Monday, November 26, 2012

Unity and Disunity in the FMLN

Alberto Martin and I have a paper on Unity and Disunity in the FMLN in the recent issue of Latin American Politics and Society. Here's the abstract:
Problems of unity can affect an armed opposition group at many stages of its existence—during the war, in peace negotiations, and in its transition to political party. This article assesses how internal divisions affected the performance of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador. It finds that while the FMLN suffered significant internal divisions in the early years of the war, it remained remarkably unified from 1983 on. Significant divisions began to appear during the later war years but were not exacerbated until after the war’s conclusion, when repeated fracturing occurred. The FMLN began to present itself as a programmatically coherent party only in 2005, and this ideological homogeneity allowed it to establish a series of partnerships with moderate, nonrevolutionary sectors of Salvadoran society and to achieve victory in the 2009 presidential elections.
I've mentioned this paper before as it took several years to get published - something not that unusual in academia. The genesis of the paper came from one hypothesis in my dissertation on how unity, or the lack thereof, affects formed armed opposition groups as they make transitions to political parties. I presented a version of the paper that focused on the FMLN and the URNG at LASA in 2007. At some point, I returned to the paper and Alberto joined the project as a co-author. We dropped the URNG from the analyses and focused on the FMLN.

We submitted the paper to LAPS in August 2010. At that point, we had to convince the editor that this paper was substantially different from my papers on the FMLN in 2006 and 2010. That was easy but somewhat worrisome. Was the academic market saturated with papers on the FMLN after two journal articles?

Anyway, we received a revise and resubmit in February 2011. The anonymous reviewers asked us to clarify our research question, cut back on the discussion of unity within the FMLN during the war and extend the analyses through the 2009 election, and add a comparative component to the paper. We weren't keen on including the transitions of other groups as we thought the paper on the FMLN could stand alone and we were already at the 50 page limit. But we did anyway and added five pages on the FSLN, URNG, and the Tupamaros.

We returned the R and R in June. At that point, the managing editor sent the paper back because we had the left and right margins at 1 inch and they needed to be at 1.25. When they converted the paper to 1.25, our paper was nine pages over the limit. We had to cut the nine pages before they would review it again. That wasn't easy as we had had six-plus pages of single-spaced reviewer comments that we had had to incorporate.

We were able to make the edits and get the paper back in a few days. Fortunately, it was summer. We received another R and R at the end of July. Reviewers 1, 2, and 4 said to publish while reviewer 3 had more suggestions to strengthen the comparative and theoretical sections. In October, we received a provisional acceptance of the manuscript. At this point, we were told that our manuscript was too long. While we were under the 50-page limit, we were over their word limit - we were near 14,000 words and had to get under 13,000.

Fortunately, a new reviewer, Reviewer 3, and the editor didn't think that the comparative analysis was strong enough to include in the paper and agreed that we should remove that section. Yes, the first set of reviewers asked us to include it when it wasn't there before. We were then able to reincorporate details on the FMLN which we had had to cut when adding the comparative section. On the positive side, I used this comparative section as the basis for my paper at a Party Building Conference earlier this month. We made the edits and the paper was finally accepted in November 2011. Copyediting took place in August and September of this year and the paper just came out.

On the one hand, the process was frustrating. The reviewers wanted us to turn the paper into a comparative piece when it was really designed as a case study on the FMLN. Alberto and I both carried out fieldwork in El Salvador that addressed unity in the FMLN whereas we had not done so on the other groups. While we agreed that a comparative analysis would be a good idea, that wasn't what we were doing. On the other hand, the theoretical and analytical sections of the final paper are much better than when we first started.

The reviewers and the editor at LAPS were very patient with our stubbornness and for that we are grateful. 

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