Resistance camp for activists

Saturday, December 8, 2012
Student protest in Chile.

Resistance is an activist youth organisation that is involved in campaigns for the environment, for queer rights, feminism and anti-racist issues.

Sometimes it can be useful for even the most experienced activists to renew our skills and examine what, how and why we do things. To do this, Resistance is holding an activist skills camp in Melbourne from January 21 to 23. Workshops covering practical activist skills and socialist theory will be held over three days.

Organising skills are important in making our campaign work as effective as possible. Since we can’t rely on the conservative mainstream media to cover issues from our point of view, we need to be able to create our own media and get out on the streets to distribute it.

This allows us to spread our message and to better gauge the mood of the public in relation to different political issues. The camp will share skills on the best ways to campaign on a street stall, how to build a branch and how to start a campaign group at your school or university.

We’ll also look at how to put feminism organising skills into practice. Sexism can have a big impact on women getting involved in activist groups. Resistance is a feminist organisation that educates its members on how to recognise and combat sexist behaviour and ideas, and how to encourage women to take on leadership roles inside the organisation.

The camp will also look at how to organise in a democratic way. The nature of activist organisations as political groups, involving a diverse range of people with different abilities and views, presents us with certain difficulties. In this respect it's important for socialists to always protect the democratic functioning of our own organisations and the movements we're involved in.

Socialists also have a unique view of leadership, quite different to that we would find in the average workplace, the military or capitalist parliamentary democracy. Unlike the authoritarianism of these institutions, Resistance's style of leadership is focused on developing members’ political understanding and activist skills and building leadership teams that remain accountable to those who elect them.

Many of these practical skills have a political aspect that can help us as well. For example, being well-educated on the issue you're campaigning for is vital in giving you the confidence to approach others for their support.

The camp will address some of the political aspects of activism, including socialist tactics and strategies. For example, are rallies always the most effective tactic? Resistance follows the theory of mass action, which aims to reach out to and involve the greatest number of people in action. What that particular action is can, in itself, determine how many people will take part. There is no one type of action that is best suited to all situations.

This seems sensible, but lobbying and direct action are other strategies that often compete for space. Mass action is counter posed to these, but can also complement them at times.

Lobbying effectively relies on the goodwill of people in positions of power. This rarely leads to practical action, because those in power are often responsible for the problem in the first place. The powerful find it all too easy to ignore the influence of lobby groups who don't have either a large, active social movement or lots of money to back up their demands.

Direct action relies on activists who are willing to risk criminal prosecution in order to directly hinder the operations of the opponent, such as chaining yourself to a coal loader to prevent its exports. While this certainly would get media attention and maybe big costs for your opponent, it requires only a small group of activists, who usually operate in secret, which doesn't lend itself to mass participation. If not handled properly, this can lead to the perception that there isn't a need for broader participation because it's being handled for us by those brave heroes/heroines.

These and other topics will be covered in detail at Resistance Camp 2013.

The Camp will directly follow the Socialist Alliance National Conference from January 18 to 20, and Resistance members are encouraged to attend both. We need to build an organisation that embraces revolutionary activists from all parts of society, beyond just young people, and we see Socialist Alliance as integral to this aim.

This camp is open to all Resistance members and supporters. To attend please email Duncan at duncanar85@gmail.com

From GLW issue 949