Peoples' movements and protests




Gandhian conflict level control





After Arne Næss



For a people's movement, it is good in principle to keep the conflict at such a level that you have control over it. It should not be so high that people do not dare to participate or that the other party is enticed to use more violence against you than you can handle. And of course it shouldn’t be so low that people don’t care.

M. K. Gandhi applied a method to keep the conflict at a moderate level. It can be described as follows:
- to rather be for something than against,
- to concentrate on the core of the conflict,
- to stick to it throughout the campaign and not gradually increase the requirements,
- to be prepared to compromise on non-essentials,
- to find goals that are common to oneself and the other party on which one can propose cooperation,
- to always act openly,
- to be prepared to sacrifice something to reach the goal,
- to always protect the victims of what you want to change,
- to never be afraid of the other party,
- to never see the other party as a personal enemy,
- to never exploit the counterparty’s weaknesses that are irrelevant to the issue.

It can be added that the level of conflict that could be borne by the participants varies, sometimes wildly, and that Gandhi was well aware of that. When the Quit India revolt broke out in 1942 he had nothing against a high level because he knew that the Indians would tolerate it, even welcome it.

But he declared that in this case time had come for other people to lead the campaign, it was out of his waters.


Litt: Arne Næss: Gandhi and group conflict, University Press 1974, Francis Hutchins: India's revolution – Gandhi and the Quit India Movement, Harvard University Press 1973.



Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: