The National Alliance (NA), the faded organization that once was the powerhouse of the American neo-Nazi scene, seems to be giving off a final death rattle. Its leader says it will no longer function as a membership organization, a move that reflects the fact that it has now lost virtually all of its supporters.
In a letter sent to members earlier this month, NA Chairman Erich Gliebe said the group will now be “supporter-based,” rather than made up of active, dues-paying "members" divided into chapters around the country. Gliebe portrayed the change as a “step forward” and “the beginning of a new approach that will appeal to a broader range of people” and a way of avoiding members with “serious character flaws.”
Gliebe’s Sept. 6 letter was immediately mocked by former members and others who have seen the NA fall from a highly organized and financially stable group of some 1,400 members to a fractious club of fewer than 75 members, most of whom stopped paying their monthly dues long ago. Californian Jim Ring, who until he quit last year was the group’s most respected and influential member, savaged Gliebe on his own website.
With NA membership “plummeting toward zero,” Ring wrote, Gliebe and his board of directors “have found a unique face-saving way to deal with the embarrassment; that is to declare they don’t want any members anyway.” “However,” Ring added, “in Gliebe’s Alliance some things never change. …. He still wants your money. Membership dues are now simply donations,” a reference to Gliebe’s request that former members send in donations in the same amount as their previous dues.
The NA has been in decline for years, as documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) over a long period (see here, here, here, here and here) — ever since 2002, when founder William Pierce died and Gliebe, a rough-hewn former amateur boxer, took over. Gliebe angered huge numbers of his membership with his abrasive personality and management style, his poor financial stewardship, his contentious marriage to a former stripper, and a whole host of other issues. The SPLC’s revelation in June that Gliebe had put up for sale 289 acres of the NA’s 346-acre West Virginia compound infuriated even more members who believed Gliebe was shutting down the group and cashing out. Earlier in the year, Pierce’s brother, Sanders Pierce, quit the group in another deep embarrassment to Gliebe and his few remaining supporters.
Gliebe’s recent letter, which was made public on Ring’s website, comes at a time when what might have been the last lifeline for the NA is in serious jeopardy. A estimated $250,000 bequest (about $160,000 after taxes and other debts) left to the group by a Canadian NA member is being challenged in a Canadian courtroom by the late member’s family, supported by two human rights groups representing Canadian Jews and the New Brunswick attorney general. Although such a case would almost certainly fail under U.S. law, Canadian law has a much broader interpretation of the “public good” that could result in the courts disallowing a bequest meant to benefit a neo-Nazi organization.
The case is set for trial in New Brunswick on Nov. 13 and 14.
The anger directed at Gliebe by his former followers is hard to adequately describe. Jim Ring, writing this summer, didn’t hold back. “There is no greater miscreant,” he said in words that could have come from a great many former NA members, “than this piece of filth who has betrayed Dr. Pierce’s Our Cause.”