RED • Stephen Moline

She can’t help watching the procession, a long dark flow of people of every age and look, both neat and ragged. They seem to have no end. They’ll flow down Collins Street for years. Who’d have thought there’d be so many?

a compelling narrative — Stuart Macintyre

hugely rich and impressive — Rowan Cahill

RED cover

I’ve set up this site to add images of the people in the book and some background to episodes in the book. Look for these under EXPLORE THE BOOK.

Scroll down for more recent posts.

About the book

RED tracks the lives of two families of Australian political idealists, their motives, expectations and gradual disillusionment.

These twentieth-century radicals and their friends, many of them communist, were journalists, artists, feminists, architects, politicians, teachers and scholars.

Stephen Moline grew up among these radicals. He kept a notebook.

1942 • Communardes in Wollstonecraft

46-10-08 TRIB joy wilson SILENT STRIKE copy

While researching attitudes to child care in the 1940s, I was a surprised at how rigid and clinical the “experts” were at that time in giving advice on raising children in the first two years of life. Lawrence K. Frank, an influential US authority on child development, wrote in the Women’s Weekly that “babies … are young mammals and should be treated as such …. They are ‘brainless’…”. (Australian Women’s Weekly, 7 June 1947). A trained nurse who had worked for ten years in the NSW Dept of Health was advising her readers that affection should be given to a child only at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and that “To let a child go without [food] for two, or even three days, makes him realise that if he does not eat, no one but himself suffers.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 29 October 1946).

Meanwhile two writers in the Communist paper the Tribune had different ideas (thought controversial at the time): one of them, Joy Wilson, proposed telling stories of the day’s events to very young children and then making books cheaply with “bright pictures of simple things such as a ball, a dog, an apple, pasted on cardboard and strung together.” She lets escape the middle-class secret that “At school, children who like books and feel familiar with them have an advantage over children who come from bookless homes.” (Tribune, 29 March 1946) This was thirty years before such an idea was admitted officially by the NSW Department of Education.

More examples HERE.

1942 • Guerrillas in Killara

February 1942. Panic. Sydney’s Herald and Telegraph are begging a Labor government to allow a handful of communists to form guerrilla bands armed with petrol bombs and home-made grenades.

The conservative Sun tells its readers to “Smash everything”. The Sydney Telegraph wants a People’s Army, modelled on “the Russian combat group”:

42-02-01 lets have real p army

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph (2 February 1942) explained how to make petrol bombs and home-made grenades. (I have removed some labels from this image.)

More HERE.


A new review of RED

Excerpts from a new review of my book RED:

“many surprises … wry humour … epic scope … finely drawn characters … a superb writer of place … Sydney emerges as a major ‘character’ … Unusual too is the prominence of women … RED is unlike anything I have read … tragic concluding section—moving yet distanced, unsentimental and non-judgemental … The writing is lyrical yet grounded in the everyday … [a] poetic-prose work [resembling] Brecht’s Marxist epic theatre … It’s terrific.” (Sylvia Martin in Labour History, May 2018, pp. 216–17) 



“I was confused and devastated”

In 1940 the artist Roy Dalgarno was told by the military that he must leave Bedarra Island where he was working with fellow artist Noel Wood. “They’d apparently planned on building some sort of military establishment there,” Dalgarno explains, “and they considered me a security risk. A security risk? Because I was a Communist or a member of the Left Book Club.” More of this story HERE.

Hartley's Creek The Lagoon by Dalgarno 1941 (700)

One of Dalgarno’s paintings when living in north Queensland, “Hartley’s Creek: the Lagoon” (1941). Collection: Lynn Dalgarno

First review of RED

Quotes from RED’s first review:

“In many ways, the book is an intellectual history from below”, a “genre-crossing biographical study … in the form of a novel” but “based on extensive research” which, “from a scholarly viewpoint, is hugely rich and impressive.” RED is “a truly original piece of literature, in many ways a political prose-poem.” — Rowan Cahill in Labor History

Read the full review HERE.