The Show: Another Side of Santamaria's Movement

Mark Aarons

The Show: Another Side of Santamaria's Movement
Scribe US
United States
2 October 2018

The Show: Another Side of Santamaria’s Movement

Mark Aarons

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.

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