Independent Working Class Association
|Independent Working Class Association|
|Slogan||Working-class rule for working-class areas|
|European Parliament group||None|
|Politics of the United Kingdom
The Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) is a minor working-class political party in the United Kingdom that aims to promote the political and economic interests of the working class, regardless of the consequences to existing political and economic structures. It has been most successful in the Blackbird Leys and Wood Farm estates of East Oxford and had a councillor on Oxford City Council until 2012.
The IWCA was formed in 1995 by several organisations. Initial sponsors included Anti-Fascist Action, Communist Action Group, Colin Roach Centre, Open Polemic, Partisan, Red Action, the Revolutionary Communist Group and Socialist Parent The founding groups argued that the likely election of a New Labour government would entrench the legacy of Thatcherism and further diminish the political influence of the working class. The IWCA describes its ideology as stemming from the trade union collectivism of the 1970s. It has received support from some anarchists, but it criticises socialism, describing it as "hopelessly middle class - and obsessed with Identity Politics".
From 1998, the Independent Working Class Association formed groups in Birmingham, Oxford, Glasgow, the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney, and a few other areas. In 2003, the IWCA was launched as a national organisation.
Critics of the IWCA[who?] say it has abandoned socialist politics but only replaced it with a confused "localist working class self-help electoral politics, exemplified by the IWCA slogan "working class power in working class areas". Critics from the left[who?] say this is an unachievable illusion in a capitalist society and an opportunist political approach which tacks to the wind of reactionary white working class attitudes to ethnic minorities, crime, and tolerant multiculturalism for local electoral advantage.
In the 2002 Oxford City Council elections the IWCA achieved the election of a local councillor, Stuart Craft, with more than 40% of the vote in Northfield Brook ward. Three more candidates received over 20% of the vote in the local elections in London, in Heaton and Gooshays wards in Havering, Clerkenwell ward in Islington and Haggerston ward in Hackney. They won 22% in Bunhill ward in London in a by-election in 2003.
The IWCA was able to raise the £20,000 required for participation in the 2004 London mayoral election and nominated Lorna Reid, a resident and advice worker on the Highbury council estate. Her campaign focused on opposing anti-social behaviour by funding youth facilities and cleaning up estates, establish community restorative justice schemes, local drugs detox centres and progressive local taxation. Reid came ninth with 9,542 (0.5%) of the first preference votes and 39,678 (2.1%) of the second preferences.
In the local elections that took place on the same day, the IWCA picked up two more seats on Oxford city council. At the 2006 local elections, they stood six candidates and gained a further seat from Labour, taking their total to four. However, they lost two of their Oxford council seats to Labour in May 2008. One of their councillors, Jane Lacey, stood down in 2010 to continue as a community campaigner, saying that she was disillusioned by the politics of the council.
In summer 2004, the Hackney branch of the IWCA split away to form Hackney Independent.  In 2006, the Oxford branch of the party won a libel action against Bill Baker, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council, who had posted defamatory material alleging the IWCA had links to violent extremists and Irish Republican groups to homes in Donnington Brook in the run-up to the 2005 local elections. The IWCA, represented in their suit by Carter-Ruck, said it would use the £15,000 it collected in damages to fund their 2006 campaign.
In 2009 the two IWCA councillors missed a meeting at which an above-inflation rise in council tax of 4.5% was decided, due to work and family commitments. A tied vote was decided by the casting vote of the Labour Lord Mayor.
In March 2012 Stuart Craft, the last remaining IWCA local councillor in Oxford, announced to the Oxford Mail that he would not stand again in the May elections, after ten years as an IWCA councillor. He said, “I couldn’t stand on people’s doorsteps any more, telling them we were going to change things when that wasn’t going to happen.”
According to its statement of accounts to the Electoral Commission on 31 December 2006 it had 312 members, down by 7 on the previous year. It had a total income of £17,710 and an expenditure of £9,892.
The IWCA has adopted tactics of community action to tackle anti-social behaviour, which has led to it being accused of vigilantism. In contrast to many other left-wing groups, the IWCA actively campaigns on crime affecting working-class people and a lack of services. It campaigns on issues of local concern such as council housing stock transfers, muggings and inner-city regeneration, and against social harm due to drug abuse. The group has also argued that many racial issues are symptoms of the wider issue of social deprivation, and for taking a stance against what it describes as multiculturalism in the belief that it encourages segregation. Left critics of the IWCA stance on "multiculturalism" see the IWCA's opposition to local council funding for ethnic minority community projects as a concession to the racism of sections of the White working class, under the guise of opposing "identity politics ."
- Independent Working Class Association - national website
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- IWCA leaflet, 1995
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- "Our park a no-go area after muggings". Oxford Mail. 19 August 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
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- What should the Socialist Alliance say about crime?, Workers Liberty
- "Cannabis plants no more offensive than tomato plants, says judge". Oxford Times. 4 August 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
- Craft, Stuart (7 February 2005). "Labour accusations shameful and untrue (letter)". Oxford Times. Retrieved 28 April 2010.