The Force Awakens was intended to thrust the audience right into the sequel trilogy, attempting to explain just enough backstory to inform audiences about what had transpired over the past three decades since the Battle of Endor but not delving deep into the political structure of the New Republic.
I assume this was intentional, since the movie was geared at generating excitement for Star Wars and likely wanted to avoid one of the more unpopular parts of the prequel trilogy: politics. Right or wrong, I assume that it was an intentional choice by Lucasfilm to not delve too deeply into the political nature of the New Republic.
All we learned from The Force Awakens was that Leia Organa had formed the Resistance, which seemed to be loosely supported by the New Republic, to combat the rising threat of the First Order. The strongest explanation of the tie between the Resistance and the New Republic actually came from General Hux moments before the Hosnian system was wiped out, as he said that the New Republic was “the government that supports the Resistance.” So clearly, there was some sort of relationship, but what happened to get to that point?
That is something that has been fleshed out more fully in additional Star Wars material since the release of The Force Awakens, so today we’ll look at the background and history of the Resistance – something that will be especially pertinent with the premiere of Star Wars: Resistance tonight.
Formation of the New Republic
When it came to the New Republic, overthrowing the Empire had been the easy part. Establishing and running a government? That was the hard part. Following the Rebellion’s decisive at the Battle of Endor in 4ABY, the tide of the Galactic Civil War turned in the favor of the Alliance to Restore the Republic for good, though the war would continue on for another year. Finally, in 5ABY, the New Republic had pushed back the remnants of the Empire to the planet of Jakku. They had experienced a series of victories and had already begun to establish their reign, reinitiating the Galactic Senate on Chandrilla with Mon Mothma as Chancellor. But in a sign of things to come, politics nearly got in the way: needing to garner a majority of votes in the Senate in order to initiate a large-scale military operation to Jakku, Mothma’s resolution failed. But thanks to some clever stalling by Mothma to delay the second vote and a spy team led by Han Solo, the vote passed the second time, sending the New Republic forces to Jakku, commanded by Admiral Gial Ackbar, in which they routed the Imperial forces. It was the last large-scale battle of the Galactic Civil War, as the New Republic was victorious – albeit amidst heavy losses – and the remaining fragments of the Empire were pushed back into the Unknown Regions for good.
During the Battle of Jakku, the Grand Vizier of the Empire, Mas Amedda, contacted Mon Mothma to surrender. With Mothma accompanied by Leia Organa, the New Republic Chancellor and Imperial Grand Vizier signed the landmark Galactic Concordance on Chandrilla. The treaty called for an immediate cease fire, with the Empire stopping all forms of government and all fighting, a disarmament of their military, and Imperial officers being declared war criminals. Amedda was kept in charge of Coruscant, but the planet now belonged to the New Republic and they led it, effectively making him only a figurehead. The Galactic Concordance was soon followed up by the Military Disarmament Act, which seriously reduced the New Republic fleet. This was long-desired by Mon Mothma, who loved peace and hated the costs of war. The New Republic still maintained the largest fleet in the galaxy, but it was reduced to only a fraction of what it once had been.
With the New Republic assuming that galaxy-wide war was a thing of the past, the Senate turned their attention to preserving peace as their greatest priority. In a move designed to show that the New Republic would not repeat the horrors of the Empire, Mon Mothma and the Senate resolved to not have one capital of the New Republic but instead to rotate the Senate to differing worlds. The Senate was first convened on Chandrilla, and at the time of The Force Awakens the Senate was being housed on Hosnian Prime. This move of rotating the capital was enough to convince many of the starsystems which had left the Old Republic – forming the Confederacy of Independent Systems (Separatist Alliance) leading up to the Clone Wars – to return to the New Republic, feeling that their voice would now be heard and that things would be different.
As the New Republic grew, they became almost wholly focused on peace, and on preserving it however possible. This had been evident during the Galactic Concordance, and during the Military Disarmament Act, and it was a primary objective of Mon Mothma and many others in the Senate. And with the threat of war behind them, the Senators began playing politics. This was not a problem under the strong leadership of Mothma, who presided over a period of growth for the New Republic in adding systems to their government, but eventually the New Republic’s first Chancellor resigned due to illness.
Without her leadership, political turmoil broke out. Her successors as Chancellor failed to keep the unity which she had promoted, and two political factions formed: the Populists (who wanted more authority for the individual planets) and the Centrists (who wanted more authority for the galactic government). In the midst of that turmoil, few people in the Senate were as widely respected by both sides as Leia Organa, the last Princess of Alderran, former Rebellion General, war hero, and New Republic senator. As the New Republic held elections for the inaugural First Senator position – the proposed replacement to the office of Chancellor – it was Organa (a Populist) who was the clear front-runner and favorite to win office, as one of the few still respected by all sides. But in a turn of events, Leia’s shocking parentage was revealed for the whole galaxy to know: she was the daughter of Darth Vader. The revelation effectively ended Leia’s political career, and certainly any hopes of being First Senator. Leia’s husband, Han Solo, of course supported her and had known the truth, and other allies of Leia sent her messages, such as Gial Ackbar, Nien Nunb, Lando Calrissian, and Mon Mothma (who apparently long suspected the truth). The replacement candidate for First Senator was Tai-Lin Garr, but he was assassinated and the plans to move forward with the office were put on hold.
Rise of the Resistance
By the time of The Force Awakens, the Chancellor of the New Republic was Lanever Villecham, of the Tarsunt system. Villecham, like his contemporaries in the Senate, prioritized peace, and he didn’t take the threat of the First Order seriously. He reasoned, like so many others did, that as long as the First Order stayed within the predetermined boundaries and as long as they observed the Galactic Concordance, there was nothing to worry about.
There is perhaps no better summary of the state of the New Republic than that. Having thought that galactic-wide war was over, that peace was the priority, and that politics could rule, the New Republic didn’t take seriously rumors of the growth of the First Order in the unknown regions. No one was ready to get into a war again, and many believed it wouldn’t even come to that and that the rumors were exaggerated. The Senate was pleased to believe that the First Order was simply a radical remnant of the Empire whose strength and threat was far, far overstated. They found no evidence to suggest otherwise.
Not everybody was as careless, however. Leia Organa, whose skills as a politician perhaps at times masked her tenacity as a warrior, grew concerned both with the state of the New Republic she had fought so hard for and the rising threat of the First Order. She lobbied for the Senate to take the First Order seriously and respond to the threat, but she was brushed off as simply a warmonger and overly suspicious, thinking she was simply trying to stir up fear amongst the Republic. Leia wanted the New Republic to do more to protect its citizens, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Perhaps she would have been able to inspire the New Republic to action had she won the election of First Senator, but following the revelation that Vader was her father her political career fell apart. She withdrew from the election and resigned from the Senate, realizing that the New Republic was not what she hoped it would be and that the First Order was what she feared it would be.
So Leia took matters into her own hands. She called together many allies who were loyal to her to gather in a hangar on Hosnian Prime. Wearing one of Han Solo’s leather jackets, Leia arrived to greet her allies: Nien Nunb, Caluan Ematt, doctor Harter Kalonia, pilots Joph Seastriker, Snap Wexley, and Zari Bangel, assistant and pilot Greer Sonnel, and, in the back, Admiral Gial Ackbar. A war hero who had commanded the New Republic forces during their war against the Empire, Ackbar had then retired to live a peaceful life on Mon Cala. But now Leia needed him, and she had persuaded him out of retirement to come join her new Resistance.
With her allies gathered together, Leia told them: “You’ve seen the coming danger, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to protect the peaceful worlds of this galaxy from war.” As Claudia Gray writes in the book Bloodline, the Resistance would be formed:
She warned, “Don’t speak too soon. Every one of you has to fully understand that this movement, this organization, is not sanctioned by the Galactic Senate. For now, and possibly forever, we operate beyond governmental control. That may mean bending some laws, and breaking others.”
“Never stopped us before,” Ackbar rasped.
Greer added, “We’ve already got a few hundred thermal detonators. It’s a start.”
Leia scanned the room and saw no doubts, no hesitation. These people trusted her. They were ready. Finally, she was ready, too.
“The sun is setting on the New Republic,” Leia said. “It’s time for the Resistance to rise.”
And thus the Resistance was born in 28ABY, breaking from the New Republic and committed to take seriously the threat of the First Order. The New Republic tolerated the existence of Leia’s Resistance, but the latter was totally independent of the New Republic government. Their primary objective was to spur the Galactic Senate into action against the First Order, but six years later they would be left all alone to fight the war themselves.
From the start, the Resistance was a ragtag group of rebels united around their leader, General Leia Organa. She personally recruited most of the members of the Resistance, including those present at the start and many others as well, including Poe Dameron, Amilyn Holdo, and Larma D’Acy. The Resistance was seriously undermanned, with many of the members pulling double duty in filling multiple roles. They had no dedicated infantry, and they had more pilots than ships available. One of their few capital ships was the Raddus, named after the former Rebellion Admiral, which had been constructed as one of the last ships made prior to the Military Disarmament Act. The Raddus had served in the New Republic fleet for a while before being retired, and the Resistance later got their hands on it and put it to good use.
Leia Organa served as General, Supreme Commander, and commander-in-chief of the Resistance. Admiral Ackbar served as the commanding officer of the Raddus and the overall fleet commander of the Resistance, while also serving as part of the Resistance High Command leading things from their base on D’Qar. The planet had been scouted by the Rebellion shortly before the Battle of Endor for any Imperial presence, and a Rebel outpost was constructed there – though with the war soon ending it didn’t get much use. The reports on the base were kept in the Alliance records, and Leia journeyed there for the base of operations for the Resistance. It was the same story with Crait, after their evacuation of D’Qar years later, as Crait had been considered for a new Rebel Base during the Galactic Civil War. Though most of the Alliance records had been given to the New Republic, Leia, Ackbar, and others had kept some things secret just in case, such as hyperspace routes and safeworlds. In commanding the Resistance Leia played things very close to the chest, which was necessary for the survival of the small group. Still, Leia knew everybody in the Resistance by name and commanded infinite respect amongst the group.
The New Republic wound up paying the price for their lack of vision, with the First Order bursting onto the scene in 34ABY as Starkiller Base blew up the entire Hosnian System and, with it, the Galactic Senate of the New Republic. That would leave the Resistance all alone to fight the war that only they saw coming, and many of them would give their lives in the pursuit of peace. General Leia Organa was the only one who saw that, sometimes, in order to pursue peace and freedom one must fight back against those who seek to take it away. Before long, her Resistance was all that stood in the way of the galaxy falling back under tyranny and oppression.
For more reading, check out:
The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, by Pablo Hidalgo
The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary, by Pablo Hidalgo
Bloodline, by Claudia Gray
Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig
Aftermath: Life Debt, by Chuck Wendig
Aftermath: Empire’s End, by Chuck Wendig
The Force Awakens novelization, by Alan Dean Foster
The Last Jedi novelization, by Jason Fry