Socialist Action National Committee Statement, August 12, 2023
At least a half dozen petitions plus a myriad of articles have appeared on the July 25, 2023 Russian Federal Security Services (FSB) arrest and imprisonment of Boris Kagarlitsky, 64, a longtime Russian intellectual, scholar, author and editor of the YouTube channel Rabkor. Kagarlitsky, facing seven years in prison, was charged under a new repressive Russian statute with “justification of terrorism.” Representatives of Vladimir Putin’s capitalist-imperialist government cited Kagarlitsky’s recent political stance supporting “from a military perspective,” the Ukrainian government’s bombing of the Kerch Bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland. [Following a 2014 referendum of the Crimean population, with 86 percent voting, 97 percent of the population, the large majority Russian-speaking and ethnically Russian population, voted to affiliate with Russia.] Kagarlitsky was taken 800 miles from his Moscow residence and put on trial in a small regional town, via a closed session proceeding without media or legal representation. The Syktyvkar City Court ordered his incarceration at the Verkhniy Chov detention center until September 24. Meanwhile his residence and those of his associates are being searched. The multiple petitions and statements addressed to the Russian government in circulation today are unanimous in their call for Kagarlitsky’s freedom, but diverge widely regarding assessments of his politics and political history.
Kagarlitsky’s early political history
Kagarlitsky’s 1988 book, The Thinking Reed: Intellectuals and the Soviet State From 1917 to the Present, won the Trotskyist-oriented Deutscher Memorial Prize. In 1989, while organizing the pre-founding conference of the People’s Front, he collaborated with Socialist Action to organize the technical arrangements and translations during our Socialist Action delegation visit to Moscow that delivered to a representative of the Russian Communist Party Central Committee a letter from Leon Trotsky’s family asking that his name be cleared of Stalinist slander and lies and that his writings be published. In 1990, during the Mikhail Gorbachev perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) period, he was elected to the Moscow City Soviet and to the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party (USSR). He co-founded the Russian Party of Labor in October 1992 and was briefly arrested in 1993 for opposing Russian President Yeltsin’s dissolution of Moscow City Soviet.
Kagarlitsky’s changed view on Ukraine War
In 2014, Kagarlitsky condemned the US-backed fascist-led Ukraine coup that removed the elected pro-Russian Ukrainian government. But more recently he appeared to justify the US-backed, if not orchestrated bombing of the Kerch Bridge. He opposed Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. No doubt there are a wide range of views around the world on the present Ukraine War, including support or rejection of one or another of Kagarlitsky’s views, past and present. [See Socialist Action’s view at socialistaction.org, “Ukraine: US Out Now! Our Antiwar Credo.”]
We are reminded of a similar divergence in views in years past with regard to the arrest and threatened extradition from the UK to the US of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose politics were similarly in dispute in the US left. While whistleblower Assange’s Iraq war logs and his similar revelations of US war crimes in Afghanistan were widely accepted as yet another example of the US war machine’s systematic use of torture, terror and mass murder, his revelations, with the assistance of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, of 2020 US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s corrupt abuse of national Democratic Party funds, including her preferencing her own campaign against her rival Bernie Sanders, was widely seem as a major factor leading to Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump. Indeed, for years, and to this day, the Biden-led Democratic Party refuses to support Assange’s freedom and basic free speech rights, with many holding Assange responsible for Trump’s 2020 election victory. These so-called liberals and their associates think nothing of subordinating basic democratic rights to the exigencies of the maneuvers and base corruption conducted by their “lesser evil” candidate of the moment.
“An injury to one is an injury to all,”
No doubt, there are important differences between the politics and history of Assange and Kagarlitsky, as there always are among the myriad of political dissidents persecuted for their ideas by reactionary governments around the world. These differences, in our view, are subordinate to the necessity of organizing efforts to broadly defend everyone’s basic civil liberties and democratic rights. Indeed, when our own fundamental rights are jeopardized, as they are increasing under attack in the US today, we should expect that our spotless record in defending all others similarly situated will stand us in good stead. The historic maximum pioneered by the ILWU [Longshore] union in its historic 1934 strike, “An injury to one is an injury to all,” applies with full force today.
Free Kagarlitsky! Free Assange!
Intellectual-journalist-author, political activist and often political dissident, Boris Kagarlitsky faces years in Russian prisons for exercising his free speech rights. Julian Assange faces 175 years in US prisons on spurious charges under the reactionary WWI-era 1917 Espionage Act. We demand the immediate release of Assange and Kagarlitsky. Free speech is no crime! Journalism is no crime! Free all political prisoners!
To sign for Julian Assange contact Assangedefense.org.
To sign for Boris Kagarlitsky contact: firstname.lastname@example.org to sign the statement below. [Editor: We suggest signing this simple statement although there are several others demanding Kagarlitsky’s freedom.]
FREE BORIS KAGARLITSKY!
We are writing in protest at the detention of the distinguished Russian anti-capitalist intellectual and anti-war activist Boris Kagarlitsky on charges of ‘justifying terrorism’. His trial will be held in the remote northern town of Syktyvkar in order to prevent effective political protest. Dr. Kagarlitsky was a left-wing dissident during the late Soviet era and was arrested for ‘anti-Soviet activities’ in 1982. After the fall of the Soviet Union his prolific writings established him as Russia’s best known critical Marxist. He has taught at numerous Russian academic institutions, directed the Institute of Globalization Studies and Social Movements, and is an associate of the Transnational Institute. Dr. Kagarlitsky’s arrest is no doubt a response to his opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as part of a more general move against the anti-war left. In June the Russian government declared him a ‘foreign agent.’ This is absurd. Dr. Kagarlitsky has been a forthright critic of the West’s imperialist adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq and a prominent figure in the movement against neoliberal globalization. We call on the authorities of the Russian Federation to respect their citizens’ freedom of speech and right to protest and to release Boris Kagarlitsky and all other anti-war prisoners immediately and unconditionally.