By Deb Sorensen
MELBOURNE — As increasing public attention focuses on youth anger over persistent unemployment, Resistance held its 21st national conference here on July 4-6. Young activists came from across the country to plan action around unemployment and many other issues.
Here were hundreds of young people who aren't going to leave the big issues to the talk shows, and who don't think it's enough that politicians are falling over themselves to say how deeply they understand the plight of a generation. Not only is it very unlikely the hand-wringing politicians will do anything, but most participants felt there's no time to wait and find out; now is the time for action, not words.
Among the many first-time participants in a Resistance conference, Wollongong University student Gina Silverstone saw an Environmental Youth Alliance poster about the Indonesian island of Siberut on a Resistance stall during orientation week earlier this year. "Having been to Siberut myself and seen the terrible devastation, I was really interested", Gina said. Recognition of the need for urgent action to save the environment and the people of Siberut from indiscriminate logging led her to join Resistance.
For Sarah Anderson, a Resistance member for only a month, the conference was an inspiration. "In the Adelaide branch we had been holding pre-conference discussion. Now that we're here, it's great to see so many young people getting up and speaking. It's great to see how everyone is really genuine, and you get the feeling that we can really do things."
Green Left Weekly was important in bringing young people to the conference. Resistance members spend a lot of time and energy distributing the paper. Liam Hazell, from Canberra, said he found other conference participants' experiences selling the paper an inspiration. Others also felt that the alternative news and analysis in Green Left played an invaluable role in raising awareness of important national and international issues.
Several international speakers brought first-hand knowledge and experience of struggles for democracy in their own countries. Expressing a common sentiment, Sarah said the experience of these speakers was valuable, and their presence helped to clarify the links between their struggles and our own.
Sydney student Paul Banbury got involved because of the need to inform people about how the education system is becoming less accessible. He joined Resistance because he was impressed with members he saw in action at a rally in June, particularly when police attacked the students. He felt Resistance had the best idea of how to make the issues heard and to draw others into action.
Liam from Canberra was also involved in a demonstration in which the police were brutal. The Aidex protest in Canberra last November was the first time he saw Resistance in action. He felt Resistance members handled a difficult situation well. He was also impressed with Resistance's ability to understand the links between various struggles. Because of his contact with Resistance, he had also begun "to think of issues such as women's liberation, which I wouldn't necessarily have thought about otherwise".
Angela Hatfield from Newcastle had come to the realisation that problems such as unemployment and environmental devastation were intrinsic to the system. "The problem is capitalism", she said.
"I didn't join because I was a socialist", said Angelique Gellert from Brisbane. "In the beginning I didn't see need to change the society. I was initially interested in how migrants coming to this country have to cope with racism and a different culture. Then you start to think about other issues such as the environment and sexuality, and you begin to see that society really does need to be overhauled and these issues aren't really being addressed".