Keith Locke was born in Christchurch in 1944. A “red nappy baby” his parents were well known Communist Party members, Jack and Elsie Locke.
Elsie Locke, one of the few women to serve on the party’s central committee left the CP in 1956. She become a leader of the “peace” movement and a socialist icon. Jack Locke stuck with the CP or its offshoot the Socialist Workers Organisation until his death in 1996. Keith’s sister, Maire Leadbetter is a leading light in the Auckland socialist scene today.
Keith Locke began a Bsc in Sociolology at canterbury University in 1962 and quickly became a leading light in the “New Left Club” Also active in the club were people such as the late socialist “intellectual” Bruce Jesson, radical Trotskyite, Owen Gager, current Alliance Party co-leader Paul Piesse and serving Finance Minister, Michael Cullen.
From 1966-68 Locke studied in Edmonton, Canada and achieved an MA in Sociology. There he became involved with the League for Socialist action, a Trotskite Group affililiated to the US Socialist Workers Party. In 1969 while a PhD student in sociology at the University of Toronto, Locke became chairman of “Australians and New Zealanders Against the War in Vietnam” . He was one of 25 members who attended a demo of 10,000 against the war in Toronto. He was also with a group who drove to Ottawa to picket Australian PM Gorton who was in town for talks with PM Trudeau. Locke wrote to NZ Monthly review in June 1969 “Many tendencies on the left were present: pacifists, Trotskyists, communists, anarchists and liberals . Most of the Communist and pacifist forces no longer dispute that the central aim of the anti-war movement should be the immediate withdrawal of US troops.”
That same year, back in New Zealand, our own Trotskyite group, the Socialist Action League was founded in Wellington.
By 1970, Locke was an SAL member and was writing for its paper, Socialist Action. In August 1970 he addressed Wellington Radical Activists Congress, arguing for Trotskyism at the session “Maoism or Trotskyism, which way for the revolution in New Zealand?”
In the early 70s the SAL tried to infiltrate the Labour Party.
From 1970-74, Locke was a financial member of Labour Party’s Farm Rd Branch.
In 1972 the SAL launched a “Socialists for Labour” campaign, “to build support for a Labour Government in 1972 around a socialist programme . . . it expects to attract many young people into a national network of Young Socialists for a Labour Government groups.” Locke was simultaneously chairman of “Socialists for Labour” and National Secretary of the SAL. On May 25th of that year,the National Executive of the Labour Party announced proscription of the SAL. It issued a statement “structure and affiliation of the SAL is such that it offends against the constitution of the NZLP . . . it is not possible to belong to both the NZLP and the SAL.” Locke issued a counter statement “Is it not a publicly-acknowledged fact that the SAL is an organisation of Labour Party members which explicitly supports the Party and organises socialists for this purpose?” Labour unsuccessfully tried to expel Locke in 1974.
Meanwhile Locke was busy fighting many enemies. In 1971 he was a member of the National Laison Committtee which organised nationwide anti Vietnam War demos. In the December 8th 1972, Socialist Action, Locke complained that Mike Law of HART (now an academic at Waikato University) assaulted him in central Wellington “following months of intense political debate within the antiwar and antitour movements”. This was probably part of the “Maoist vs Trot” conflict raging in New Zealand socialist circles at the time. Maoism vs Trotskyism was the framework for an August 1975 debate between Locke and Rob Campbell at Victoria University “Foreign or Local Ownership: is NZ Nationalism Progressive?” Apparently even the CIA was after Keith Locke. In February 1976 Socialist Action reprinted CIA documents on SAL members George Fyson, Keith Locke and Terry Lane, obtained for the SAL under a court order by US friends, the “Political Rights Defence Fund”.
From the early ’70s to 1977, Locke edited Socialist Action. In this job he made a blunder that haunts him to this day.
In April 1975 Locke wrote a lead article for Socialist Action under the banner heading: “Cambodia Liberated: Victory For Humanity” The “liberators” were of course the Khmer Rouge led by the infamous Pol Pot. More than million Cambodians were murdered under the Khmer Rouge. I wonder how many New Zealand Cambodians vote Green today?
In 1976 Locke made another faux pas. In a March 26th article for Socialist Action he wrote “Open Door to Warships Raises Nuclear Risks”. The risky ships were of course American. A short time later (July 23rd) a P Neary wrote a letter to Socialist Action, opposing nuclear weapons and supporting fusion power. Keith Locke’s reply “Capitalism cannot be trusted with nuclear power. . . socialism . . . would step up nuclear power research in order to make it safe”