In 1977 Keith Locke was replaced as Socialist Action editor and began working in the SAL’s national office. Around 1978 the SAL’s “big brothers”, the US Socialist Workers Party, ordered a “turn to industry”. All over the world, university educated Trotskyites, took up jobs in factories and meatpacking plants to get “close to the workers”. Locke shelved his PHd and went to work in the Gear Meatworks in Wellington, then later at the Woburn Railway Workshops.
During this period the SAL worked closely with the pro-Soviet, Socialist Unity Party and were clearly on the Soviet side of the Soviet/Chinese rivalry of the time.
On February 21st 1980 Locke gave a talk in Wellington “Why Workers Should Support Soviet Action in Afghanistan.”
In March the same year he was elected Secretary at founding meeting of the Wellington Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, which oppossed US backed “aggression” against the Sandinistas. In the next couple of years he praised “peacenik” Owen Wilkes for exposing foreign bases in NZ, was active in the Latin America Committee and in the committee campaigning for an enquiry into the police “home invasion” and shooting of his workmate and Black Power associate, Paul Chase.
In October 1983 Locke signed a letter to US President Reagan protesting at the invasion of Grenada. Clearly some aggression was OK and some wasn’t.
In 1985 Locke left the SAL, but certainly did not abandon socialist activity .In October 1986 he was a facilitator of a workshop with Owen Wilkes on the “Militarisation of Bases in Pacific” at the National Peace Workshops meetings in Auckland. Among the decisions reached at this workshop was; “Support a joint campaign against US bases in Australia, NZ and the Philippines”.
By now Locke was National co-ordinator of the Philippines Solidarity Network. Founded in 1984, by Marxist priest John Curnow, PSN’s role was to provide solidarity for the Maoist insurgency then seriously threatening the Philippines.
The PSN organised visits by Filipino communists to NZ, including one by party leader Jose Maria Sison and another by high ranking party member, Joy Balazao.
It also helped organise several “exposure tours” by NZ students and “peace activists”, to the Philippines. These “tourists” fraternised with Communist Party front organisations and even worked in the field with units of the party’s, New Peoples Army.
One 1988 tour, which included 4 PSN activists (2 of whom were Workers Communist League supporters) caused major controversy. The Philippines Army accused the delegation of involvement in a New Peoples Army ambush which killed 10 Armed Forces Philippines soldiers.
The PSN was run mainly members of the the Workers Communist League. The WCL had by then abandoned hard core Maoism and had adopted a more open policy towards working with other Marxist tendencies. Several Trotskyites began working on projects with the WCL. Locke was clearly one of them.
Locke kept his options open however and in November 1986 he wrote an article for the Socialist Unity Party’s, “Tribune” on protest against US bases in NZ, Australia and the Philippines. In October the following year he attended a meeting in Auckland sponsored by the Soviet front, World Peace Council.
In January 1988, locke visited the Philippines during local elections. He was interviewed about the visit in the March 25th issue of the WCL’s “Unity” newpaper.”
In 1991 Locke left his leadership role with PSN, probably after visiting the Philippines for an International Peace Festival.
Locke was also an avid campaigner against NZ’s military capability.
In 1989, he was national spokesman for “People Against the Frigates”, which aimed to scuttle NZ’s purchase of the ANZAC frigates. On May 11th 1990,the Christchuch Press reported that Locke claimed that the government’s decision to buy 18 jet air trainers was “a total waste of $266 million,” He also said NZ no longer needed a jet fighter squadron.
In 1989 Keith Locke got back into party politics. After bitter infighting in the Labour Party, Jim Anderton broke way to announce the formatiom of a “real Labour Party”, the Newlabour Party. The entire WCL joined the new party as did a number of ex SUP, SAL and Communist Party members.
The NLPs first National Council contained no less than four ex SAL members (Matt Robson, Petronella Townsend, Keith Locke and Paul Piesse), a former SAL supporter, Francesca Holloway (now wife of political commentator Chris Trotter), WCL member Sue Bradford, 3 or 4 probable WCL members and one former covert SUP supporter.
In the late 80’s “Information on Ireland” was NZ’s leading support group for Irish Republicanism. IOI campaigned for the IRA, Sinn Fein and the even more extreme, Irish Republican Socialist Party . Membership ranged from old “Republicans” and university radicals, to senior members of the SUP, WCL and the Communist Party. The outlook of IOI can be gauged from an 1988 article in the Dominion Sunday Times. IOI and SUP member, Ana Meihana, told the paper, “The Irish cause is the Maori cause. The Maori fight in New Zealand is basically the same, only it is yet to reach a military stage like Ireland.”
By July 1989, Locke was International Affairs spokesman for the NLP.
That August he wrote to IOI’s paper “Saoirse” (Volume 6, Number 5)inviting suggestions from Saoirse readers for NLP foreign policy.