By Debra Wirth
Young people have been in the lead of struggles for progressive social change since the 1960s, when they were a major part of the movement against the Vietnam War. Out of that movement grew Resistance, a group for young people interested in an alternative to a system that promotes not only war but social inequality and conformity.
Resistance is still going strong today, and it is still made up of, and led by, young people. Chris Spindler and Claudine Holt from the Resistance national office spoke to Green Left about the group's 20th national conference, which will be held in Melbourne over the weekend of July 13-15.
"We chose the theme 'Against their order, a new world for all!' because we don't think world relationships have fundamentally changed as a result of the Gulf war", said Spindler. "The United States has always been prepared to use military force to defend its interests, and now it's saying to all countries, 'if you don't agree with us or if you do anything that we think is against our interests, then we'll invade'. That's nothing new.
"We like to be positive and forward looking, so we're not just against their new order. We want to work towards a new world for everyone. That underpins everything Resistance does — the idea that it is possible to build an alternative that doesn't include war, isn't environmentally destructive and isn't racist or sexist."
Protecting the environment and campaigning for an end to the destruction of the planet's natural resources is very high on Resistance's list of priorities, says Holt: "The continuing rate of environmental destruction, particularly by multinational companies in the Third World, is just phenomenal. The planet simply cannot sustain the current rate of logging of the forests, mining of the land, depletion of seas and pollution. All for the sake of profit. We are involved in many local and national campaigns for the environment."
"The Environmental Youth Alliance is one of the main groups supported by Resistance members," said Spindler. "EYA is a national organisation for young people who want to do something about the state of the environment. At the moment it is campaigning against the federal government's resource security legislation, which basically hands over Australia's natural resources for big companies to log and mine them out of existence. There were successful demonstrations about this on World Environment Day, June 5."
Resistance also takes up many other campaigns, such as a recent, successful, effort to save the position of women's officer at the University of Queensland. The Student Representative Council had attempted to get rid of the position.
Asked if he expected a repetition of the '60s youth radicalisation, Spindler said, "A lot of what the '60s was about was the right to individual freedoms and expression, and some elements of that come through today. The main political themes, such as organising against war, are certainly also around today.
"A lot has changed though. It's 30 years on and the environmental crisis is so pressing that I think young people will radicalise again. While the '60s generation were against the destruction of the environment, the situation wasn't as drastic, and that's spurring people on."
"A new radicalisation could be even more radical!", Holt added. "I think more people will realise that capitalism hasn't got the answers. It can't do away with unemployment for example. Youth unemployment is 22% in NSW and up to 30% in other states. We hope to organise pickets about this outside parliament houses and Labor Party offices. After all, there are heaps of things that need doing."
Resistance has branches in most major cities. Representatives from all over the country will attend the Melbourne conference. If you want to get involved in Resistance's activities, or are interested in attending the conference, see the ad on page 19 for phone numbers and addresses.