Russia: Boris Kagarlitsky in Custody, While Yevgeny Prigozhin Still at Large!

Russian socialist dissident Boris Kagarlitsky. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

By Michelle Verdier, posted on July 31, 2023 on the website of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France; translated from French.

“Let’s rally in support of Boris Kagarlitsky!”

On July 25, various Russian leftist and far-leftist voices, including the Telegram channel of the Russian Socialist Movement (RSD, a group linked to the Fourth International), warned of criminal proceedings launched by Putin’s judiciary and Federal Security Service (FSB—counterpart to the FBI in the U.S.) against Boris Kagarlitsky, now 64, a political scientist and sociologist known for his activism and his works critical of the policies of the leaders of the USSR and then the Russian Federation. A few days later, Kagarlitsky was remanded in custody for two months, after a summary trial without a lawyer in Syktyvkar, in the Komi republic (in the north of the country, 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) from Moscow). For “apology for terrorism” or acting as a “foreign agent,” this opponent of Putin, and in particular of the war in Ukraine launched eighteen months ago, is threatened with seven years’ imprisonment.

Boris Kagarlitsky is a figure of the Russian left-wing opposition. A socialist dissident, he was imprisoned in 1982 under Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov, and again in 1993 under Boris Yeltsin. In the 1990s, he was an advisor to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), and spoke out against the two successive wars in Chechnya, including the one in early 2000 that marked the start of Putin’s reign. A first book analyzing post-Soviet Russia, Russia Today: Neoliberalism, Autocracy, and Restoration, made him known in France in 2004. In 2018, the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements (IGSM), which he headed, was declared a “foreign agent.” The online magazine Rabkor, run by Kagarlitsky and others, was also under threat, facing ten days’ administrative arrest in 2021 for calling for demonstrations after the State Duma elections. In May 2022, in the wake of Russia’s warlike aggression in Ukraine, Boris Kagarlitsky was declared a “foreign agent.” Today, he’s in pre-trial detention. Kagarlitsky’s colleagues, including broadcaster Alexander Archagov (released as a witness), Artem, administrator of the Telegram channel Rabkor, cameraman Valery and Anna Ochkina, former candidate for governor of the Penza region, are also being prosecuted and searched. Like many revolutionary groups and left-wing and democratic personalities in various countries, we denounce this repression: Freedom for Kagarlitsky! Freedom for all political prisoners! Hands off Rabkor!

The hardening of political repression against opponents of the war is undeniable. Putin boasted to Russian journalists: “It’s 2023, and the Russian Federation is engaged in an armed conflict with a neighbor. And I think we need to adopt a certain attitude towards people who cause us damage inside the country.” Let’s underline a very political fact: just as much as Putin has shown clemency towards Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the armed militias at the head of which he dared a military putsch at the end of June (even if he failed), Putin is condemning left-wing opponents to years in prison, for words said or written against his policies. A double standard. Confronted with many factors of instability that his war policy has reinforced, Putin must continue to reckon with the gallant brutes he has engendered.