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Guerrillas Today, What Tomorrow: Transformation of Guerrilla Movements


In recent years, there has become a greater need to understand how rebellious organizations (particularly, guerrilla movements) may transform into new organizations during conflict and following the end of major hostilities. During conflict and following conflict, either rebellious organizations become the new state, cease to exist or they transform into something completely different. In looking specifically at guerrilla movements, one can see many have transformed into other types of organizations including political parties, terrorist organizations, and criminal organizations. This phenomenon leads to the following questions: how do guerrilla movements transform in conflict and post-conflict environments?

This study contends this transformation occurs because of the interaction between four independent variables - resources (both physical and human resources), beliefs and associated frames and political accessibility. The manners in which these variables interact are influenced by `who' has the advantage during the conflict - the state or the guerrilla movement and what kind of advantage they have - social, political or resource power advantages.

Through the study of two paired comparisons (four individual case studies - the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Sinn Féin [PIRA/SF] in Northern Ireland, and the Spear of the Nation [Umkhonto We Sizwe] and the African National Congress [MK/ANC] in South Africa, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC] in Colombia and the Abu Sayyaf Group [ASG] in the Philippines), this work traces the mechanisms and processes that have lead these organizations to transform into political parties and criminal organizations. Using qualitative comparative methodology (i.e., field interviews, archival research and historical analysis of each former guerrilla movement), this study finds that each transformation is a result of the interaction of the four independent variables in a particular way. These interactions influence the relationship between the various subgroups in the guerrilla movements and therefore, these interactions influence changes in the overall structure of the guerrilla movement. Likewise, these new structures take on different means and ends than when compared to their previous guerrilla movement form.

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