By Katrina Dean
MELBOURNE — The 22nd national conference of Resistance was held here over the weekend of July 3-5. The overall tone of the conference was clear: young people will think for themselves, speak for themselves, act on their own behalf and unite to fight against environmental and social injustice.
In an age when suicide is one of the most prevalent causes of death among youth, and where much of the generation becomes increasingly disempowered by frustration, depression and cynicism, it is not the easiest thing to commit time, resources, skills and energy to changing the world. Speaking to activists from around the country and overseas, one gets the feeling that there is no other choice: there is simply nothing more important for these 250 young people to be doing.
Dallas Rodgers, Resistance member from Melbourne, said he "joined Resistance around the time of the federal election campaign out of sheer frustration at the policies of both major parties, who appear to be doing nothing about the severe social crisis in Australia. This crisis targets young people and other oppressed groups in its symptoms of unemployment, education and decay of the welfare state."
Resistance members attended a public meeting on the eve of the conference where Norm Dixon, Green Left Weekly journalist, talked about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the role of the African National Congress and its tactics in the struggle, to a responsive audience of more than 200.
The conference heard greetings from the African National Congress Youth League and other activist organisations from Cuba, the Philippines and New Zealand.
One highlight of the conference was a panel which included young speakers from the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, the East Timorese community and the Aboriginal community. Hobart Resistance
member, Jen Crothers, told the conference she was "incredibly inspired by the panel, who in their determination to overcome the oppression suffered in their own communities, communicate nothing more nor less than a love for humanity and a refusal to let human experience be crushed by an unjust economic system".
In Australia the struggle is against manufactured consent to poverty, environmental degradation, violence and discrimination based on race, gender and sexuality.
The information war of Resistance activists was presented satirically in the exuberant atmosphere of a Green Left rally. Young people from different areas talked about their experiences trying to inform, expose and discuss real political issues, where the mainstream media concentrates all its efforts and capital on trying to misinform people.
Australian economics and politics were discussed in a plenary session and workshops, focusing on the role of the Labor Party in eroding the living conditions of ordinary people and blocking progressive change and reform.
Resistance also set its perspectives for the next year, vowing to activate and agitate in the interests of young people.
Some of the most interesting workshops during the conference included "Marxism and the human personality", by Brisbane member Philippa Stanford and "Land rights and the Aboriginal struggle", by Tim Stewart from Newcastle and Aboriginal activist Devan Taylor, who later left to attend the World Indigenous People's Conference in Darwin. Devan took a banner from the Resistance conference to the Darwin conference to express solidarity amongst young people.
Social events during the conference were adventurous and inclusive. A dinner dance featuring Afro-Funk Melbourne band Fulani Groove had conference participants dancing and talking into the early hours.
The conference expressed the continuing fight for freedom and survival carried on by young people around
the globe, despite physical and ideological pressure to submit.
Organisations like Resistance have not succumbed to the cynicism of the '90s, nor the myth that capitalism is the highest stage of human development. The conference defined the course of Resistance during the next period: as radical as reality.