We first heard the name Resistance in April at Star Wars Celebration and immediately there were questions. What happened to the New republic? Is the First Order in control of the Galaxy? What is the nature of the Resistance? Well we have some ideas we’re going to break down using what we know and what we suspect.
The New Republic
Immediately following the Rebellion’s victory at Endor they restructured themselves into the new Republic. After the death of the Emperor, the Empire spiraled into chaos according to an old report from Making Star Wars. Several former imperials tried to claim the throne of the Emperor, while Mas Amedda tried to hold things together. After this, the Rebel Alliance was able to secure several star systems with little push-back, and ultimately they declared themselves the New Republic.
Their ranks swelled with planets and fighters as the new Republic took the fight to the scattered Empire culminating in the Battle of Jakku. We in fact learned that the new Republic was in effect during the battle of Jakku from some promotional material for Star Wars Battlefront that reads:
Fans who pre-order Star Wars Battlefront will be among the first players to experience the Battle of Jakku, the pivotal moment when the New Republic confronted key Imperial holdouts on a remote desert planet on the Outer Rim.
From there the Republic planned a massive reduction in military forces and encouraging the planets to have their own defense forces. All of this we know based on the Journey to The Force Awakens novels and comics. So far there has been no information released or teased that says the Republic is not still around. Based on this I believe the Republic is still around and quietly supporting the Resistance as the Republic does not have its own military. The Republic is most likely left the outer rim alone and this allowed the First Order to coalesce., It appears there is an uneasy truce between the Republic and the First Order, one that most likely not survive the events of The Force Awakens.
One question is, will we see any scenes of a new Republic Senate in TFA, or it will it be only alluded to like the senate in ANH? At this point, there is absolutely no evidence of any new Republic Senate scenes, but given that such scenes could be almost entirely CGI, it is hard to rule it out.
The Resistance is a military organization that opposes the First Order. It is lead by General Leia Organa. They do not appear to be officially part of the Republic and are made up of former Rebel leaders like Ackbar and new fighters that have fought against the First Order. We know this, for example from the junior novel “Moving Target“, where PZ-4CO says:
“You are the leader of the Resistance, a critical check on the designs of the First Order. You are a symbol of the Resistance and an inspiration to all soldiers who follow our cause and do their duty in hard times.“
So, it appears that the Resistance may have been created to fight the First order. In addition to General Organa, we also have reports of Major Caluan Ematt, who also fought for the rebel alliance. Major Ematt was among the “shrikes”, a special rebel recon team. In fact, Major Ematt was the only surviving shrike after an ambush on Tanaab. Could this be the same battle of Tanaab that Lando referred to in RotJ? What role with Major Ematt play in TFA? Still no hard evidence at this point.
The Resistance has adopted the symbols of the former Rebellion such as the X-Wing and the starbird (see above symbol). So what are they really? It appears they are an independent military that is supported by the Republic and formed for one reason only: Stop the First Order. I think this is why they are searching for Luke, they need a Jedi to help fight against Snoke and the Knights of Ren. After decades of no military force the Republic is not ready or able to fight against the military machine the First Order has built on the outer Rim. The former military leaders of the Rebellion put together their own forces calling upon the many planetary forces in the Republic.
We got a look at the resistance base in the new trailer, and it closely resembles this concept art, but with mountains added in the background, but at this point it is unclear what planet it could be on but there many different reports calling it Yavin IV
Why are the Republic and Resistance separate? I think there are two reasons in the end. First it is made up of former Rebellion leaders that are better fighters without the interference of the Senate. As we saw in the prequels such large bodies can make running a war next to impossible especially when the dark side can be used to influence members. By having them separate the are free from the influence of certain groups. Second one of the biggest complaints of the prequels was the political scenes and tone. I suspect that JJ is avoiding the Republic and its politics through the Resistance, keeping the Galaxy small and storytelling tight. In the end I suspect we will find out the Resistance is really just another word for Republic “unofficial” Military forces.