Dr Tim Anderson is a University of Sydney academic and a leading figure in pro-Assad circles in so-called Australia. A self-proclaimed Marxist, Dr Anderson has written extensively on the Syria conflict. Recently, Dr Anderson found themselves at the centre of an Australian media firestorm with the #Syriahoax campaign.
But despite his Leftist pedigree, Dr Anderson’s extensive anti-imperialism work has seen him rub shoulders with some incredibly alarming figures, including some of Australia’s most well-known white nationalists and outright fascists. Specifically, this includes: Australia First Party (AFP) chairman Jim Saleam, regular Daily Stormer contributor and AFP number-two Nathaniel Sykes, infamous neo-Nazi Ross ‘the Skull’ May, and founding Party for Freedom (Australia) member James Sternhill.
To be clear, what follows is not an attack on Dr Anderson’s work on Syria. Nor should it be read as an attempt to weigh in on the Syrian conflict, or an implicit endorsement of one side or the other. Rather, given the history of fascist attempts to infiltrate Leftist circles and university campuses, we believe people must be vigilant in the face of fascist entryism and the emergence of a possible ‘red and brown alliance’. It is important that Leftists of all stripes, regardless of their position on Syria, are aware of Dr Anderson’s ongoing willingness to share a platform with fascists and their fellow travellers. In the words of Buenaventura Durruti: ”fascism is not to be debated, it is to be smashed”.
A White-Nationalist Weekend Away
In late November of 2016, in the sleepy Blue Mountain’s town of Leura, a liquorice all-sorts of NSW’s nationalists, fascists and Burkean conservatives milieu gathered for the annual Leura Forum. Organised through a loose group called ‘Defend Our Heritage’ by Blue Mountains local Julie Head, the Leura Forum began operating around 2014/15. It was organised as a “better late than never” substitute for now defunct Sydney-based white nationalist ‘intellectual’ events like the Sydney Forum and Ironbark Club. This year however, along with the usual far-right patrons there was Dr Anderson, who had been invited there to speak on the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Chaired by Sternhill, the Leura Forum’s panel included alongside Dr Anderson: historian Keith Windschuttle, whose work argues (among other things) that the Stolen Generation of Indigenous children is a myth, that the degree of racism in Australia’s history is exaggerated and that violence perpetrated by British forces during colonialism has been invented by a number of Australian historians; prominent anti-Communist and monarchist Dr Amy McGrath; trade agreement ‘expert’ John Marae; and of course Australia’s most infamous neo-Nazi, Jim Saleam.
Keith Windschuttle addressing the Leura Forum
The day begins with a cringe worthy veneration of the Australian flag, a vitriolic anti-LGBTQI+ tirade, a call-to-arms to fight ‘the Left’ and a prayer in support of Donald Trump (all that just in Sternhill’s introduction!). After Dr McGrath and Marae’s presentation and a brief lunch, Anderson finally rises to the podium to deliver his presentation on Syria, anti-imperialism and the Assad regime.
During Dr Anderson’s near thirty-minute presentation, there are an (unsurprising) number of anti-Semitic remarks, including elated chuckles from some members of the audience at the idea of Islamic State militants executing captives “Kosher” style, and bemoaning about the “Jew York Times”. Dr Anderson also fields questions from the audience, during which he agrees with May that “the Jews got a kickin’” in 1973 (referring to the Arab-Israeli War).
Not only did Dr Anderson agree to speak at an explicitly white nationalist forum alongside outspoken racists, anti-Communists and downright fascists – he sat through the entire day’s proceedings (and presumably joined them for lunch!). At any point during the event, Dr Anderson *might* have been able to save some small shred of Leftist credibility, had he called-out any of the numerous racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic or transphobic comments during the day. He could have challenged their far-right and fascist “discourse”. He could have gotten up and walked out of there.
Better yet, he could have refused to participate in the first place.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me
Importantly, this is not the first-time Dr Anderson has appeared at an event along-side NSW fascists and far-right activists like Saleam. Late last year Dr Anderson attended the Christmas Eve commemoration for slain Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov, who was assassinated in Turkey days before. Saleam was there, having publicised his party’s attendance beforehand, along with his second in command and United Nationalists Australia editor Nathan Sykes. Also in attendance was Iggy Gavrilidis, leader of the Greek neo-Fascist Party Golden Dawn (Australia) and Simeon Boikov leader, head of the Zabaikal Cossack Society of Australia, a right-wing, Russian ultra-nationalist group.
(Left to right) Sykes, Anderson, Boikov, Saleam, Gavrilidis
At first, this appearance was dismissed by Dr Anderson’s supporters as a legitimate attempt to present a Leftist perspective to the numerous media outlets covering the event. In theory, Dr Anderson was there to prevent the dissemination of a right-wing or fascist narrative regarding Syria and the Assad Government. This excuse – though dubious – was more-or-less accepted at face value.
The same however cannot be said of Dr Anderson’s most recent appearance. There was no outside media to be courted. No public narrative to be influenced. Just a room full of some of Australia’s most prominent nationalist, fascist, and neo-Nazi elements.
The Leura Forum is by its very nature is a white-nationalist space, organised by and for Australia’s far-right and a troupe of deranged conspiracy theorists. The forum’s organisers, Defending Our Heritage, enthusiastically endorse the primacy of Anglo-Australia, Christianity and so-called ‘traditional values’ regarding sexuality and gender. They are eager to dismiss or downplay the extent of racist violence inherent in the colonial project that is Australia, both past and present. They detest the idea of a pluralistic, multicultural society.
As such, Dr Anderson’s willingness to share a platform with some of NSW’s most infamous fascist and far-right elements seriously calls into question his judgement. This is not something that can be dismissed as merely a poor decision or sheer ignorance of the facts. Dr Anderson is either seriously compromised, or simply unfazed by the prospect of working with outright fascists provided their ‘anti-imperialist’ politics compliment his own. Both are incredibly alarming prospects.
What About That Famous AFP/PfF Feud?
Dr Anderson’s questionable appearance at the Leura Forum aside, the interaction between AFP and PfF members on the day (specifically Saleam and Sternhill) is worth a quick note.
The AFP and PfF have, by their own admissions, enjoyed a long running rivalry. Competing for the same small slice of the Sydney fascist pie, the two organisations clash – or at least claim to – on ideological and strategic lines.
According to the AFP, the PfF actively work to undermine ‘authentic’ (read: white) nationalism in Australia by including non-whites and Jews in their anti-Islam project. PfF’s penchant for street theatre (like the storming of a Gosford Church to ‘protest’ against “creeping Sharia”) is seen as childish and ineffective by the AFP.
The PfF on the other hand claim to reject the AFP on the basis of their explicit Nazism. In particular, party head Nick Folkes has berated Saleam over his neo-Nazi roots on a number of occasions, going as far as to accuse Saleam of being a state informant and agent provocateur in one hilariously shrill video.
But despite this ongoing and very public spat, founding PfF member Sternhill is happy to facilitate a forum which includes his parties arch-nemesis Saleam. Not only that, but in an almost star-struck fashion, Sternhill lavishly praises Saleam during his introduction, adding enthusiastically “I’ve been to plenty of his [Saleam’s] presentations!”
Looks like Folkes needs to have a word with some of his members about party loyalty!