Conflict in social movements is too often misunderstood as being an indication of a movement’s impending demise rather than as important, reflexive work that allows movements to renew themselves. This paper argues that conflicts in social movements may be more usefully understood as “creative tensions”. These tensions are presented as intrinsic to the work that social movements do, as productive rather than simply negative, and as capable of management rather than transcendence. Seven specific tensions are outlined, namely those between organisation and democracy; expressive and instrumental goals; revolution and reform; counter-publics and the wider public sphere; the local context and the general; unity and difference; and redistribution and recognition. The paper draws from interviews with social-movement activists and from historical research in order to illustrate the form and scope of each tension. It is argued that the management of movement tensions involves a labour of constant negotiation and conflict. It stimulates the assembly of different kinds of collective acts and projects, and thereby shapes the process through which the identity of a social movement is made, remade, and reviewed over time.