Around the web: Promising start

Phil Hamilton looks at the Independent Working Class Association website - http://www.iwca.info

Owing to the SWP’s on-off electoral approach in the Socialist Alliance, it is hardly surprising that the SA has a very low profile, resulting in disappointing election returns. In view of this, some comrades in and around the alliance have been looking to the Scottish Socialist Party for inspiration and answers. Others have been attracted by the comparative successes of the Independent Working Class Association.

Having been launched as an all-Britain organisation at the end of July, its web presence up until then was via the local IWCA sites for Hackney and Oxford, and to some extent the home page of Red Action, one of the main forces behind it. Although new, the national website does not come over as a rushed, half-finished effort. The format is pretty much no-frills, without being ugly or looking too basic. Furthermore virtually everything the site has to offer is in plain view, meaning that you do not have to click your way around a cyberspace labyrinth to get what you are after.

Moving from left to right, the page is divided into three columns. The first is the standard issue navigation bar, the second a list of news items, and the third ‘communities of resistance’ (a selection of thematically arranged pieces).

The side bar begins with ‘About the IWCA’, leading to a short and fairly neutral statement on its origins and electoral successes. A founding statement follows, preceding ‘A declaration of independence’. This provides the rationale for the community-orientated politics of the organisation. It notes how the decline of unions has been engendered by structural shifts in British capitalism, leading to the conclusion that “trade unionism, as a political strategy for the working class, is as dead as a dodo”. The frequently asked questions are pretty exhaustive too and the option is there to email any queries to the IWCA.

 ‘Media’ features email and phone contacts. ‘Elections’ carries three items, all of which are local council results from the last year or so. Post-poll press releases provide some commentary for the Islington and Blackbird Leys contests. ‘Manifesto’ details IWCA thinking on a number of issues, such as housing, local democracy and asylum-seekers. Given the localist thrust of its politics, subjects that are the staple of other online left programmes are missing. So do not expect much about the war, or the character of the UK state. And some points sound worryingly reformist, particularly the section that calls for the police to be “representative of the communities they serve” and to “return to being a civic service”.

‘Councillor’s diary’ is a regularly updated journal kept by Blackbird Ley’s elected representative, Stuart Craft. Perhaps the SA’s own Michael Lavalette could take a leaf out of the IWCA book. ‘Structure’ explains the group’s organisational workings, and is assisted by a structural diagram. ‘Membership’ allows one to either download a form or join online, while ‘Donations’ is self-explanatory. Unfortunately money can only be sent by post, though a secure channel for credit/debit donations is promised. There is also a short statement on legislation covering donations to registered political parties.

Returning to the home page, the main news column carries six items. The most recent is the IWCA’s appeal for the 2004 London mayoral campaign; with a graph to show how far along they are to reaching the extortionate £20,000 deposit. Other items discuss the state of housing in Britain, how the education system fails white working class boys, etc. Particularly interesting is the piece on the IWCA’s national launch, if not just for the location. In 1997, Blair chose the same estate in south London to promise, “There will be no forgotten people in the Britain I want to build”. Nonetheless, a fat chequebook remains the best way to jog New Labour’s memory.

The final column, ‘Communities of resistance’, collects together articles from third-party sources, such as The Guardian and Red Pepper. The unsurprising theme is community resistance to ongoing attacks on working class neighbourhoods in Britain and elsewhere. At present only four stories can be accessed, but submissions to the webmaster are invited for consideration.

Overall for a website that is only a couple of months old it is not bad, although a good deal of work needs to be done. For example, a page of clippings from the bourgeois press and the mainstream parties may be useful to highlight the opposition the IWCA faces. A links page should also be included, perhaps featuring other community-oriented campaigns, research units, and left organisations. Nevertheless a promising start.