Does Violent Secessionism Work?
Recent research suggests that nonviolent resistance is generally a more effective means of achieving political goals than violent mobilization, especially where antiregime and antioccupation campaigns are concerned. However, that finding does not extend to secession campaigns, where the strategic use of violence may increase a group´s chance of gaining independence. That violent secessionism may work is an unsettling proposition, one that suggests a dangerous incentive structure where the pursuit of independence is concerned. We critique and extend these claims by arguing that there are strong selection effects in regard to the strategies adopted by secessionists. Not all secessionist movements are the same, and many have legal and/or institutional routes to independence that raise the relative cost of using violence. It is only among groups that lack access to these routes that violence becomes an increasingly attractive strategy. Using original data we define these different categories of secessionist movements and examine their success rates for using nonviolence and violence. We then use information drawn from fieldwork and personal interviews to study the microdynamics of choosing violence in a set of cases where the legal and institutional paths to independence are absent.