Gandhian strategy to build parallel institutions

Sharon Erickson Nepstad, Nonviolent Struggle: Theories, Strategies, and Dynamics, 2015, 51-2

The key idea behind Gandhi’s strategy was to demonstrate to political elites that they have no intrinsic power and cannot govern a people who choose not to cooperate.  The strategy is also designed to withhold any incentives for retaining political power…The final steps, of building a parallel government, facilitate the transition to a new state by creating foundational institutions before the old regime has been overthrown.  It also shows political elites that they are not needed; indeed, their positions have become unnecessary.  Each step, therefore, works to incrementally undermine the incumbent political system and build a new one.

Gandhi’s strategy gained credibility and visibility when it was used to win Indian independence from Great Britain.  Enthusiastic observers emulated it in various contexts around the world.  Yet Gandhi argued that these steps should not be used as a purely pragmatic way to win one’s goals.  He emphasized that this strategy must be carried out in a nonviolent spirit–that is, in the spirit of satyagraha or the pursuit of truth.  If nonviolent campaigns are implemented with a coercive or hate-driven spirit, they would not be successful, he posited, even if the opponents were forced to capitulate.

 

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