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, thanks in part to the Center's investigative work.
||Members of the Neo-Nazi National Alliance rally on the grounds of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
In the last year, membership has plunged from around 1,400 to fewer than 800. The staff has been cut by nearly half.
Income from dues and white power music sales, which brought in some $1 million last year, has dropped to the point where the Alliance spends more than it takes in.
Chapters in Boston, Dallas, Georgia, Maryland, Memphis, Phoenix and southern California are falling apart. And there is a pitched battle for control of the group and its 423-acre West Virginia compound.
The trouble began with the appointment of Erich Gliebe as chairman six days after the group's founder, William Pierce, died on July 23, 2002.
At that time, the organization was doing better than it had since its founding in 1974, regularly adding staff to Resistance Records and National Vanguard Books.
But where Pierce was a former university physics professor capable of bringing in recruits through his writings, Gliebe is hard-edged, humorless, and remarkably clumsy in his dealings with other members.
Three months before Pierce's death, both men spoke at a "leadership conference" Pierce held for some 80 top members. 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 2002, 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 Skinheads and white supremacists began boycotting Resistance Records, while more and more Alliance members went public with their own criticisms. The group's deputy membership coordinator, Billy Roper, was fired, largely because he favored alliances with those Pierce and Gliebe insulted.
Members stop paying dues
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 because hundreds of members who simply stopped paying their dues have been left on the membership rolls. This fall, the Alliance sent out letters asking members why they had stopped paying.
Meanwhile, financial trouble was becoming obvious inside the Alliance's compound near Mill Point, W.Va. Resistance Records, which had grossed almost $50,000 in its peak month of March 2002, brought in less than $7,000 during July. Alliance periodicals were behind schedule, and customers were growing furious at poor service. Gliebe began a round of staff firings.
Increasingly, members of the board that oversees the Alliance — made up of Gliebe, Fred Streed, Kitti Molz and Bob DeMarais — became aware of these problems.
DeMarais, a former college business professor, was making little headway in convincing Gliebe that changes had to be made in the group's financing. In June, a frustrated DeMarais privately resigned.
In August, Fred Streed — a board member who was widely seen as deeply loyal to the Pierce legacy — publicly resigned, angered that Gliebe refused to act on DeMarais' warnings. In a public letter, Streed described the group's financial problems and DeMarais' resignation, and called on Gliebe to resign.
Gliebe later issued a "legal document" firing the directors of the National Alliance (they included Streed, Molz, and DeMarais), though he has no such power.
Gliebe may yet pull the Alliance back from the brink. But with the animosity he has created, former key activists now leading other groups, and with his own finances flagging, it seems almost impossible that the Alliance can regain the influence it once wielded.