Guerrillas and Social Movements. The Supportive Environment of the Salvadoran Armed Left During the Seventies


This article analyzes the different relationship patterns established by the Salvadoran guerrillas with social movements throughout the 1970s. Using testimonies from ex-guerrilla commanders, social organizers and internal documents of the Farabundo Martí Popular Liberation Forces (FPL) and the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP), this research suggests that the interaction between guerrillas and social movements shaped the organizational structure of both and that the specific patterns of this interaction – secondary milieus or co-constitution – produced specific and differentiated effects. The linkage of guerrillas with pre-existing and initially autonomous social movements resulted in a greater territorial control but also in internal conflicts and less organizational cohesion. Instead, resorting exclusively to the creation of secondary milieus seems to be associated in this case with greater organizational stability and internal cohesion, but with less mobilization capacity. Also, the case of El Salvador shows that the type of relationship established by an armed group with its support environment is conditioned by several key factors, which include the presence, or absence, of a pre-existing social movement infrastructure, or the strategic choices made by the leaders of the armed group itself.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v15i1p175

Keywords: El Salvador; FMLN; guerrillas; insurgency; non-state armed groups; social movements


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