Battle-scarred liberals searching for a rebirth of government activism need look no further than the circular capitol here in northern New Mexico.

From his spacious fourth-floor office, Democratic Gov. Toney Anaya has assembled what is perhaps the most liberal cabinet of any state in the country and has made government intervention, affirmative action and high energy the watchwords of his young administration.

"We've been declared the most leftist cabinet in the history of New Mexico," Shirley Hill Witt, New Mexico's secretary of natural resources, said proudly.

It includes a past national president of the Sierra Club as the deputy secretary of natural resources, a former Legal Services Corp. lawyer as secretary of the Energy and Minerals Department, a former consumer lawyer as head of the Department of Finance and Administration and, as secretary of the Department of Human Resources, a lawyer who once specialized in suing the department on behalf of poor people.

The 10 new cabinet members named by Anaya, who is a Mexican-American, include four women, four Hispanics, one person of Akwesasne Mohawk descent (Witt) and a Republican to keep the highways in shape.

"The basic qualifications to be in the governor's cabinet," Republican state Rep. Bob Moran said sarcastically, "are to be a liberal lawyer, to have an environmental background with an orientation to Indians, to be a woman and to be young."

Anaya, a former New Mexico attorney general with an anti-establishment reputation, was elected last fall. He says the cabinet simply reflects his ideals.

"I was selecting people who fit into my mold and my thinking," he said in an interview. "I tried to pick individuals who would help me implement my platform."

Asked about the roots of his commitment to affirmative action, Anaya replied, "Part of it developed spontaneously during the campaign. I was looking for ways to distinguish myself from my opponent. But once I lifted it out of my subsconscious I became even more committed."

Aides say that he is almost ferocious in his determination to ensure that his entire government is well represented with women and minorities.

Some of Anaya's appointees have been criticized for lack of administrative experience. "I've never administered anything more complicated than an unruly classroom," admits Joseph Goldberg, 39, who left a teaching job at the University of New Mexico law school and a lucrative private practice to join Anaya's administration.

Another charge is lack of expertise. For example, Witt, 48, was regional director of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission with a doctorate in anthropology before being named secretary.

But she said that what she lacks in knowledge is more than made up by her deputy, Brant Calkin, 49, who was Sierra Club president in 1976-77. "He is content, and I am form," Witt said of the division of labor in her department.

Anaya also ran into trouble over potential conflicts of interest among his appointees. Alex Mercure, 51, assistant agriculture secretary under President Carter, went through grueling hearings over his outside business activities before being approved as secretary of economic development.

The cabinet reflects Anaya's commitment to the environment and to proving that government can deliver services to poor people and minorities.

"I am interested in making sure we deliver as much service and as much money as we possibly can," Goldberg said. "My predecessor built up budget surpluses. It is not my intention to build up surpluses."

With Witt and Calkin running the Department of Natural Resources, Anaya has formed an outpost of opposition to Interior Secretary James G. Watt. Asked if Watt would consider her an "environmental extremist," Witt replied, "Yes, isn't that wonderful?"

The state already has filed one suit against Watt over a fish hatchery in Utah. Anaya says of Watt: "I would not hesitate at all to work through his people to protect our interests, while at the same time openly challenging Watt and trying to get rid of him. I don't subscribe to the view you've got to support a national cabinet officer to get things done in your state."

Anaya has proven to be a strong leader. He broke the coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans who controlled the state House by persuading one Republican to become a Democrat, and when some conservatives opposed his budget program, he flew into their stronghold in southern New Mexico to attack them.

In the final days of the legislature he brought together opposing sides to hammer out details of a $97 million tax increase needed to balance the budget.

Critics wonder whether Anaya will continue to get his way, and they are doubtful that he can make good on his pledge to bring new industry to the state with a cabinet that is pro-enviromental and, they say, anti-business.

"I think a more balanced approach would be helpful," says Democratic state Rep. Gene Samberson, who lost the speakership when "loyalist Democrats" regained control this year.

But, because by law he cannot succeed himself, Anaya appears not to be listening to such warnings. "I've always been viewed as being anti-establishment," he said. "I see myself now as being in the unique position of trying to put into practice all the criticisms that have been leveled at government."