Syria’s Newest Fighting Force Is Antifa

Ellie McFarland | @el_farawayland

The situation in Syria is tragic. Turkey invaded Syria in an attempt to take over Kurdish regions of the country. America has abandoned and betrayed the Kurdish people and has left Rojava without allies. Yet, not a single soldier is coming home. Rojava is the name of the autonomous government operating in the Kurdish region of Syria.

The Kurds have done so well not because of military might, but because they’ve only been fighting on one front. Rojava has been defending their region and others from ISIS. They’re committed to this because America and other foreign militaries have been protecting northwest Syria from ever-more looming threats of a Turkish invasion. But left alone, Rojava could break, and their whole region will crumble with it. But there is hope. A Mother Jones article describes a group of three foreigners fighting with Rojava. The one American of the three started out affiliated with the Antifa movement back in the United States.

An American Revolutionary Abroad

The article refers to the American antifascist as “Barry” and tells his story of joining the YPG (Rojava) as a volunteer fighter. Author Shane Bauer quotes Barry as saying that joining the YPG is “the best thing someone who considers themselves a militant leftist can do right now with their life.” Barry’s sentiments seem to fly in the face of the stereotype people often apply to the Antifa movement. It is the stereotype, often given by liberals and not conservatives, that Antifa as a group or movement doesn’t do anything.

Further, according to liberals, Antifa’s existence plays into the hands of conservatives. Antifa, essentially,  makes liberals look bad. Despite this, what Antifa and the people associated with it do outside of their numerous bad moments on camera is relatively masked. In short, the black bloc is not just Antifa and Antifa is not just the black bloc. 

Aside from empowering their people to join revolutionary armies in the Middle East, Antifa tracks alt-right and Nazi corners of the internet to identify new communication patterns and language. They also doxx fascists (it’s important to note, some antifascists have doxxed conservatives) and get them fired. Regardless of how any one person feels about any of these actions and practices, Antifa is undeniably more than a mob of sporadically violent leftists. They’re organized.

But what is far more relevant is the startling amount of militant leftists joining Rojava. Antifa appears to be outsourcing the revolution. Afterall, Rojava is the most prominent and westernized revolutionary movement– perhaps with the recent exception of Hong Kong. Antifa and their reputation of doing nothing seems to be unearned. Joining a militia and fighting for foreign liberation is certainly something. 

[MORE: Kurdistan: A Deep History of US Betrayal]

Antifa’s reputation for inactivity and frivolity exists for a non-instinctive reason. The things Antifa fights against, as well as fights for, are quite small issues. “Class imbalance” is not something on most of America’s political radar. Neither is the small but growing fever of racist, fascistic politics. Antifa’s peaceful and praxis based tactics go even more unnoticed. When a masked man assaults a far-right protester, it does less than nothing for the reputation and public effectiveness of Antifa.

But, when anti-fascists are imported to the Middle East, it becomes immediately clear the evils they are fighting against. After all, stoning women, throwing gays off buildings, and slaughtering infidels is noticeable, loud, and theatrical, unlike the systematic and quiet takedown of racist mood boards cooking up plans to make Americans more comfortable with bigotry. 

It is my hope that with the importation of genuine American revolutionaries into a real and established well-willed revolutionary army, in a place that needs a revolution, that Americans will see the worth of similar work here. They will give revolutionary ideologies and actions a sense of legitimacy.

Antifa will become the foot soldiers. Their unnecessary violence is despicable, but as it stands, it does have a use. When the American Rojava fighters return home, they will bring stories of how their actions helped people in real ways.

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