Hundreds of university students join Resistance

Issue 

By Natasha Simons Several hundred university students joined Resistance campus clubs around the country at first year orientation weeks, held over the past two weeks. In addition, around 1200 copies of Green Left Weekly were sold and hundreds of names gathered on contact lists for those wanting to know more about the socialist youth organisation Resistance. Resistance members reported the notable absence of a campaigning atmosphere on campus. Last year, the campaign against woodchipping in old growth forests was in full swing during O-weeks, and the momentum for the campaign against up-front fees was growing rapidly. The federal elections appealed to some, but not to others. In general students were more interested in hearing about alternative politics and parties such as the Democratic Socialists, for which Resistance was campaigning. The election campaign caused some heated debates between Liberal and Labor clubs. The Liberals distributed free beer for joiners and "socialism kills" propaganda (complete with picture of skull and cross bones) apparently under the illusion that there is a connection between the ALP and socialism. Labor Party students countered with free "John Howard should not be PM" T-shirts. On the whole, the Labor clubs appeared to recruit more than the Liberals, although social interest and anti-Liberal sentiment appeared to be the main draw cards. There were also heated debates between Resistance members and members of the International Socialist Organisation. The ISO's paper Socialist Worker and its leaflets called for a vote for the ALP ahead of the Democratic Socialists and other progressive parties in the elections. Asked why, they told Resistance that Labor is the party of the working class and that therefore all defenders of this class have to support it first. Other political clubs such as the environment and women's clubs had moderate success. The Pro-choice Club at the University of Queensland joined more than 30 people, reflecting increasing interest after the recent student referendum which allowed for a pro-choice position to be written into the student union constitution . With its joining fee of $5 (which includes five issues of Green Left Weekly) Resistance clubs fared particularly well. Many students came back to join Resistance after studying material about its politics overnight. In addition, many who joined Resistance at O-Week had already participated in the high school walkouts against nuclear testing organised by Resistance in late 1995, and had heard of the group and bought a Green Left Weekly. These results indicate that while there may be less of an issues-based campaign momentum, students still have an interest in getting active and fighting for environmental and social justice. The first few Introduction to Resistance club meetings were also successful; both Wollongong and Newcastle University Resistance clubs attracted 16 people each. At both meetings, students watched the What is Resistance? video produced by Actively Radical TV, and a lively discussion ensued about socialism, Cuba and class struggle. Wollongong Resistance organiser Nikki Ulasowki told Green Left Weekly, "Those students joining Resistance seemed much more interested in socialist ideas and philosophy — the big picture — rather than just the environment or women's rights. They're looking for solutions to all of these issues." Resistance has much planned for the post-orientation week period. Nationally Resistance is organising contingents for the International Women's Day rallies on March 9; organising freedom for East Timor pickets and collecting signatures on petitions; holding campus club meetings on various contentious topics; and distributing Green Left Weekly. Resistance is not just an organisation of university students; campus club members are invited to attend Resistance branch activities and meetings, in particular the Democratic Socialism '96: Campaigning for People Before Profits conferences to be held nationally in early April.