Micro-Foundations of the Vanguard: The Origins of Revolutionary Leftist Rebel Groups

89 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2020

See all articles by Megan Stewart

Megan Stewart

American University - School of International Service

Date Written: March 16, 2020


What explains the emergence of leftist revolutionary rebel groups? In this paper, I argue that one pathway through which leftist revolutionary rebel groups formed involved a multi-step process. Certain members of social out-groups completed assimilatory educational programs that terminated at universities in major urban centers, leading out-group members to travel to large cities and to believe they were part of the dominant social in-group. Once there, however, out-group members faced individual and collective exclusion. These exclusionary experiences primed out-group members to accept radical ideas and in major urban centers, they easily found revolutionary leftism, became involved in underground leftist political agitation, made global connections to radical leftists worldwide and formed strong bonds with similarly excluded out-group members. What resulted was a cohesive and organized vanguard who could, in the lead up to rebellion, draw upon their experience in underground political mobilization to recruit people into their revolutionary leftist rebel group and then equip these recruits with resources secured from pre-existing connections to leftist activists and states. To assess causal mechanisms, I develop an original dataset containing biographical data of all rebel leaders during the Eritrean Independence Struggle, and pair this with archival data from the United States and United Kingdom. Results are robust to multiple quantitative specifications and a qualitative robustness check that includes archival data from Portugal, Sweden and the United States. These results have important implications for understanding the legacies of transformative political and social projects, and shed light on the contemporary formation of jihadist revolutionary rebel groups.

Keywords: revolution, civil war, communism, jihadism, ideology

Suggested Citation

Stewart, Megan, Micro-Foundations of the Vanguard: The Origins of Revolutionary Leftist Rebel Groups (March 16, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3555174 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3555174

Megan Stewart (Contact Author)

American University - School of International Service ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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