Did Marxism Make a Difference? Marxist Rebellions and National Liberation Movements

16 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 8 Mar 2023

Date Written: 2010


Were rebel movements that adopted a Marxist ideological agenda different from those that did not? We find that a Marxist profile made a difference, both in civil wars featuring Marxist rebels (compared to those with non-Marxist ones), but also (and maybe more surprisingly) for nationalist or ethnic insurgents that adopted a Marxist political agenda, often known as national liberation movements. More specifically, we find that civil wars where insurgents sported a Marxist outlook were longer, more lethal, and more likely to end in a negotiated compromise, compared to non-Marxist ones. We also find that, for the most, civil wars featuring Marxist National Liberation movements resemble civil wars with Marxist non-ethnic rebels much closer compared to wars with non-Marxist ethnic rebels, i.e. ethnic civil wars. Theoretically, our findings call for both a rethinking of the role of Marxism in civil wars and of the category of “ethnic war.” From a policy perspective, our findings provide a measure of optimism, insofar as the disappearance of Marxist ideology is associated with shorter and less severe conflicts, but also of pessimism given the demise of highly disciplined Marxist insurgents who were more likely to compromise (or perhaps stick by it) appears to lower the likelihood of negotiated agreements. More generally, our paper contributes to the historicization of the study of civil wars.

Suggested Citation

Kalyvas, Stathis N. and Balcells, Laia, Did Marxism Make a Difference? Marxist Rebellions and National Liberation Movements (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1642509

Stathis N. Kalyvas (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT CT 06520
United States

Laia Balcells

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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