Recent social-scientific and historical approaches to revolution provide useful insights into the conditions that are most likely to give rise to revolutionary crises and outcomes in predominantly agrarian societies. Socioeconomic analyses have pointed to the importance of the relationship between landowning classes and the peasantry, the impact of capitalist market relations on peasant society, and the role of outside forces and events in contributing to peasant mobilization and revolution. Other more politically focused approaches stress the role of political crises, often brought on by international events, or the isolation of the incumbent regime from key sectors of society in explaining social revolutions. However, these approaches provide only part of the explanation for revolutionary upheavals and outcomes. What is missing is the role of people in these processes—particularly the part that the strategies of revolutionaries and incumbent regimes play in helping generate revolutionary crises. When structural economic and political factors are overemphasized, the role of human agency and the responsibility of individuals in these large historical processes is diminished.
An examination of major twentieth-century social revolutions demonstrates the importance of socioeconomic and political factors in generating revolutionary outcomes in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Nicaragua, while at the same time illustrating the essential role that strategic choices of revolutionaries and regimes played within these processes. A more complete understanding of twentieth-century revolution requires a deeper analysis of the role of strategy and the way it relates to the underlying socioeconomic and political realities of a given society.
El Salvador's Crisis of 1979-1980
A study of the origins of a profound revolutionary crisis in El Salvador in the late 1970s highlights the essential role played by the strategies