Strikes and Coups in Civil Wars
Why do acts of organized resistance provoke coups? We highlight the importance of context in answering this question. Prior literature suggests that all types of organized resistance facilitate elite coordination in the run-up to a coup. Soldiers are further said to have an incentive to side with peaceful protesters and oust their government. However, in the context of civil war--the historically most coup-prone environment--alliances between soldiers and protesters are not plausible. It is also unclear why elites collude in some situations but not in others. Disentangling different resistance types, this paper analyzes whether and how strikes, demonstrations, riots, and guerrilla attacks affect the military's disposition and ability to stage a coup during civil war. We argue that only strikes trigger coup attempts. Soldiers interpret strikes as manifestations of a strengthening subversive enemy that threatens their victory over the insurgents, while economic elites support a coup in the hope that the military will terminate costly walkouts. This alignment of interests fosters military takeovers. We provide case-study evidence that shows our suggested mechanisms at work, and conduct a quantitative analysis of coup attempts in counterinsurgencies (1950-2005) demonstrating the scope of our argument. Strikes increase wartime coup risk, whereas demonstrations, riots, and rebel attacks do not.