By Jennifer Thompson
MELBOURNE — The 24th national Resistance conference, held here July 7-10, attracted around 220 people for intensive discussions on the conference theme, "Struggle, solidarity, socialism".
Discussion in plenaries and workshops ranged from the revolutionary movements in the Asia-Pacific to the struggle for a radical perspective in Australian social, environmental and workers' movements, to the organisational tasks necessary to build the revolutionary movement by bringing new activists into political struggle.
The conference began well, with a public meeting, "Freedom for East Timor and the Asia-Pacific", attended by 250 people. Speakers from the Australian campaign of solidarity with East Timor — Resistance's Jo Brown and Max Lane, national coordinator of Aksi (Indonesia Solidarity Action) — pointed out the common interests of Australian big business, pushed by the Australian government, and the Indonesian regime. Lane called for a new Australian foreign policy that put people before profits.
Renato Constantino Junior, president of the Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET) and Sanlakas, a federation of socialist organisations in the Philippines, linked the campaigns against IMF-ordered neo-liberal economic changes in south-east Asia with campaigns for democracy and human rights in the region.
Ria Shanti, speaking from Indonesians in Solidarity with the Maubere People (SPRIM) said the Indonesian democracy movement was including the demand to free East Timor in its campaign against the regime.
Nunu Santos, an activist recently arrived from East Timor, spoke movingly of the radicalisation of the new generation of the resistance movement, and the messages smuggled into the cities from Xanana Gusmao, leader of the armed resistance. Two letters from Xanana, now imprisoned in Indonesia, greeting the conference were read out.
Over the next three days, elected delegates to the conference — Resistance's highest decision-making forum — discussed in great detail the political positions and tasks of the organisation. Of the decision-making delegates, 63% were women, and the average age was 20 years.
Iggy Kim reported on the draft political resolution presented to the conference. His report, "Socialism — not a dream, but a necessity", looked at the economic and social divisions innate to capitalism, and the struggle to overturn the private profit system.
Delegates discussed both refinements to the resolution and how it could be used to educate Resistance members and supporters as a collective guide to action.
Wendy Robertson presented a report on the international political situation and the work of Resistance, "Revolutionary internationalism — today's changing world". This covered the effect of the international economic set-up which drains the wealth of the Third World, and the system's Australian supporters in government and big business. Following the report and discussion were feature talks given by international guests.
Michael Garay from Kamalayan, a socialist youth organisation in the Philippines, gave greetings to the conference. He described the growing Philippines socialist student movement which aims to expand and unite the student movement and build the Philippines left.
Ria Shanti spoke about the movement for democracy in Indonesia, including the workers' and students' movement. SPRIM has been established to campaign against the Indonesian regime's brutal occupation of East Timor, allying Indonesians and East Timorese against a common foe.
Conference-goers celebrated the success of Green Left Weekly, which has published nearly 200 issues since its launch during the 1991 Gulf War. They were treated on the Saturday evening to a multimedia show with talks and video footage of Resistance campaigners in action with Green Left.
On the next day, Sean Healy reported on the state of politics in Australia, and the inadequate response to continued attacks on the living standards and democratic rights of most Australians. He spoke about the community campaigns against the worst decisions of state governments — Melbourne's Albert Park, Eastlink in south-east Queensland and the Sydney airport — and the renewed campaign for a nuclear free and independent Pacific.
A major proposal of the report — committing Resistance to support the Democratic Socialist campaign in the federal elections — was adopted. The conference that night hosted the launch of the Democratic Socialist election campaign, whose slogan is "People before profits". A range of candidates spoke on the issues, and the way in which the campaign aims to build the social, environmental and workers' movements.
Speaking on a workers' rights panel were Anthony Benbow, Perth CEPU and TLC delegate; Tully Bates, who joined the trams in Melbourne to find solidarity between workers despite the cuts to working conditions; a Brisbane activist in solidarity with the Mt Isa miners strike, Samantha Lazzaro; and Michelle Armstrong, a member of the militant ACT Community and Public Sector Union branch.
In a feature talk, Allison Dellit described the class-based origins of the oppression of women, some past and present demands which have galvanised a united movement for women's liberation and current debates in the women's movement with theories that stress differences between individual women instead of their common experience. Revolutionary feminism, she said, "is about linking every struggle for feminist reforms to a movement to overthrow the very source of women's oppression — capitalism and class society".
Sarah Stephen, general secretary of the ANU Students' Association, reported on Resistance's work in involving students in campaigning around issues from university fees to East Timor solidarity. The conference decided that Resistance should continue to work separately from the Labor-dominated National Union of Students, and step up work on the anti-fees and anti-nuclear campaigns.
The final day included a report from national coordinator Natasha Simons, who assessed the achievements in expanding Resistance's political profile and activism, including starting a Darwin branch. Projections for further improvement and expansion were discussed and adopted by delegates.
The conference heard greetings from the Democratic Socialist Party's Jorge Jorquera, who emphasised the need for committed activists to join the revolutionary movement. Greetings were also received from the Guatemalan Workers Party and the Asian Students Association.
The conference also passed motions condemning the French military's attacks on the Rainbow Warrior II and the scheduled execution of African-American activist Mumia Abu Jamal on August 17.
In closing remarks to the conference, Sujatha Fernandes quoted Che Guevara's comments on each individual's commitment to "helping the revolutionary movement to the best of our ability".
At the conference, she said, Resistance members had pledged that "while Gareth Evans continues to make foreign policy decisions in the interest of mining and oil companies, while the Australian government continues to sell uranium to France and engage in nuclear activities, while Aboriginal people, young people, women, migrants and working-class people continue to suffer under a corrupt and bankrupt system that steals their land, denies them rights and sells them out to the interests of big business and capital, we Resistance, the 'irresponsible elements', will be there".