IN the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher referred to striking miners as “the enemy within.”

Seamus Milne, who investigated the government’s internal handling of the strike, sums up the approach embodied by the former prime minister’s characterisation of the miners: “The chilling catchphrase embodied her government’s scorched earth onslaught on Britain’s mining communities – and gave the green light for the entire state to treat the miner’s union as outlaws.”

At her instruction, the whole apparatus of the state moved into gear to disrupt the movement. MI5, special branch, GCHQ and the NSA were all deployed to spy on the National Union of Miners.

When the revelations of the scale of the operation became publicly known, 50 MPs stated that the government was guilty of the “subversion of democratic liberties.”

Powerful challenges to the status-quo have always been cast as pernicious and alien to the society at large. We can see that again today with the mass movement which has emerged around Gaza.  

The political establishment can only ever put up with so much democracy. Indeed, democracy itself is a product of struggles led from below. Whether that be the Chartists or the women’s suffrage campaign, the vote and civil liberties in general were hard fought for.

READ MORE: Truth and unity both remain vital to the independence movement

As such, it is not the demonstrations which have undermined the fabric of these rights, and the values the establishment claim to hold dear, but the response to them. The multi-dimensional campaign for an immediate ceasefire and justice for the Palestinians which has erupted into the centre of politics has exercised the full range of democratic outlets in making its claims and expressing its opposition to government policy.

That includes everything from writing letters to MPs and MSPs; lobbying parliament; popular assembly; public meetings and non-violent forms of direct action. It is, simply, employing the modes of democratic mobilisation available to any citizen or group of citizens, on any issue. But this is a muscle in the body politic that is too rarely exercised.

It is telling, that as soon as it is, large parts of the media and political class are vexed and perplexed about how to deal with such a phenomenon.  

This is especially true in the present circumstances because foreign policy is considered as a strictly reserved matter. Reserved, that is, to the highest offices of state. It is not an issue upon which mass engagement of the large parts of the population can be accepted if it deviates from the official line.

This scandalises press stenographers, many in the political class, and discombobulates a defferential commentariat. In those quarters we have witnessed all kinds of meltdowns, but very little in the way of considered and well-crafted political argument. Instead, there is a form of displacement.

This movement only exists, for example, because of the latest “decolonial” academic trends, or to use the popular parlance, “woke” university lecturers. If not that, it is rationalised as a religious uprising spanning variants of the reductionist “clash of civilisations” thesis. Multiculturalism is to blame, and even Humza Yousaf, according to Douglas Murray, has “infiltrated” the system.

Whatever the case, this is a movement that doesn’t just have a few bad apples, as all demonstrations which involve hundreds of thousands of people do. Rather, at its core, there is something heinous going on, and everyone who marches is either a useful idiot or active participant seeking nefarious ends. 

Suella Braverman (below) never understood the difference between her erstwhile position as Home Secretary and that of a ranting column writer aiming to rack up social media shares. She referred to the demonstrations as “hate marches.”

The National:

More than that, she argued they should be banned. This was no idle threat, and the MET Police asked the organisers to postpone the march. But they refused. In doing so they helped deliver the biggest protest for Palestine in British political history, in defiance of Braverman. Perhaps you disagree with their message.

But the reality is resisting attempts to ban demonstrations are a defence of everyone’s rights. To add to the egregious approach of the former Home Secretary and many others, new symbols had to be found that might pour more fuel onto the fire.

The Cenotaph was thrust to the front, despite demonstration organisers agreeing the march should be held miles away from it and commence well after the two-minute silence. Instead, the far-right led by Tommy Robinson, were the ones who generated appalling scenes on Whitehall, whipped up by the government itself. That is the context for her sacking, just a week ago, and it should send a clear message to her replacement.

The truth is the demonstrations are pluralistic. They are cross-party, though most don’t belong to any formal political organisation. Importantly, they have a distinctly working-class presence. Not only through the involvement of many trade unions, including umbrella bodies like the Scottish Trade Union Congress, but through the attendance of huge numbers of young workers on precarious contracts working low paid jobs.

For a great many, the alienation from political institutions runs not just through the question of Gaza, but on myriad domestic issues too. It is also internationalist, in a genuine and measurable way, from firefighters in Barcelona to Jewish organisations like the inspirational “If Not Now” movement in America and the peoples of the Global South, who one G7 spokesperson admitted will never "listen to us again."

Clearly, this is not a movement motivated by hate. But nor is it, as some have mistakenly concluded, organised around the “Kelvinside Revolutionary Front” of self-styled middle-class activists or the new “elites” as conceived of by the likes of Matt Goodwin.  

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf tables Gaza ceasefire motion in Scottish Parliament

All of this, of course, is underwritten by the fact that the anti-war movement was proven correct on the Iraq war, which no one seriously defends now. The foreign policy establishment has been at sea for decades, and have failed to learn the lessons.

The irony is, that it is not the people marching who are taking a wrecking ball through civic life, but their detractors who have resorted to smears and bans, as opposed to rigorous and informed public debate and a general and principled defence of civil rights.

And it is not the protestors who are undermining the United Nations, global aid agencies and international humanitarian law. But the politicians who pay lip service these institutions and who have given the green light to the crimes unfolding in Gaza and the West Bank.