It’s easy for many to dismiss AntiFa as nothing more than street thugs; little organization, little experience, little threat to anyone or anything other than at public demonstrations. After all its much easier to reduce an enemy in your head to nothing more than what you want to believe. While a lot of folks went to sleep after the 2016 election, others found a cause.
With the battlefields of Syria raging, anarchism and syndicalism found a natural home among the socialist Kurds of the Rojava region of northern Syria. Bordering Turkey to the north and Iraqi Kurdistan to the east, the Kurdish YPG (or People’s Protection Units in English) found itself in need of foreign volunteers. While Americans fighting ISIS in Iraq has been going on since the rapid rise in the extremists’ power, it was mostly limited to prior service Vets who had specific knowledge of the region. I was approached in mid-2015 as part of a group to aid the Peshmerga in Kirkuk who were concerned with not just ISIS but the expanding influence of Iran in Iraqi politics. I declined for many reasons, some personal, some not; we had bigger problems at home and despite what some think, they might be worse now.
With the Obama years waning and the election of President Trump, disaffected Leftists no doubt inspired by tales of the Socialist International and Anarchist Brigades of the Spanish Civil War found a new enemy in ISIS. Europeans, Canadians and Americans all flooded the Rojava region by 2017 looking for purpose, looking for revolution, and above all, looking to take the fight to what they saw as another form of fascism, the Islamic State. The Socialists, Anarchists, Syndicalists and Communists who comprise AntiFa saw common cause in what they named the “Rojava Revolution.”
Many of the volunteers lacked any sort of military experience, resulting in a brief guerrilla camp called only the Academy. Established to train them in the art of fire and maneuver, small arms marksmanship and crew-served weapons employment the month-long course was designed to rapidly create effective guerrilla fighters. Instructed by both veteran Peshmerga and battle-hardened foreign Communists, the course had seen success in many areas, including training informal Snipers to be used in Kobane. From Rolling Stone:
More foreigners arrived, all leftists, and they formed a sniper unit. “This was the first internationalist team,” Franceschi said, showing me a photo of himself in Kobani alongside a Spanish anarchist, a British Kurd and Keith Broomfield, the first American known to have died in the ranks of the YPG. “A lot of comrades were martyred during that time,” Franceschi said. “There was a lot of violence. But believe me, there was so much warmth. The conversation, the intimacy that you get knowing that you’re fighting for something and that you’re in the right. There were no ranks. You could go to your general, slap him behind his head and ask him for a cigarette. It was amazing. I had the time of my life, even though I lost my best friends there.”
The fundamental question is what happens to those battlefield skills once the war stops? The situation in Rojava has changed dramatically even since 2017. Pressured by relations with both the Syrian and Iraqi governments, as well as the evolving US policy of supporting the YPG with air strikes, the culture fostering AntiFa on the ground in Rojava has come to an end. But has their ‘Revolution’? Some chose to take their skills to the next battleground in Ukraine. From another article in Rolling Stone:
But when Clark and Wilmeth tried to go back, their contact told them the YPG no longer had the ability to bring foreigners over the Iraqi border. Shut out of Syria, the two of them began making plans to go to Ukraine, a front line against Kremlin aggression since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Clark ended up staying behind, but Wilmeth went in March. In April, he was joined by Benton, who seems to have developed a rather winking relationship with the Scotland Yard agents keeping tabs on him. They joined a militia known as the Georgian Foreign Legion, on the side of the Ukrainian nationalists against the Russian-backed separatists. Hundreds of foreign fighters from a dozen or more countries have been reported on both sides of the war in Donbass.
What of the revolutionaries who didn’t find another fight overseas? It would not be a stretch to say their revolution is here at home. Those skills forged in combat will be used to teach others realities of guerrilla warfare. They have shown the motivation and they have a united cause. Falling into the normalcy bias of Leftists simply resorting to shouting folks down and minor clashes is a trap- they are armed, they have a combat experienced cadre behind the scenes, and they have financial power structures behind them. These are not the sunshine leftists of the boomer generation. All of the dog and pony show of ad campaigns, political stunts and campus demonstrations will lead to violence- its only a matter of time. AntiFa is serious about what they’re doing. Are you?