Robert Gordt joined the Kurdish YPG militia in March of 2017 and was martyred near Raqqa on July 5th.  Robert (or Rob or Bobby as some knew him) had a long history of political activism stretching back to the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011.  While the first wave of foreign volunteers who traveled to Syria in 2014 and 2015 were mostly military veterans, many of the current fighters are members of various anarcho-communist movements back home.  Rob was one of them.

Yesterday, a memorial service was held in Manhattan for Rob with members of the Kurdish diaspora, local political activists, and Rob’s family members.  Usually it would be bad form to use a memorial service as a jumping off point to discuss politics, but in this case the service itself was so inherently political that it seems like an unavoidable subject.  Further, based on what was said about Rob and who he was, it seems unlikely that he would have objected to his death being used as a platform to discuss his closely-held beliefs.

By all accounts Rob was a doer rather than a talker.  A speaker named Chris knew Rob from the Occupy movement and said that Rob traveled from California to New York raising money for the cause all along the way.  Without his contribution, Chris suspects he would not have been able to open the “people’s kitchen” at Zuccatti Park.  Chris went on to say that dark forces are conspiring at home and abroad to take our, “rights, liberty, and even our lives” explaining that Rob was one of those who fought back.

Amongst the Zucatti park protestors, Rob worked as a medic.  A fellow anarchist said that Rob was the go-to guy to get involved in the “most rad actions” like jumping barricades and such.  After singing a song about fighting the man, he threw up his fist and yelled: “Anarchy!”

What was particularly interesting about the memorial was the use of the term “anti-fascism.”  The proprietor of the theater where the memorial was held was the first to speak and was quick to tote his family background of anti-fascism .  His mother had apparently been an organizer for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who were international volunteers who traveled to fight Franco in the Spanish Civil War.  Ron Kuby got up on stage and spoke about anti-fascism and read a poem written by a communist about the veterans of the Spanish Civil War.  Behind the speakers were the familiar flags and symbols of the Kurdish YPG militia.  Less familiar was the flag of the antifa movement.

Antifa has been a “thing” in Europe for a long time, which is not surprising considering their history.  However, antifa never really existed in the United States until recently.  Sure, we had anti-globalization protesters, we had anarchists, and all sorts of others.  Only recently have anarchists in America begun rebranding themselves as “anti-fascist.”  But who are the fascists?  Whatever one’s political persuasion, America does not have a fascist government.  America doesn’t even have a sizable neo-Nazi movement.  According to the SPLC there are something like 6,000 neo-Nazis out of a population of 323 million Americans, making them a microscopic fringe.

The stage at Rob’s memorial. (picture courtesy of the author)

In Europe the antifa movement is primarily anarchists but also consists of socialists and other ideologies.  In America, antifa is nearly exclusively made up of anarchists.  At the memorial were several individuals associated with “the base” which is New York City’s anarchist collective.  The anarchist who sang a song for Rob at the memorial confirmed that they were both part of “the bloc” meaning Black Bloc anarchists.  Some of these anarcho-communists are traveling to Syria, picking up guns, and directly participating in revolutionary activities.