Boris Kagarlitsky, one of the most prominent left-wing sociologists in Russia, was released on 12 December after four-and-a-half months in jail. He was fined 600,000 rubles (around 6,000 euro) and faces restricted internet access for two years, avoiding further time in prison. A global campaign for his release, in which IMT comrades were prominently involved, was a factor in this victory.
International campaign of solidarity
As we already noted, Boris Kagarlitsky was arrested several times during his political life. In May 2022, he received “international agent” status: a thinly veiled warning to desist in his activism, or leave the country. Yet he persisted.
Boris Kagarlitsky was detained by the Russian security services FSB on 25 July, on the basis of a criminal investigation against him for “justifying terrorism”. He was transferred to Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, which is more than 1,000 km away from Moscow.
On 27 July, the IMT expressed solidarity with Kagarlitsky and demanded his immediate release, calling on all communist, left-wing and working-class organisations around the world to mobilise for his freedom.
Boris Kagarlitsky is well known, and there was a big international solidarity campaign. 2,300 people signed a letter calling for his release, including Jeremy Corbyn, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and others. There was big media publicity, not only in Russia but worldwide.
In August, over 400 comrades during IMT World Congress in Italy showed their bold support for Kagarlitsky and demanded his release.
In August, over 400 comrades during the IMT’s World Congress in Italy showed their bold support for Kagarlitsky and demanded his release. Video with chants of encouragement were shared widely through telegram channels in Russia.
Comrades from Brazil prepared a huge handmade banner in order to show their support for Russian prisoners on the opposite side of the planet. This clearly shows that solidarity doesn’t have borders.
However, the centre of the solidarity campaign was in Russia, with the team behind Rabkor (the online magazine edited by Kagarlitsky) taking the lead.
Several left-wing organisations joined forces in the solidarity campaign: posters with demands to release Kagarlitsky appeared throughout the streets all over the country. Hundreds of activists took part in the meetings in different cities of Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Saratov, Perm, Barnaul, Krasnoyarsk, Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Cheboksary, Penza, Tver, Magnitogorsk, Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Astrakhan, Biysk, Orenburg, Rostov-on-Don and others.
We should mention that the pro-government Communist Party of Russian Federation didn’t make publications or any announcements supportive of Kagarlitsky. It was one more piece of evidence among many that the so-called Communist Party dances only to the tune of the authorities.
Many people shared that the arrest of Boris Kagarlitsky was a turning point. Speakers at the many solidarity meetings were heard to say that the left should not simply organise for the release of one political prisoner, but fight to bring down the capitalist system that imprisoned him to begin with, and fight for socialism.
“Sentence of acquittal”
On 11 December, a court session on the Boris Kagarlitsky case started. The Second Western District Military Court of Moscow was in charge of passing judgement.
It became known during the court session that Kagarlitsky was transferred to Syktyvkar because resident of Ukhta (city in Komi Republic) Leonid Krasnoperov wrote a denunciation. This individual said he watched a video on the Rabkor Youtube channel in which Kagarlitsky commented on the explosion on the Crimean bridge on 8 October.
The Brazilian section of the IMT and the Brazilian Communist Party – Revolution Reconstruction showed solidarity with Boris Kagarlitsky on 2 November at the “Rally against imperialist wars – Ukraine and Palestine”.
Krasnoperov said that, with people dying in the war in Ukraine, he was angered to see “someone” (meaning Kagarlitsky) speaking “ironically” on the subject.
And who is this concerned citizen?
A little digging online will reveal that Mr Krasnoperov is head of the G.A. Karchevsky Children’s Centre for Creativity, family man, patriot… and a member of Putin’s “United Russia” party, as well as a supporter of the far-right rapper Misha Mavashi’s “Northern Man” movement. Moreover, in 2021 Krasnoperov was convicted of posting extremist content online.
Despite the state building its case on the ‘initiative’ of a good citizen, behind the mask of civil responsibility we see the ugly face of a reactionary government stooge.
The court session was conducted incredibly quickly. By the next morning, it became known that the prosecutor had requested five-and-a-half years of jail time for Kagarlitsky “justifying terrorism”.
Further to this, on 7 August he was put on the list of those involved in extremist activity or terrorism. It means that he is forbidden to engage in teaching and publishing activities, or hold political office. He is also prohibited from using bank cards, and his wages can only be withdrawn in the amount of 10,000 roubles on application. In other words, his ordinary civilian life came to an end.
Many of us expected that repressive state machine would put Kagarlitsky in jail. It was a tremendous surprise that the judge imposed a fine and restricted his internet access. He was released in the courtroom. In the conditions of modern Russia, this is equivalent to acquittal.
In the evening of the same day Rabkor organised a Youtube stream on which tens of thousands people could see and hear Kagarlitsky. His arrest gathered together people of various ages with different views – in three hours, the needed amount of money for paying the fine was gathered.
Many meetings in support of Boris Kagarlitsy took place in different cities of Russia
A number of speakers of the stream speculated that Kagarlitsky was released due to Putin’s help. They mentioned a case Vladimir Putin at the Valdai Forum on 5 October promised to look into the Kagarlitsky situation after a request from Radik Desai, a professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba.
Another speaker said that Putin was happy with the way political events in the world were developing and how the situation in Ukraine was improving for him. He therefore decided to start his election campaign with a gesture of goodwill.
Whatever the circumstances, we can be sure that the authorities took note of the solidarity campaign, and the effect that jailing Kagarlitsky would have had in Russia. It certainly played a role in his release.
We are aware that Boris’s release is an exceptional case. Hundreds of political prisoners with lower profiles are still under arrest. The example of the solidarity campaign with Boris Kagarlitsky shows that collective action can achieve a lot.
But to stop political persecution of political positions, it is not enough to free individuals – we need an alternative system to capitalism. Get organised, join the IMT to fight for building socialism. Only together can we build a system based on equality, and real justice.
Solidarity is our strength!