In 1942, on the recommendation of 26-year-old Bob Santamaria, Australia’s Catholic bishops created a clandestine church organisation to smash the Communist Party’s massive trade union base. Soon, The Movement, working closely with ASIO, became a sophisticated intelligence agency that would influence every corner of politics.
Santamaria based his Movement (also called The Show) completely on the Communist Party, copying its spectacularly successful union-organising machinery. Within a decade, it had defeated communist power in many major unions. He also adopted the communists’ strategy of infiltrating the Labor Party, and embarked on an aggressive program to transform it into a Catholic political machine, helping spark the great Labor Split of the mid-1950s.
Ironically, in modelling the Movement on his enemy, Santamaria imported its most odious characteristic: Stalinism. He rapidly embraced the characteristics of a Stalinist leader, actively cultivating his own ‘cult of personality’. Over time, this infected The Movement, as it adopted authoritarian practices and imposed anti-democratic policies on the unions it controlled, mirroring the communists’ modus operandi. As in the Communist Party, this inevitably caused internal battles and catastrophic splits that undermined and, eventually, destroyed The Movement.
Weaving together a rich story from previously secret archives of both The Movement and the Communist Party, ASIO’s massive files, and extensive oralhistory interviews, The Show exposes a previously unseen side of Santamaria’s Catholic Movement.
‘Fascinating … an intriguing complement, and counterpoint, to the most important works published about Santamaria’s role in Australian political history … Aarons's book deserves to be widely read.’
Ross Fitzgerald, Weekend Australian
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‘During the Cold War two tightly organised groups of ruthless idealists — one with their eyes on Moscow, the other with their eyes on Rome — fought each other in greatest secrecy for control of the Australian trade union movement and, ultimately, for control of the country. This scrupulously honest and scholarly history tells the inside story of one of the most significant struggles of Australia’s post-war history, on the basis of the intimate knowledge and understanding of two former political insiders on either side of the barricade who became closest friends after the dust of battle had settled.’
Robert Manne, author of The Petrov Affair
‘The Show is a major addition to the growing literature on Santamaria's anti-communist organisation and the labour movement in Australia.’
Bruce Duncan, author of Crusade or Conspiracy?
‘Not only a fascinating study of one of the most significant political struggles in our history, but also a window onto the times between the 1940s and 1990s.’ PICK OF THE WEEK
Steven Carroll, The Saturday Age