grubbers — the "Dues Brothers" of the neo-Nazi right.
Things got worse. In November, most of the North Carolina contingent quit, lamenting that the state had once been among the Alliance's strongest units. In early December, the coordinator of a Washington state unit left, saying he could no longer work under the current "unethical" leadership. A month later, the coordinator of a Tennessee unit departed, too, writing that he had "lost faith" in the Alliance.
In New Jersey, Gliebe was met with a nearly open revolt when he went to address a local unit and was peppered with questions about his then-girlfriend, ex-Playboy model and lap dancer Erika Snyder, and "moral character." Member Robert Minnerly, who initiated the confrontation, was expelled afterward. Not long after that, well-known New Jersey member Hal Turner wrote an essay entitled, "Knowing When it is Time to Step Down." He was ejected from the group within days.
Through it all, as the situation threatened to turn into a full-scale revolt, Kevin Alfred Strom, the group's house "intellectual" and host of its "American Dissident Voices" radio program since Pierce's death, kept quiet. Seen as a reliable Gliebe stalwart, he didn't speak up when his pay was docked for being late on deadlines for several Alliance publications he was supposed to edit. Then came April.
Things Fall Apart
On April 11, much of the Alliance's membership was shocked to learn that Gliebe and Walker had cancelled the group's semi-annual leadership conference. Although Walker claimed the cancellation was "due to a variety of reasons beyond our control," it quickly became known that the real reason was that a very prominent member was expected to aggressively confront Gliebe during the conference.
Meanwhile, it turned out, Strom had been making plans. He had talked to Pringle and Kelso, who lives with former Klan leader David Duke in Louisiana, about announcing a new organization at a May conference of Duke's latest hate group, the European-American Unity and Rights Organization. On April 14, Strom secretly transferred ownership of the Web site for the Alliance's National Vanguard Books to Palladian Books in Virginia, which is run by Strom and his wife.
Two days later, Strom was thrown out of the Alliance. Several other leading players were also expelled around the same time, including Western States Regional Coordinator Roger Williams, also a member of the new executive board; Nebraska leader William Muller; California member April Gaede, well known for her activism and her daughters, who make up the Prussian Blue band; and several others. "At this point," Pringle wrote, "every single NA unit is in disarray and open revolt."
A day after that, on April 17, much of the Cincinnati unit decided to quit paying dues to headquarters, giving them to their local treasurer instead. And on April 18, the rebels published a "historic declaration" criticizing Gliebe and Walker, demanding Walker's demotion and asking Gliebe to give up ownership of several of the Alliance's enterprises and put them in the hands of an expanded board. Signing were most of the Alliance's leaders — the entire executive board including Strom and a very wide array of unit leaders and other key activists, 140 of them in all (by the end of the month, that number had risen to more than 230 Alliance members).
A response wasn't long in coming. Four days later, Gliebe dissolved the executive board, saying that it had been designed as an advisory "think tank" but had degenerated into a "springboard" for a "power play" by the chairman's enemies.
Into the Future
It wasn't until April 24, eight days after Strom's ouster, that Gliebe tried to explain himself. In a letter to members, Gliebe described the affair as an "attempted coup" by Strom and several unit leaders that included "a massive smear campaign." Some, he said, had been "taken in by the smooth talk of our enemies." But despite it all, he insisted, "the severity of the damage and the extent of the coup were greatly exaggerated." He urged members to remember the "leadership principle" espoused by Pierce, and recalled how Pierce had put down a similar "coup" in the 1980s.
Apparently, Gliebe wasn't too convincing.
One day later, on April 25, Walker announced that Gliebe had stepped down as chairman because the one-time ladies' man had married Snyder and wanted "to devote more time to family matters." Walker would replace Gliebe, but Gliebe would stay on as ceo of Resistance Records, the Alliance's music operation.
By that time, Strom had already announced that he was forming a new group, to be named after National Vanguard, the Alliance magazine that he had long edited and whose Web site he and his wife now controlled. In May, he attended Duke's conference in New Orleans, where talk of the happenings within the Alliance was rampant. The new National Vanguard group, it was announced, would be run by former members of the Alliance executive board and other prominent former Alliance leaders.
It's not clear how successful National Vanguard will be. By mid-June, there was some evidence of 15 chapters around the country. But activists have criticized Strom as too interested in money and too weak to be a charismatic leader.
What is certain is that the Alliance, for the most part, is a hollow shell. It has lost almost all its well-known leaders, and its prestige has never been lower. Its moneymaking operations, National Vanguard Books and Resistance Records, are no longer making a profit. While it is sure to struggle on for some time, any major recovery seems very unlikely — although Gliebe still controls the Alliance's West Virginia compound, including several buildings, and other assets. In early June, a message was posted by an Alliance member that claimed surviving Alliance units only in Baltimore, Md.; Boston; Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio; Raleigh, N.C., and Sacramento, Calif. Others, it reported hopefully, were reorganizing.
The sorry state of the Alliance — and the circled-wagons mentality that has overtaken it — is reflected in angry May postings from Erika Snyder, Gliebe's wife, attacking the Stroms. Kevin Strom, Snyder wrote, is "a pompous, power-hungry brat," and his wife, Elisha, is "a feminist bisexual" given to attacks on "beautiful women [Snyder, presumably] and men who like beautiful women [Gliebe]."
Most former Alliance stalwarts seemed simply to shrug. "Gliebe can't kill the NA," wrote one in a message that spoke for hundreds. "It's already dead."