The Socialist Action League
Several waves of Trotskyists have infiltrated the Labour Party over the years. The most significant attempt beginning in the early ’70s was carried out by the Socialist Action League.
Formed in 1969, the SAL was affiliated to an international network of Trotskyist parties, the Fourth International and was very pro Castro’s Cuba.
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.”
Chairman of the Socialists for Labour Campaign was National secretary of the SAL, Keith Locke. More than half of the SAL’s approximately 200 members operated quite openly inside the Labour Party.
Some helped the campaigns of “progressive” Labour candidates including two, Matt Robson and Mike Treen who served on future PM Mike Moore’s, electorate committee when he was first elected to parliament for the Eden electorate in 1972.
The SAL’s infiltration of Labour was exposed in “Truth” and was raised in Parliament by then PM, Rob Muldoon.
Under considerable pressure and wanting to be seen to be taking action, on the 25th of May 1972, the National Executive of the Labour Party announced proscription of the SAL
Labour’s executive stated that the “structure and affiliation of the Socialist Action League is such that it offends against the constitution of the NZLP . . . it is not possible to belong to both the NZLP and the Socialist Action League.”
Keith Locke replied in a statement “Is it not a publicly-acknowledged fact that the Socialist Action League is an organisation of Labour Party members which explicitly supports the Party and organises socialists for this purpose?”
The proscription was never enforced however, though a half-hearted attempt to expel Keith Locke was made in 1974.
Matt Robson, though holding several Labour Party positions stood as an SAL parliamentary candidate in Grey Lynn in 1975.
In the end not one SAL member was ever expelled from the Labour Party.
Some, like Matt Robson and his wife Petronella Townsend drifted out of the SAL and stayed active in Labour for many years.
Later some, such as Robson, Townsend and Paul Piesse of Christchurch, left Labour to join Jim Anderton’s crypto-communist New Labour Party in 1989.