Rojava International Brigadiers honour the Legendary Bob Crow – Morning Star – 16/08/16 

“They went because their open eyes could see no other way.” So rang the words of Cecil Day-Lewis in the ears of manylast week as a photograph emerged online showing International Brigadiers in Northern Syria sending solidarity to the RMT Southern Rail strike.

RMT guards are striking on Southern Rail, which has been chosen by the DFT as a battle ground to smash the Transport Unions, to defend passenger safety and to keep a second safety critical member of staff on board trains.

The newly-formed unit of the International Freedom Battalion (IFB) are fighting the war against Isis just 30 miles from their stronghold in Raqqa, and have taken the name of the late RMT General Secretary Bob Crow for their banner.

Comprised of British and Irish volunteers, the brigade who will serve a minimum six months military service have assisted the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in making significant territorial gains in the area.

Their aims are to defend the right of the Kurdish people to self determination, to defend the revolution in Rojava and to combat the fascism of ISIS.

They have decided to honour Bob Crow in this way because he was a working class hero, and the inspiration for a generation of socialists and trade unionists. He inspired all of them.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Steve Hedley, Snr. Asst. General Secretary of the RMT said;

“Bob would have been honoured that young people from Britain would fight the forces of evil in his name.

“A great admirer of the international brigades that fought in Spain, Crow would of course have drawn the parallels with the new international brigades fighting clerical fascism and defending Yazhidi ,Muslim and Christian workers from slavery and persecution.”

Speaking to the partner of a British volunteer, it is evident that this is a precarious and dangerous time. Like any family mindful of a loved one, there is fear and worry, but also great love, pride and hope;

“Having someone close to you in such a dangerous place – on the front line fighting ISIS is obviously worrying. I am however very proud of my fiancé, he is brave and dedicated in fighting against all forms of fascism, including the mysogynistic and oppressive Daesh.

“The Rojava revolution is a women’s led struggle in a region where women’s rights are few. So as a feminist and a socialist I understand the importance of the international volunteers and the support they provide to the revolutionary struggle.”

Although the legal status of volunteering is unclear, all of the brigade were inspired to answer the call put out by the IFB last year, and comparisons between the International Freedom Battalion of today and the Brigadas Internacionales of 1930s Spain are not lost on the volunteers either.

As communists and antifascists they understood clearly the threat of fascism posed by ISIS and the need to defend and spread the social revolution taking place in Rojava.

The communist international put the call out in the ’30’s to defend the Spanish republic from fascism, and they have answered the call to fight fascism today in the same spirit.

Although the Rojava Revolution has taken hundreds of volunteers over the last four years, YPG commander Cihan Kendal says they want to teach brigadiers more than they have previously.

As a result, on top of military training, all recruits now study at least a month of Kurdish language, history and culture and political and ideological classes. Classes are also taught by the women’s movement on their ideology and organisations.

Kendal says; “it is true that there are not so many female volunteers at the moment, but this will change… the main force of this revolution is the women’s movement and their ideology; so more women have to come, have to see it, and take part in their own emancipation.”

As the spectre of fascism looms large on the global stage, Gary Oak left a parting statement with a rousing message for us all.

“We must hold our values and analysis to be completely true at every step of the way; we must tell the people that our thought liberated us in the past, will liberate us now from confusion and dismay, and will ultimately liberate the whole of humanity; and we tell them by actions that demonstrate we believe this.”

He says it is no longer enough to traipse miserably through the rain, with placard in hand bemoaning our lack of power. It is not enough to sullenly sulk at the state of things. We have answered the call, and we answer it gladly, proud of our opportunity and our place in this struggle.

We must take our convictions in hand, and give dutily what is required, we must not fear or falter, we cannot let slip now – we must be the left that history demands of us.

Victory to the International Brigades!

You know, I bet there were a few of those men and women in the 1930s who’s families said they were crazy. I bet there were people who laughed at them, or stared confused at their intention. I bet there were people who ridiculed and mocked, and told them it was pointless. 

I bet a lot of people didn’t really understand what it was all about, and what’s Spain got to do with us anyway? I bet it was hard leaving their children and families behind. I bet it was difficult to explain to them what was going on, and why they had to go. 

Because they did, have to go. It was not an option. The ugly head of fascism was reared in Spain and the call was sent out. These men and women understood that the struggle was international. That there must be international solidarity and action if it was to be defeated. The courage of their convictions was born, and from it came a most beautiful thing. 

They understood that win or lose, to fight and die was better than to lie down and allow the wheels of such a monster to smother them in the dirt. They knew that if they did not go to Spain and slam the door in its face it would be on their doorstep next. 

“They went because their open eyes could see no other way.” And there was no other way, than to put their lives on the front line in solidarity with the people of Spain and to declare, loudly, for the world to hear – NO PASARAN! 

They were heroes, and we remember them – in our hearts, on our memorials, in our songs and in our stories. They are a part of this struggle which can never be erased or sullied. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for the greatest cause ever known – the freedom of mankind.

The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 – but the war against fascism rages on, and is perhaps now more terrifying than ever before. In Syria and Iraq, the fascist hordes of ISIS have amassed to pour their boiling poison into the world. 

Who stands in the face of such terror? Who holds back the night from our doorstep? Who stands, boldly, their very life in hand, ready to give it gladly in this war against evil? Who are the men and women who have already given so much, sacrificed all, for the greatest cause ever known? 

The brave heroes of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the International Freedom Battalion (IFB). Men and women who are not conscripts, who have no duty in this fight other than that which blooms inside of them. The burning passion to eradicate this blackness from the earth, and replace it with the liberation of all humanity. 

They pound that pavement to glory that the earlier brigadiers paved for them. They fight, as they did in Spain in the 1930s, because they know there is no other way. They are the sword in the darkness, they are the beacon light in a world black as pitch. They too, have left behind families, children, spouses, whole lives to offer up their entire existence to the cause of socialism.

British and Irish Men of the Bob Crow Brigade, IFB – we salute you, and send to you our deepest love and solidarity. You are an inspiration to us all, you are the bedtime story I tell my son. You are the hope of a generation. 

As James Connolly spoke to his daughter Nora for the last time ahead of his execution – she said to him, “daddy – do we really have to fight?”

He said to Nora, “If we don’t fight, we can only hope for a great earthquake to come and swallow us and our shame.”

This is true now, as it was then, for all who would consider themselves socialist. We are bound by our morals, by the debt owed to those brigadiers in Spain, and by the blood of the martyrs which soaks every Corner of the red flag we hold so proudly aloft. 

Fascism runs rampant on the global stage. 

The international brigades burn brightly, a beacon of hope for all the world to see. 

The call is in all of us, and we must answer. We must.