Updated: Jun 19
Introduction & Overview
The National Socialist Movement is a neo-Nazi organization that is grounded in far-right nazi beliefs. It believes in establishing an all-white America. Robert Brannen and Cliff Herrington founded the NSM in 1974 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Both of these men were originally stormtroopers who were a part of the American Nazi Party (ANP) under George Lincoln Rockwell. The NSM was originally named the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement but was later renamed to the NSM, once Jeff Schoep assumed leadership of the group. With the decline of similar groups, such as the Aryan Nations and the National Vanguard in the early 2000s, the NSM rose to prominence within the far-right. Burt Colucci is the most recent leader of the NSM after Schoep stepped down in 2019, and the NSM is known as the oldest and most prominent neo-Nazi group which is currently active in the United States (1).
History & Foundations
The NSM was founded in 1974 by Robert Brannen and Cliff Herrington with the headquarters based in Detroit, Michigan. The organizational structure of the NSM is similar to a paramilitary group, with some members labeled as lieutenants and sergeants. Its chapters are scattered throughout the U.S. but are most prominent in the Northeast (1). The NSM started to regain prominence in 2004 after the deaths of infamous Neo-Nazi leaders Richard Butler and William Pierce. It was not long until the NSM was back to being one of the most prominent Neo-Nazi groups in the U.S.
Jeff Schoep took control of the NSM in 1994 at 21 years old. In 2006, Cliff Herrington was removed from the organisation due to his wife's affiliation with Satanists. She was outed as the “High Priestess” of the Joy of Satan's Ministry. Schoep’s age allowed the NSM to reach a broader, younger audience, and under Schoep, youth organisations were set up to recruit young teens into the NSM. "Viking Youth Corps" was one of these organisations that the NSM utilised to recruit young teenagers. The NSM created a variety of media outputs to reach new audiences who might be interested. These include a music label (NSM88 Records) as well as a website named New Saxon to meet other like-minded individuals. (2)
Jeff Schoep led the NSM for two and a half decades. However, once Schoep started facing legal trouble due to his involvement in the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, he started to denounce his past actions. There is much debate about whether or not he is fully sincere with this, and he has stated that he has stepped down from the NSM and even describes himself as a "peace advocate". On the 23rd of November 2021, the Virginia Federal Court found Jeff Schoep and the NSM liable for civil conspiracy. Jeff Schoep was fined $500,000 in punitive damages, and the NSM (under Burt Colucci) was fined $1,000,000.(2)
Although the current leader of the NSM is Burt Colucci (and he was indicted on January 4th, as well as charged with two counts of misdemeanour disorderly conduct and one count of felony disorderly conduct), the leadership of the NSM has been relatively contested. James Stern was a black Baptist minister who convinced Jeff Schoep to hand over control of the NSM leadership, by assuring him that doing this would help Schoep avoid lawsuits due to his participation in the Charlottesville riots. The two had shared phone calls from December 2018 through to February 2019, and Schoep’s position was precarious as the NSM and other groups were held accountable for the death of Heather Hayer during the Charlottesville riot in 2017. Eventually, Schoep turned over the leadership to Stern in order to get rid of the lawsuits. However, Stern had plans to undermine the NSM from within. His first action as leader was to ask the Virginia federal court to issue a judgement against the NSM prior to their trial. He also stated that he wanted to transform the group’s website into a place to teach NSM members about the Holocaust. He died on October 11, 2019 (5).
Ideology & Objectives
The NSM acts openly as a neo-Nazi group. They are very open about their worship and support of Adolf Hitler and far-right ideas. They spread antisemitic conspiracy theories with posters and flyers including titles such as “Every single aspect of 9/11 is Jewish”, and “Every single aspect of mass immigration is Jewish”. They believe in “defending White European values” and upholding a strictly white-exclusive nation.
The NSM has a 25-demand list named The 25-Point Plan. It is a list of the demands that the NSM would implement in the United States in the event that they came to power. Some of the demands include the banning of non-whites' citizenship as well as the banning of further non-white immigration. The NSM believes that the American constitution and Germanic law would act as a framework for the legal aspects of their rule. They subscribe to the belief that a court could sentence a guilty party to serve as a slave to the person that was wronged.
Approach to Resistance
The marches and protests that the group carried out are what drew public attention to the NSM. They carry out these marches in full Nazi-style uniforms with swastikas adorned on their ‘uniforms’. They also have a history of marching through black neighborhoods (3). The NSM's public gatherings are often met with strong opposition and counter-protesters such as antifascist protesters in Charlottesville in 2017. The NSM has also targeted immigrants and has called on its members to attack immigrants when they are vulnerable (3).
The group does not act as an armed resistance in that it doesn't fight or organize itself using tactics that are typically associated with other right-wing paramilitary organizations. They act mainly as a political organization and carry out marches and protests, as aforementioned. Even though members might individually own firearms, they do not have a structured military wing that carries out attacks.
Alliances & Relations
A large component which contributes to the NSM's popularity within the far-right is its open membership. Many members from different neo-Nazi organizations, as well as Ku Klux Klan members, would join and attend NSM rallies and other gatherings. Some rallies would deliberately mix different far-right/Neo-Nazi groups to try to combat division. However, recent membership numbers of the NSM have been on the decline, mainly due to the consequences of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right’' rally on the group's image. Some of their rallies have barely been able to have attendances of over 15 people. Nonetheless, struggles within the leadership of the organization over the last few years have damaged the internal structure and cohesion of the group, also contributing to its decline (4).
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) The National Socialist Movement. ADL. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.adl.org/resources/profile/national-socialist-movement
(2) Jeff Schoep. Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/jeff-schoep
(3) National Socialist Movement. Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/national-socialist-movement
(4) National Socialist Movement. ADL. (2021, February 16). Retrieved from https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/national-socialist-movement
(5) NBC Universal News Group. (2019, March 1). Neo-nazi group's new leader is a black man who vows to dissolve it. NBCNews.com. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/neo-nazi-group-s-new-leader-black-man-who-vows-n977956