Bernie Sanders urges GetUp members to join global 'resistance'

Gareth Hutchens

Bernie Sanders, the former US Democratic presidential hopeful, has called on members of the activist group GetUp to join a global “resistance movement” to fight the rise of intolerant political movements in the US, Europe and Australia.

In a prerecorded video message, played at GetUp’s first national conference at the weekend in Sydney, Sanders encouraged the group to start working globally with like-minded activists, saying its progressive values were similar to his own.

His message was played on Sunday, where 800 GetUp members had gathered to workshop new campaign tactics. “We need a globalised movement towards equality and shared prosperity,” Sanders said in his video.

“We must remind people that they have the power to change public policies but that it requires effort, it requires organising, it requires strategising and, most importantly, it requires commitment.

“All of you at GetUp are fighting for the same values that so many of us have been fighting for here in the United States and around the world.”

GetUp is planning a tenfold increase in the number of activists campaigning at the next federal election, from 3,500 to 35,000 volunteers, in an effort to unseat prominent Coalition conservatives.

Its leadership team is training its members in a new “devolved” model of organising that combines the traditional centralised and staff-dependent model with technology that enables activists to self-organise across the country and take on leadership roles in local action groups.

GetUp will be using its new campaigning model to target 44 electorates at the next election, including Peter Dutton’s. The immigration minister suffered a 5.1% swing against him in 2016, leaving him with a margin of just 2,911 votes, or 1.6%, in the Brisbane seat of Dickson.

Paul Oosting, GetUp’s national director, said the weekend conference marked a “significant shift” for the organisation and he welcomed Sanders’ words of encouragement.

He said GetUp had been in close contact with key Sanders staff, particularly Becky Bond and Zack Exley – the organisers who pioneered efforts to get tens of thousands of Americans volunteering for Sanders – to learn everything they could about Sanders’ campaigning model.

“We’ve been learning a lot from them because they’re seen as global leaders in the ‘big organising’ model they’ve pioneered,” Oosting said.

Sanders used his video message to call on GetUp supporters to be conscious of global political trends, saying progressives must confront the rise of intolerant and authoritarian political movements. He implored GetUp’s supporters to start organising globally.

“The last years have been very troubling in terms of political developments in many countries around the world, particularly in Europe and the United States, as well as in Australia,” Sanders said.

“We must recognise that the forces of authoritarians and oligarchy work at an international level, organising and cooperating beyond borders, so we can then organise a resistance movement that acts in the same way.

“We need a globalised movement towards equality and shared prosperity.

“Nothing happens or has ever happened unless people on the bottom of the grassroots level stand up and go forward. That is how change always takes place – never from the top on down, always from the bottom on up.”