Independent Working Class Association

Independent Working Class Association
SloganWorking-class rule for working-class areas

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.[1] It has been most successful in the Blackbird Leys and Wood Farm estates of Oxford East and had a councillor on Oxford City Council until 2012.


The IWCA was formed in 1995 by several organisations but primarily Red Action and Anti-Fascist Action.[2] Initial sponsors included Communist Action Group, Colin Roach Centre, Open Polemic, Partisan, Red Action, the Revolutionary Communist Group and Socialist Parent[3][4] 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.[5] The IWCA describes its ideology as stemming from the trade union collectivism of the 1970s.[6] It has received support from some anarchists,[7][8] but it criticises the contemporary socialist movement,[9] describing it as "hopelessly middle class – and obsessed with Identity Politics".[10]

"We don't really recognise the term left anymore, because looking around I don't see any of the people that profess to be left or socialist as actually pro-working class."

Stuart Craft[9]

From 1998, the IWCA formed groups in Birmingham, Oxford, Glasgow, the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney, and a few other areas. In 2003, it launched as a national organisation.[11]

The IWCA slogan is "working class rule in working class areas",[12] and its policies are based on door to door surveying of people and asking them what are the problems where they live, then trying to work out ways of resolving them. In Birmingham and Oxford this meant working with local people on issues of anti-social behaviour, and in Hackney around, for example, school closures.

Electoral performance

IWCA got some of the best results ever in UK politics of independent radical candidates,[citation needed] and several elected in Oxford. 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.[13][14] 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.[13][15] They won 22% in Bunhill ward in London in a by-election in 2003.[9][16]

The IWCA was able to raise the £20,000 required for participation in the 2004 London mayoral election and nominated Lorna Reid,[17] 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.[18] Reid came ninth with 9,542 (0.5%) of the first preference votes and 39,678 (2.1%) of the second preferences.[19]

In the local elections that took place on the same day, the IWCA picked up two more seats on Oxford city council.[20] Maurice Leen contested the seat of Oxford East for the IWCA in the 2005 UK general election,[21] receiving 892 votes (2.1%).[22]

At the 2006 local elections, they stood six candidates[23] and gained a further seat from Labour, taking their total to four.[24] However, they lost two of their Oxford council seats to Labour in May 2008.[25][26] 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.[27]

In 2008, the Thurrock branch of the IWCA contested the working class Stanford East and Corringham Town ward and won 98 votes, down from 144 votes in 2007 and behind the BNP's 344 votes.[28]

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."[29]

The party remains registered with the Electoral Commission[30] and maintains an intermittently-updated website.[31]


In summer 2004, the Hackney branch of the IWCA split away to form Hackney Independent.[32] [33] 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.[14]

In 2009 the two IWCA Oxford 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.[34]


The IWCA has adopted tactics of community action to tackle anti-social behaviour, which has led to it being accused of vigilantism.[9] In contrast to many other left-wing groups, the IWCA actively campaigns on crime affecting working-class people and a lack of services.[6] It campaigns on issues of local concern such as council housing stock transfers, muggings[35][36] and inner-city regeneration,[37] and against social harm due to drug abuse.[38] 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.[9][39]


  1. ^ Independent Working Class Association – national website
  3. ^ IWCA leaflet, 1995
  4. ^ Barberis, Peter; John McHugh; Mike Tyldesley (2005). Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-5814-9.
  5. ^ 1985–2001: Anti-Fascist Action (AFA),
  6. ^ a b Watt, Bob (2006). UK election law: a critical examination. Contemporary issues in public policy. Routledge Cavendish. ISBN 1-85941-916-X.
  7. ^ Franks, Benjamin (2006). Rebel alliances: the means and ends of contemporary British anarchisms. AK. ISBN 1-904859-40-2.
  8. ^ "Organising for change within the Community". Organise!. Anarchist Federation. 47. Winter 1997–1998. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  9. ^ a b c d e A class act in Oxford", Red Pepper
  10. ^ Introduction to Beating the Fascists 2010, by Sean Birchall. Freedom Publishers
  11. ^ IWCA National Launch Archived 29 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ O'Shea, Gary (28 October 2014). "The working class as the ruling class". Independent Working Class Association. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  13. ^ a b IWCA election results, May 2002
  14. ^ a b "Leaflet slur costs £15,000 Archived 10 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine", thisisoxfordshire, 5 January 2006
  15. ^ "Chasing votes: two wrong approaches". Weekly Worker. CPGB. 30 January 2003. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  16. ^ "BNP victory overshadows council polls". London: 24 January 2003. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  17. ^ In The Footsteps of Heroes Archived 18 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ London mayoral candidates 2004, Guardian Unlimited
  19. ^ GLA Mayoral Results Archived 1 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine, Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames
  20. ^ Labour loses Oxford City Council, BBC News, 11 June 2004
  21. ^ "We live here too!". Oxford Independent Working Class Association. 20 January 2005. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  22. ^ "Constituency profile: Oxford East". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  23. ^ "Oxford City Council candidates". Oxford Times. 26 April 2006. Archived from the original on 12 June 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  24. ^ Labour suffers Oxfordshire losses, BBC News, 5 May 2006
  25. ^ "The threat of a good example « IWCA national website".
  26. ^ Horne, David (2 May 2008). "Election: Full picture in Oxford". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  27. ^ "LOCAL ELECTIONS: Parties battle to take control of city council". Oxford Mail. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  28. ^ Thurrock council election results Archived 20 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Pope, Rhianne (10 February 2012). "'Class hero' councillor to quit". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  30. ^ "Search - the Electoral Commission".
  31. ^ "Who will fill the vacuum? « IWCA national website".
  32. ^ 'Hackney Independent' in Hoxton by-election, Workers Liberty
  33. ^ "Hackney Independent". Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  34. ^ Walker, Chris (20 February 2009). "We put family and work ahead of city budget meeting". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  35. ^ "Our park a no-go area after muggings". Oxford Mail. 19 August 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2010.[permanent dead link]
  36. ^ "Yobsmacked". SchNEWS. 24 October 2003. Archived from the original on 16 November 2003. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  37. ^ What should the Socialist Alliance say about crime?, Workers Liberty
  38. ^ "Cannabis plants no more offensive than tomato plants, says judge". Oxford Times. 4 August 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2010.[permanent dead link]
  39. ^ Craft, Stuart (7 February 2005). "Labour accusations shameful and untrue (letter)". Oxford Times. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2010.

External links

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