Simon Pierre Boulanger Martel

University of Montreal (Université de Montréal) Department of Political Science/ Centre for International Peace and Security Studies

Simon Pierre Boulanger Martel

Youth Wings and Post-war Political Strategies: Understanding how and why youth wings use political violence

Generally, political party youth wings in most countries may seem more radical than senior politicians, but their activities in conflict-prone societies can be more extreme and involve organised political violence. In Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nepal and Ukraine, youth wings of different political parties were central in violent political acts. Despite mentions of youth wings violence in the literature, it is not well known why such actors use violence specifically. Given the apparent centrality of youth wings in cases of political violence it seems important to investigate such actors in order to better understand the dynamics enabling such phenomenon and therefore possibly help to mitigate its propagation. Against this backdrop, the project asks the following questions: How and why do youth wings use violent political strategies? What are the conditions that might enable peaceful strategies by youth wings? The project aims to enhance understanding of certain mechanisms by which violence develops as a legitimate political strategy. The research concentrates on youth wings from armed groups turned political parties since those cases represent extreme cases where the organisational structures evolve from waging war to electoral politics. Although armed groups make “successful” transitions towards political party structures in the wake of war, some youth wings retain violent political strategies while others do not.

Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of practice and Gurr’s relative deprivation theory, the project argues that, by occupying different positions of power, political parties and their youth wings socialise differently into the post-war context providing them different ranges of possible strategies. Socialisation and relative deprivation are the two mechanisms investigated in the research. Using discourse analysis and process tracing, the project will undertake two in-depth case studies on youth wings that diverge on the degree of violence displayed over time. A preliminary assessment shows that the CPN (Maoist) in Nepal and the Sandinista National Liberation Front (SNLF) in Nicaragua are both illustrative cases of violent (CPN) and non-violent (SNLF) youth wings transitions. The project would make a significant contribution to existing research by focussing explicitly on youth wings in armed groups transformation and on mechanisms driving youth wings violence.