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.

Which of these statements are true?

1. The Curtin Labor government requested that the communist flag be flown from public buildings including the Sydney GPO.

2. The communist anthem, the Internationale, was played at concerts of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

3. Sir Frank Packer once required the Women’s Weekly to put a smiling picture of Joseph Stalin on its cover.

4. Billy Hughes invited communists to enlist in the Australian armed forces. Thousands did.

Answer. All of the above. As explained HERE.

What the communist said to the spy

telephone bill

Communist Bill Wood, with telephone

1942 … and Australia is at war with Germany. Communist Russia is our ally. But our military intelligence treats Australian Communists as the enemy, even though US General Douglas Macarthur, who is leading Australian forces at this time, supports the Communist-led People’s Army. Not China’s people’s army—but Australia’s. All rather confusing. Meanwhile Bill Wood, a leader of this Australian “People’s Army” and editor of the weekly journal Progress, asks one of our spies why his phone is being tapped. “You do know, don’t you, that we’re comrades now? Moscow’s in the war on your side, Major. They have informed your section?” More 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.