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Feb 28, 22

Lessons from #RiseUp4Rojava for the Anti-War Struggles to Come: A Strategic Proposal

A look at autonomous anti-war struggles and interventions in the recent past and how they could inform a struggle against the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

photo: @alloutbay

With a ground war between Russia and Ukraine now playing out in real time, anti-authoritarians in the U.S. will have to decide what is the best form of participation to take within a broader anti-war struggle. This document is one strategic proposal for possible participation and intervention.

Lessons from #RiseUp4Rojava

A recent analogous comparison to this potential anti-war movement are the actions which took place in 2019 under the banner of #riseup4rojava. In this case, anti-authoritarians along with members of the Kurdish Diaspora were the main participants. This was not a mass movement like the anti-Iraq War protests were. The movements high points were shutting down Turkish Airlines in San Francisco (3) and blockading railroad tracks that were in connection to a war profiteering company in Atlanta (1). There were also dignified marches mostly made up of members of the Kurdish Diaspora and anti-authoritarians (2). Lastly there were banner drops, pickets, and other smaller interventions.

One aspect to any possible anti-war movement regarding Ukraine and Russia that will not be analogous to #riseup4rojava is that there will certainty be the presence of authoritarian communists, some of whom will be members of various authoritarian communist sects (these people will be referred to as Tankies for the rest of this piece) as well as some fascists. This wasn’t the case in #riseup4rojava because U.S. based Tankies by and large supported the Assad regime in Syria and fascists would find the Rojava Revolution anathema due to its struggle being explicitly antifascist, feminist, and liberatory.

Tankies and fascists were both present in the January 2020 protests against a possible war between the U.S. and Iran. While on the surface, many American fascists present themselves as paleoconservatives with an isolationist foreign policy, at their core, they hope to wield state violence to create a global “white hegemony,” and are willing to resort to genocide and ethnic cleansing to achieve this goal. On the situation in the Ukraine, the fascists will be split, as some will side with Ukraine and some side with Russia, thus potentially diluting any effect they could have on the anti-war movement. The Tankies on the other hand, participate in anti-war movements out of leftover Cold War allegiances to various countries (including Russia) and placing opposition to US imperialism above all else.

Members of the Ukrainian Diaspora will be a subgroup of the broader population that will most likely mobilize in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. In this respect, the Ukrainian Diaspora is comparable to the Kurdish Diaspora during #riseup4rojava. Other Eastern European diasporic groups, such as Moldovans and peoples from the Baltic states, may also decide to hit the streets.

Dealing with Fascists and Tankies

The fascists should be given no space to operate within any anti-war movement. An excellent flyer for dealing with fascists present at anti-war protests was made by Atlanta Antifascists during the no war with Iran protests (6). Fascists were also ejected from an anti-war demonstration in Pittsburgh around the same time (7). Similar efforts should be made at protests against the Russia invasion of Ukraine. Ideally, an anti-war movement that utilizes direct action will emerge and this will also push fascists out.

Tankies will attempt to use their front groups, such as ANSWER, to call for anti-war rallies and protests. These will probably only be attended by people in or adjacent to the existing activist Left. Those within the ethnic Ukrainian community and other eastern Europeans will almost certainly not attend these protests or leave in disgust due to the Tankies allegiance to Russia and for use of communist imagery. There is little likelihood these protests will be a space for direct action or fierce protests.

Best Forms of Participation

Anti-authoritarians should seek to work with and mobilize alongside the wider Ukrainian community. This strategy worked and was useful during #riseup4rojava (2). This will allow us to build lasting relationships and also build capacity for numbers on the streets.

We should however not expect a huge mass movement immediately to be the form that an anti-war movement takes. Anti-authoritarians are often unable to consciously start mass movements but we can participate in them when they occur. Based on the amount of energy and participants there have been in anti-war demonstrations after the invasion of Iraq, we should not expect crowds numbering in the thousands unless the U.S. committed to or made moves towards significant numbers of troops on the ground in Ukraine.

Rallies only consisting of speeches filled with platitudes, marching in circles, and chanting outside of empty buildings is not a winning strategy. We should leave these symbolic protests that only leave people feeling disempowered to the Tankies and NGO’s. We need to push for direct action, blockades, and fierce demonstrations.

In 2021, mass protests against Israeli state aggression towards Palestinians swept the world (9). While the vast majority of actions consisted of symbolic protests, in Ontario, hundreds of people blockaded railroad tracks for several hours (10) and in Oakland and in other cities, people blockaded the unloading of Israeli goods at key ports.

The actions undertaken in solidarity with the Rojavan revolution over the past few years offer us examples of what is possible even if thousands aren’t on the streets, as do actions in solidarity with Palestinians show us what can be done in the midst of a mass movement dominated by largely scripted demonstrations. If we are willing to reach out to other communities in struggle and build real relationships, we can continue to organize and carry out actions that have a real impact on the war machine, while also mobilizing to support refugees, ejecting authoritarians of all stripes from movement spaces, and promoting a liberatory perspective on the unfolding conflict. Lastly, if a mass movement does arise against the war, we must participate and push the struggle to its limits.


Hopefully war will be avoided and this text will only be useful as a proposal for future anti-war endeavors. As the 21st Century unfolds, nation states and the goons that control them will seek to use war as a means to ‘stabilize’ their domestic populations, while capitalists will be all too happy to reap the profits from being merchants of death. Anti-authoritarians will have to play a role in stopping these sort of conflicts while simultaneously pushing for new horizons with liberatory potential.


6. Informational Flyer on dealing with fascists at antiwar demonstrations:  
7. Fascists being ejected from an antiwar demonstration in Pittsburgh in January 2020: 
10. Railroad Blockade in Ontario in Solidarity with Palestine: 
11. Liaisons 1 Chapter A Very Long Winter: 
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