While Nga Tamatoa and the Maoists were organising the Maori Land March, the Trotskyists of the Socialist Action League were busily building bridges to the Maori radical community.
Founded in 1969, in Wellington the SAL was affiliated to the US Socialist Workers Party and the worldwide alliance of Trotskyist parties, the Fourth International.
The SAL was very supportive of the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions and the struggle of the ANC in South Africa.
The SAL was involved in virtually every Maori protest of the ’70s and ’80s. The League saw the National Question as a central focus of revolutionary activity and spelled out it’s programme in “Struggle for Maori Liberation” published in Socialist Action of the 25th of February 1977.
“In aiding the development of an independent mass movement of Maoris, the SAL has a duty to help popularise the ideas of, and help in other ways to build, all Maori struggles… Maori members should help build Maori protest organisations….
Wherever it has influence in trade unions or protest movements of all kinds, the League must look for ways to encourage the involvement of Maoris as Maoris… To help provide leadership for the Maori movement our members must study the Marxist analysis of the National Question… The Maori people are destined to play a vanguard role in the coming New Zealand revolution, and Maoris will naturally be among the leaders of the party which spearheads the revolution.”
The SAL tried desperately to recruit Maori members.
“It is a matter of burning importance that we join up many more Maoris as members of our party, and create experienced cadres from them. What we need is a team of Maori Marxists participating fully in building and leading our movement.”
Fortunately they had little success. The SAL signed up several Maori members including Cecil Pirihi, John Moki Martin, Nadia Makea, Cherry Hurae, Lee-Ann Farach, Wiki Wickliffe, Mark Sadlier-Thomson, Lionel Stewart and Diane Tunoho, but few lasted long with the League.
The League played a strong support role however, and it was a rare Maori activist in the ’70s who was not a guest speaker at one of the SAL’s regular conferences.
Some who attended SAL functions included Tom Poata, Joe Hawke, Ben Mathews, Barney Pikari, John Tahu, Heta Te Hemara, Zac Wallace and Donna Awatere.
The SAL campaigned hard for the Maori revolution, even to the point of working for “increased Maori news and programmes on the broadcasting media“, but went into decline after peaking in the late ’70s.
The SAL changed its name to the Communist League in the late ’80s. Today, they are down to a handful of members, but still sporadically support Maori land struggles to this day.