The National Socialist Movement (NSM), otherwise known as America’s Nazi Party, has garnered considerable attention over the past few weeks with its planned rally at the state capital in Lansing on the 22nd. In both corporate media sources and alternative media such as Lansing’s weekly City Pulse and Michigan State University’s student newspaper, there have been a considerable number of articles focusing on the potential for a conflict between the NSM and groups protesting the rally, many of whom have coalesced as the Lansing Coalition against Nazis (LCAN). However, while these articles have discussed security preparations, the efforts of some Lansing city leaders to prevent protests, and the possibility that the NSM will attend the city’s diversity rally, there has been little to no reporting on what exactly the NSM advocates, how active they are, and how they aim to achieve their goal of a white society.
According to various sources, the contemporary National Socialist Movement has its origins with the American Nazi Party which was founded in 1959 by George Lincoln Rockwell, a man who was known as “America’s Fuheur” and who advocated the extermination of all “treasonous Jews, through methods used by Hitler’s Nazis, banish all American Negroes to Africa and amend the Constitution of the United States to conform to Nazi whims” (source). Like the NSM, Rockwell developed an advanced form of Nazism that broadened the definition of “white” beyond the exclusive Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and traditional Nazi definitions to include everyone who was not born black and was not Jewish. Rockwell also advanced the notion of Holocaust denial and worked to connect Nazism with Christianity, laying the foundation for groups such as World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), a white supremacist group that gained influence among white supremacists during the 1990s and was a consistent target of anti-fascist organizing. Rockwell and his neo-Nazi followers also popularized the wearing of Nazi uniforms or “brown shirts” during their public appearances and frequently referred to themselves as “storm troopers” after the Nazi SS.
While the continuity can be seen in both the NSM (nationally and in Michigan) holding “memorial” events for Rockwell and in the NSM’s frequent public appearances wearing full Nazi uniforms, there is also a strong ideological and organizational link to Rockwell. The NSM was founded in 1974 as the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement by Robert Brannen and Cliff Harington, two former “stormtroopers” in the American Nazi Party, which had largely disbanded after the assassination of Rockwell in 1967. Until the mid-1990s, the group operated largely in Minnesota’s Twin Cities with little public attention until it received notoriety when two members showed up in Nazi uniform to a Minnesota legislative committee hearing to protest a proposed gay rights bill. In 1994, Herrington stepped down and leadership was given to Jeff Schoep in 1998, who was hailed as the man that would finally achieve the “white revolution” (Schoep has a criminal past as does Indiana’s NSM head who is a registered sex offender). Schoep, who was only 24 at the time that he took “command” of the NSM, has worked to appeal to younger white supremacists and has continued the group’s open adulation of Adolph Hitler and organized the NSM as a paramilitary group wherein members are given military ranks (hence Schoep’s title of “Commander”) and chapters are referred to as “units.”
The NSM’s core ideology is based around what it calls the “25 points of American National Socialism, racial freedom, and separation.” While the NSM claims that they take into consideration other factors aside from race, even a cursory look at their positions reveals that they are extreme racists in the tradition of Hitler. The NSM advocates “the union of all Whites [sic]” into a “greater America” that is based on self-determination and National Socialism where only those of “pure White blood” will be full citizens, whereas all others would live under the threat of forced deportation and be “subject to laws for aliens.” In staying with traditional Nazism, Jewish people and homosexuals would not be permitted to be a member of the nation. The group also advocates family law that is race specific as a means of ensuring the “race survival” of the white race and makes exceptions to its opposition to abortion and euthanasia in the case of “race-mixing.” The military would be reformed to for “the defense of our race and nation” and would exclude non-Americans, criminals, and “sensitivity training.” Along with the traditional racist views of Nazism, the NSM also has adopted the Nazis anti-gay views. The group views homosexuality as “a chosen lifestyle and a mental sickness,” labeling it a “social degeneracy” that must be “expunged” from society. They go on to argue that homosexuality encourages sexual predators, sexual pedophiles, rape, and murder, of which the NSM believes the majority are committed by “homosexual prone monsters” and would deal with such individuals with “an instant death penalty” according to the NSM Michigan’s “Questions and Answers.”
Interestingly, the NSM also advocates a sort of populist right-based anti-capitalist rhetoric as part of its program of implementing “a healthy nationalized socialist economy” that makes appeals to what may be legitimate concerns of much of the working poor. The NSM opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and advocates for such things as a living wage, universal access to health care, removal of taxes on the necessities of life, affordable access to health care, and even increased regulation of pollution. If all this is presented without the NSM’s racism, homophobia, and xenophobia, it is more radical than either the Democratic or Republican Party platforms. Similarly, the NSM seeks to capitalize on anti-immigrant sentiment and advocates for the immediate deportation of what they term “illegal” immigrants. Of course, all of these programs and policies have to been seen within the context of the NSM’s efforts to protect “white workers” from the perceived threats that they are facing from other groups, and while it can be argued that the majority of people in the United States are opposed to Nazism, the NSM’s appeal for radical change where the right and the left have failed does resonant with the some disenfranchised youth (the NSM has a program specifically targeting youth, the Viking Youth Corps).
While the NSM may potentially appeal to some white citizens of the United States, it is unclear exactly how influential they are and how much popular support they actually have. The NSM claims to have “units” (chapters) in several states—including Michigan—and is estimated to have around 200 members. These units engage in a variety of activities, including leafleting, holding white power musical concerts, rallies, and public demonstrations, as well as efforts aimed at recruiting new members. From the outside it is hard to evaluate exactly how much success the NSM is having in recruiting new members and while many racists are turned off by the group’s Hitleresque dress, the NSM is a potential threat in that it advocates working with other white power groups and seems to have the ability to smooth over some of the infighting that has plagued the white supremacist and fascist movements.