The national conference of Resistance was held May 6th – 8th at Redfern Community Centre, Sydney. Heleyni Pratley, a member of the Wellington Branch of the Workers Party, attended on behalf of Unite Union. Her following report will be published in the June issue of The Spark.
Resistance is the youth wing of the Socialist Alliance (Australia). Topics covered during the conference included Palestine, uprisings in the Middle East, refugee detention in Australia, and the environment. The conference began with an acknowledgment that we were on stolen Aboriginal land. Around 100 people attended this conference from all over Australia. Guests included Matthew Cassel from Chicago, former assistant editor of Electronic Intifada; Antony Loewenstein, a Sydney-based independent freelance journalist and author of the book My Israel Question; and Ravindran, a youth leader from the Socialist Party of Malaysia. Overall there was a positive welcoming environment, which is important for young people to be able to debate and ask questions freely. The workshops over the weekend echoed this sentiment.
The conference began with a panel discussion ‘People Power confronting the empire’. Speakers included Kate Ausburn, Green Left Weekly journalist and Resistance member, Antony Lowenstein, and Matthew Cassel. Cassel spoke about the recent Egyptian uprising where he was an eye witness to the recent revolutionary upsurge. He documented this with photographs which he presented during his talk accompanied by the stories that went along with them. Cassel mentioned that the upsurge was not surprising to the Egyptian people and that it didn’t ‘come out of nowhere’ as many in the main stream media put it. Coming out of the uprisings five new left political parties have formed in preparation for the upcoming elections. Cassel has also spent time in Palestine and is currently based in Lebanon.
I attended the ‘Feminism today’ workshop and ‘Stepping up the campaign for refugees’. Other workshops covered topics included the Green Party, defending civil liberties, Marxism and religion, left struggle in the Middle East, Aboriginal rights and the Northern Territory intervention, refugee campaigning, youth and trade unionism, Palestine, and the struggle for socialism in Malaysia.
The ‘Feminism today’ workshop addressed that women’s rights have come a long way in the last 100 years, but real equality still hasn’t been achieved. It was discussed how young people have to deal with the rise of raunch culture, the unprecedented access to porn and what effects this has on our relationships, the unattainable beauty ideal and the self esteem problems it can create, and social pressures to get married and have kids that women still face. The workshop had roughly 19 women and 7 men in attendance. Discussion was around these issues but also sexual harassment and increasing levels of domestic violence in Australia. There was good debate as to how we orientate ourselves and address these issues as socialists. The discussion ended with the Marx quotation: “Social progress may be measured precisely by the social position of the fair sex”.