The recent death (at age 68) of Maori activist, Syd Jackson, brought down the curtain on a sadly mis-directed life.
Born in Hastings, son of 1938 All Black, Everard Jackson, Syd Jackson went off the rails at a young age.
In 1965-66 Jackson took a break from Auckland University to work as bushman at Kaingaroa, where he became assistant secretary of local branch of Timber Workers Union. “That was part of my political growing up” he later told the Socialist unity Party’s “Tribune”.
Jackson gained an MA in political science at Auckland. In 1969 he also became a foundation member of of the Maoist controlled, Halt All Racist Tours (HART).
Jackson had helped kick-start the Anti South African campaign, the previous year.
At Easter 1968 a national conference of the NZ Federation of Maori Students was held in Auckland. There was vigorous debate on 1970 All Black tour of South Africa. Syd Jackson was president. “He successfully put through a motion to the effect that even if Maoris were to be included in the side, they should not go to South Africa. This proved to be the real start of a campaign which eventually equalled in intensity the No Maoris-No Tour protest of 1960.”
In August 1968 Jackson shared a platform with Richard Thompson, Mat Rata and the Rev Ted Buckle at the launching of the campaign against the 1970 tour in Auckland Town Hall, organised by CARE. Jackson’s contribution was particularly effective, he said: “No Maori should go to South Africa, for how can we, when seeking equality, go to a country which actively denies another coloured people the rights we either enjoy, want extended or are striving to achieve for ourselves.” His address was reprinted as a leaflet titled “I’m Against The Tour”.
Unfortunately for Jackson, the campaign failed-in part because the then conservative, NZ Maori Council backed the tour to South Africa.
In the early 1970s Jackson, together with his first wife Hana, were key founders of the Maori/Marxist radical group Nga Tamatoa (Young Warriors). Jackson became the organisation’s first president.
The same year, Jackson helped form the Maoist controlled NZ Race Relations Council at a conference at the University of Waikato.
Later in 1970, Jackson began a 17 year stint with the Socialist Unity Party controlled Northern Clerical Workers Union.
Jackson was a regular at communist conferences through the ’70s, particularly those of the Trotskyist, Socialist Action League.
Jackson was also close to the Labour Party and became a member for awhile. In the late ’70s he took the plunge and joined, for a period, the pro-Soviet Socialist Unity Party. His commitment to a party representing one of the worst tyrannies ever known, didn’t stop Jackson regularly criticising his own government’s alleged human rights abuses.
There is some evidence that Jackson’s SUP membership was secret-a common practice with Maori Party members working on sensitive racial issues and that his Labour Party and SUP membership overlapped.
In January 1980 Jackson spoke at meeting, with Mat Rata and Hone Harawira at the Te Puke Community Hall to boycott Waitangi Day.
The same month, the Trotskyist paper “Socialist Action” wrote “Te Matakite spokesperson Syd Jackson called for a boycott of the official celebrations, saying that Maoris as oppressed people had nothing to celebrate.. The latest Te Matakite O Aotearoa newsletter contains greetings to the Socialist Action League on its tenth anniversary. . .
After the founding of Te Matakite. Maori political activism approached its outlook on a broader road, in its contact with progressive and civil liberties organisations.. .In this wondrous up-and-down world of protest, naturally you meet them all. One such group is the Marxist Trotskyist Socialist Action League which, like HART, is ten years old. . . Our gratitude for your support and highlighting Maori issues and broadening awareness is known.. . . The Maori land rights movement congratulate your collective effort and wish you well for your future aims.
In 1981, Jackson was active in the Anti-Springbok Tour movent.
In 1984 Jackson sat alonside SUP members Pat Shepherd and Jackson Smith 84 on a Labour Government appointed steering committee organising the Maori Economic Development Summit (Maori/Marxist love fest) held at Parliament.
By 1986 Jackson was involved in Te Ahi Ka, “Keepers of the Fire“, a new organisation aiming at no less than Maori control of New Zealand.
Writing in Metro in April 1987 Jackson said that Maori “collaborators” who work with the pakeha system against the interests of their own race should be attacked personally and publicly in every way short of violence…”Maoris must decide what to do about these lackeys of the white man . . . The ballot box certainly provides one option, but more drastic steps need to be taken to deprive these token Maori decision-makers of any kind of leadership role.”
In July 1987 Jackson (with the SUP, Socialist Action League and Workers Communist League) sponsored of the Nicaragua Must Survive’s “South Pacific Conference for Peace and Justice in Central America“.
In October 1987 Jackson admitted to the media, after National MP Ross Meurant’s famous maiden speech in Parliament that he had been in touch with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and that the prospect of terrorism could not be ignored entirely as a means of achieving Maori objectives
In February 1988 Jackson appeared before a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing on the the Treaty Of Waitangi (State Enterprises) bill. Jackson was a spokesman for the group Tunanga O Nga Kaimahi O Tamaki. He was questioned about his statement that the submission was made on behalf of all Maoris who wished to have control of the country returned to them. “Mr Jackson said such control included the legislature.”
In April 1988 Jackson and his second wife Dierdre Nehua travelled to Libya, with a party of 10 Australian Aboriginal activists. “Mr Jackson is keen to observe the Libyan leader, Colonel Gadaffi’s political theories applied in practice. Ms Nehua is mainly concerned with women’s issues and hopes to meet meebers of Libya’s womens army. Mr Jackson said they had been invited to join the Aboriginal delegation after supporting their protests against the Australian bicentennial celebrations in January. The 10-day tour will take the party to various parts of Libya, meeting academics, students and workers . . . He said they would meet a variety of people uncluding Colonel Gadaffi.”
On his return, Jackson claimed that the visit forged stronger links between Libya and the Maori nation. They discussed a wide spectrum of subjects including trade, loan finance, trade sanctions and recognition of a separate Maori nation.
Then Labour trade minister, Mike Moore, attacked Jackson over the Libya trip claiming that Jackson and Nehua had discussed the possibility of trade sanctions against NZ by Libya.
Jackson retorted “We will talk to whosoever we wish and we will not bother to consult with our great white fathers like Mike Moore.”
In Septembr 1988 Akbar Muhammad visited NZ, at the invitation of Jackson and Nehua. They had met in Libya. A leading member of Louis Farrakhan’s US Black Muslim movement, who had studied under Malcolm X, Muhammad advocated a separate black nation in the USA and stated that Maori gangs would one day “spearhead the Maori liberation Movement“.
In January 1989 Jackson was quoted in an Australian Channel 10 TV programme on white flight to Australia: “Maoris will accept, as other people in other lands have, that there is only one way by which we can get our land back, and that is by taking it back – if necessary by armed struggle. I would suggest that this is totally inevitable.”
In a February 1990 interview with “Treaty Times”, Jackson said. “Maori people are completely capable of taking this country back. They don’t need Pakeha to tell them how to do it, and it’s not just a dream, it is Maori people’s right… “Many Maori are nationalists at heart, but they may not be conscious of it. We as Maori nationalists have to give them an understanding of what has been, what is now and what can be in the future…
The land remains Maori land. Nationalist movements throughout history have kept those flames burning. Te Kooti, Te Rauparaha, Ratana, Te kotahitanga etc., and more recently, Nga Tamatoa, He Taua, Te Roopu o te Matakite, Waitangi Action Committee have all continued to maintain the principle of ‘Ahi Kaa’. As long as that continues, the land will always be ours.”
In November 1991 (in the only time I ever saw him in in the flesh) Jackson spoke at the Stringleman room Christchurch, with Rob Steven (a probable former Workers Communist League member), David Small and Jane Kelsey on the horrors of GATT and Free Trade
In February 1998, US Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan met several Maori during a brief stopover in Auckland “including veteran activist Syd Jackson“.
In June 2000 Syd Jackson interviewed Fijian coup leader George Speight on his regular program on Radio Waatea. During the interview, Jackson and Speight engaged in a mutually friendly discussion, laughing at the plight of Fijian Indians forced to leave Fiji for New Zealand. Jackson jovially pointed out that this had “happened in 1987 as well”.
Jackson also promised Speight that he would establish a support campaign for him in New Zealand.
This is the individual that various commentators have praised in the days, since his death.
What was Syd jackson, if not a racist, a Marxist-Leninist, a supporter of thugs and tyrants- a disgrace?
13 thoughts on “Syd Jackson-A Misdirected Life”
Interesting take on Syd. Syd fought for his perception of right. By the time the 1975 Land March had started land in Maori ownership was around 3% of New Zealand’s total land mass and decreasing. Syd knew first hand the social corrosion that had being visited upon Maori. That some don’t advocate for and fight for a better social lot for their people is not going to call to the political sensibility of everyone. Some could and probably will term Tame Itis life misdirected, Ti Harawira life misdirected etc. etc. Fact of the matter is that when they pass the Marae they lay in state at will be full of those paying their respect, by their own tribesman they will be held in reverence. My point, it doesn’t really matter what others think, what does matter is what those you are advocating for and care about think.
Middle NZ has never embraced Maori aspiration. That is not the way colonization works if we are to look at the social lot of First Nation Native American, Aboriginal, Maori. In the eyes of Maori Syd is seen and remembered as a fighter for their rights, an outstanding human being.
Weak men write about those with no right of recourse, strong men engage others whose opinion does not agree with theirs. Interesting this article is written post his death.
Excellent work – historically accurate, and in-dept, detailing the reality of one who was involved in promoting racist-Marxist attitudes.
I have never understood the celebrating of evil, save for leaders that use pain, suffering, and oppression to dictate and control.
You don’t need another author leaving a detailed comment, so allow me to praise your writing prowesses at non-fiction. I’m impressed.
I knew Syd on a personal level for a number of years before I hired him to work on an employment contractual issue.
He gave my case a 100% commitment and I was deeply touched by his warmth, compassion and empathy towards my issues.
Although a couple of my late family members and some of their close friends knew him on a more personal level, I was unaware of much of what you wrote.
I am now more impressed of how much of his life he dedicated for myself and other Maori.
I feel privileged to have known Syd Jackson and would love to take this opportunity to thank him and the other Kuia and Kaumatua who are true Rangatiratanga, and who have advanced Maori in our struggle towards self determination and governance.
Thanks for the information Trevor, after you troll through your hatred and racism, it's a wonderful tribute to a great Warrior Chief!
You should be ashamed of yourself, making comments like this,
when in fact you dont know my father at all!!!
If you acctually knew my dad, then you would know that he is not what YOU think he is….
Let a man rest in peace
If you had something to say you should have said it to his face like a man, instead of waitng for dad to pass and shitting all over him.
And You Have you always taken the right Path????- the widest & most travelled path… the path of the mocker, the verbal abuser,where are your morals You flagrantly fly so high above others. You have dobbed yourself in again
“What was Syd jackson, if not a racist, a Marxist-Leninist, a supporter of thugs and tyrants- a disgrace?”
Syd Jackson beleived in justice, in equality. He fought for the human rights of people not only maori. The right to speak your native language is a basic human right? This wasn’t always the case in NZ for maori until Syd, his elder brother Billy and Eva Rickard started the te taumata march across New Zealand in 1983.
Did you know the government only gave them $5000 to set up all the kohanga reo’s around New Zealand to date, the rest of the money came from the elders who spent there savings so us young people could today speak our language.
You know I’v known Syd all my life he’s my uncle and I never knew people didn’t like him, funny ay.
It wasn’t until his tangi that I really started to understand what an amazing man he was, why he was famous and caused all this contraversy. I now know sometimes standing up for peoples writes and voicing injustices steps on peoples toes and others just don’t like hearing the truth. to bad.
uncle syd has only ever been warm loving and gentle in my eyes.
It is so sad that you use Syd’s life and passing to showcase your blatant and pathetic racism and bigotry. The only person who is mis-directed is you and obviously you have done nothing in you life that has amounted to improving anything so you set about destroying others in life and in death. To judge a person you have never met (except in passing) is absolutely disgusting and demostrates you ignorance. In this day and age dumping on people after their passing is the single most gutless and disgusting act one could take.
Sue-Syd Jackson not a racist? Are you kidding me?
Steve-we all have a responsibilty to make judgements in this world and act accordingly.
When comes judgement day, I’d rather be in my shoes than Syd Jackson’s.
I believe Oliver Woods above did ask YOU a direct question Trev. You have chosen to avoid it by resort to speciousness. Which gives him his answer I guess, if not about Z, then certainly about you.
Given the eulogy to your friend in the article above I think I’m prepared to say it’s you who’s the disgrace Trev, not Syd Jackson.
It’s also illustrative that extreme right wingers (and don’t cop out with claims to “libertarianism”) allow all sorts of humanity in them and theirs, but “strangely” in no one else…..Get Real !
“What was Syd jackson, if not a racist, a Marxist-Leninist, a supporter of thugs and tyrants- a disgrace?”
Trevor, Syd Jackson was never a racist, a Marxist-Leninist, a supporter of thugs and tyrants – a disgrace – NEVER… he was the Secretary of the Clerical Workers Union when I was a clerical worker and a member and the only clerical worker on the site many years ago (16 years old) (I am 61 now) (and still am a member of the SFWU)(and yes I still work as a clerical worker and I am an old Pakeha!) So where do you get the racist shit.
Syd was an awesome advocate for clerical workers like me ….one young woman on a site full of ugly men in those days! And I have had all kinds of jobs … clerical …shop assistant, bakery, deckie on a boat and have always belonged to the Clerical Workers Union.(SFWU)
Syd was a gentleman always, never violent or confrontational. And I met him many times over the years (you only met him once!) The Clerical Workers Union was not SUP run …dream on white boy!
So what’s the problem with tangata whenua i.e. Syd Jackson promoting te reo? As he did.
I remember Ross Meurant …I live on the North Shore .. Have done all my life. And no I will not comment on HIM!
E rangatira ma e Hirini, haere atu ra, haere, haere, haere
Oliver-I only speak for myself-direct any questions to me.
Dirk-I never did get that Middlemass stuff.
Syd knew how to stir the pot. That the food that feed his soul was not to the taste of most, made it all the more palitable to him I’m sure.
Is it a Zenith Applied Philosophy tenet, Trevor, to have respect for the dead?