Resisting repression

Resources for defending Australian freedoms

Australian freedoms are under threat from government anti-terrorism powers and other actions to suppress protest, nicely documented by the Human Rights Legal Centre report "Safeguarding democracy" and the 2021 report Democracy Dossier. Andrew Wilkie, independent member of federal parliament, has warned that Australia is a "pre-police state".

The government gives lip service to press freedom and whistleblower protection, while taking actions to undermine both, including laws to retain metadata and criminalise whistleblowing and journalism on national security issues. In 2019, there were several prominent prosecutions of whistleblowers with no apparent function aside from discouraging public interest disclosures. Police raids on journalists led to the formation of the your-right-to-know campaign, a sign that media organisations across the political spectrum saw government clamp-downs as dangerous. State and federal governments have passed laws against protest.

The materials here are relevant to resisting repression, defending civil liberties, promoting alternatives to repression and fostering nonviolent methods of social defence and social change.

Dealing with government repression

Jessica Bell and Dan Spalding, Security Culture for Activists, The Ruckus Society, 2017

Ground Safe, Assessing the digital security needs and practices of human rights defenders in Africa, MENA, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, 2021

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, on "how to remain anonymous and to get around censorship", from Reporters without Borders.

Jørgen Johansen, "Humor as a political force, or how to open the eyes of ordinary people in social democratic countries", Philosophy and Social Action, 1991: using humour as a tactic.

Brian Martin, "Get ready for repression: living and resisting in a repressive society"

Brian Martin, "Resisting repression: some ideas for defending Australian freedoms"

Zorana Smiljanic, "Plan B: using secondary protests to undermine repression", 2003: how Otpor! in Serbia responded to arrests of activists.

Ralph Summy, "Nonviolent politics: from praxis to research to classroom to praxis to research to classroom", 2005: lessons from the Queensland civil liberties campaign.

Mark Plunkett and Ralph Summy, "Civil liberties in Queensland: a nonviolent political campaign", 1980: a prize-winning article.

Canberra Peacemakers, Capital Defence: Social Defence for Canberra (1986). Practical information for resisting repression. Though some of the technologies discussed have been superseded, the basic approach remains highly relevant.

Brian Glick, The War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do about It (Boston: South End Press, 1989). This is the best available manual on resisting government disruption of social movements. There is no Australian equivalent. Some material is available online.

Maciej Bartkowski, "An activist's guide to fighting foreign disinformation warfare", November 2018

Leaking (anonymous whistleblowing)

"Leaking: practicalities and politics", by Brian Martin, 2015

The Art of Anonymous Activism, pages 7-16

"A brief guide to leaking" by Nicky Hager and Bob Burton, from Secrets and Lies

"The practice and politics of leaking" by Kathryn Flynn


Nonviolence against terrorism

Brian Martin, "Nonviolence versus terrorism", Social Alternatives, 2002.

Ralph Summy, "A nonviolent response to September 11", Social Alternatives, 2002.


Alternative responses to terrorism

Brian Martin. Instead of repression. Social Alternatives, Vol. 25, No. 1, First Quarter 2006, pp. 62-66.

Brian Martin. Technology for Nonviolent Struggle, 2001: how technological choice and design can strengthen a community's capacity for resistance to aggression.


Tactics against injustice

The backfire framework is a way of understanding tactics used for and against injustice.


Historical failures of anti-terrorism

Paddy Hillyard, Suspect Community: People's Experience of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in Britain (London: Pluto, 1993). See also "The 'war on terror': lessons from Ireland", 2005


Nonviolent action against repression

Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, tactics, principles and case studies.

April Carter, Howard Clark and Michael Randle (editors), A Guide to Civil Resistance. A comprehensive set of commentaries and annotated bibliography.

A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, television series and book:

Jørgen Johansen and Brian Martin, Social Defence (Sparsnäs, Sweden: Irene Publishing, 2019): nonviolent community resistance to aggression as a grassroots challenge to oppression.

Sharon Nepstad, Nonviolent Struggle: Theories, Strategies, and Dynamics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). A valuable introduction and overview of the field.

Kurt Schock, Civil Resistance Today (Cambridge: Polity, 2015). An excellent overview.

Stellan Vinthagen, A Theory of Nonviolent Action: How Civil Resistance Works (London: Zed Books, 2015). Important framework for understanding nonviolent action.

Kurt Schock, Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Superb recent scholarship on social movements and nonviolent resistance.

Jacques Semelin, Unarmed Against Hitler: Civilian Resistance in Europe 1939-1943 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993).

Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973). This is the classic account.

Gene Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle (Boston: Porter Sargent, 2005) and other publications - many by free download in different languages - are available from the Albert Einstein Institution.

Brian Martin


phone: +61-2-4228 7860

Updated 7 November 2021