Resistance conference a huge success
By Chris Atkinson
MELBOURNE — More than 250 young activists came together from around Australia for the 28th national conference of Resistance, held here from July 8 to 11. Conference delegates discussed, debated and decided on strategies for advancing the socialist movement in Australia and around the world.
Resistance's strong internationalism was evident from the beginning of the conference. Attendees were still in shock after hearing that the Indonesian military had brutally attacked a rally against election fraud in Jakarta only days before. Amongst the 100 demonstrators injured was People's Democratic Party (PRD) leader Dhyta Caturani, who was scheduled to speak at the Resistance conference. She had attended last year's conference and given an inspiring account of the PRD's struggle for democracy.
Caturani was shot in the back, trampled on by the military and taken to hospital in a coma. Her last words before entering surgery were, "I still want to go to the Resistance conference". She was unable to attend due to the severity of her injuries.
Whilst angered by the brutality of the attack, conference delegates were also jubilant that Indonesia's only female political prisoner, PRD leader Dita Sari, had been released from prison on July 5. Dita Sari was jailed in 1996 for organising workers.
Footage of the military attack on the PRD protest screened at the conference reducing many viewers to tears. A hospital bed-side video message from Caturani and a warm thank you message from Dita Sari were also shown.
Immediately afterwards, conference participants took to the streets in an angry, vibrant and very noisy candle-lit march to Victoria's Trades Hall, then up Lygon and Brunswick Streets attracting the attention of many Friday night diners. Their political commitment strengthened by the events of the previous week, Resistance members returned video greetings to the PRD and pledged to step up the solidarity campaign in Australia.
Caturani wasn't the only guest prevented from attending the conference. Delegates were also outraged by the Australian government's denial of a visa for Farooq Sulheria from the Labour Party Pakistan. The conference passed a motion condemning the Howard government's racist immigration policy and its discrimination against Sulheria, and pledged to continue to actively oppose it.
In the opening plenary discussion on "The Balkans to South-East Asia: the myth of 'humanitarian' imperialism", Resistance reaffirmed its demand for an independent, democratic Kosova and for the immediate withdrawal of NATO troops, condemning NATO's war as blatant hypocrisy. In another session, Resistance decided to step up its solidarity with the democracy and freedom movements in Indonesia and East Timor by, amongst other initiatives, assisting Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) to set up campus clubs across the country.
Two resolutions were also passed. The first, "Strategies for Liberation: A Marxist feminist response to debates in the women's liberation movement", took a stance on issues that have arisen in the women's liberation movement, especially on campuses. In particular, it responded to arguments put forward by some feminists that men and transgender women should be excluded from the women's liberation movement. It reaffirmed Resistance's commitment to a broad, inclusive women's liberation movement that fights for the rights of all women.
The other resolution, "The Present Stage of Youth Radicalisation and Our Perspectives", was a broad assessment of the political attitudes of young people in Australia today. It concluded that the political sentiments of the mass of young people are generally progressive, but that there remains a reluctance to engage in political action.
It also noted the growing number of young people who are throwing off political passivity and starting to challenge the entire system of capitalism. Resistance pledged to increase its work to overcome this passivity and convince young radicals on socialist ideas.
Ambitious plans were set for Resistance's work on high schools, which has massively increased since the Resistance-led anti-racism walkouts of July and August 1998. On university campuses Resistance will prioritise student solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor, organising a national series of campus meetings on the anniversary of the Russian Revolution and putting together high-profile activist tickets for student union elections.
Wendy Robertson, Resistance's national coordinator, said, "Through the conference we have assessed that there is fertile political soil for Resistance today. We've reaffirmed the need for a socialist alternative and resolved our commitment to raising the revolutionary consciousness of young people in Australia and ultimately throughout the world."