Writing from a Russian prison, sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky has penned the following open letter in support of a broad solidarity campaign with left-wing Russian political prisoners.

Kagarlitsky himself was jailed for five years on February 13 over trumped-up charges of “justifying terrorism”. In reality, his only crime has been to speak out against Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A global petition calling for his release and all other anti-war political prisoners can be signed here.

The letter was translated by Renfrey Clarke from the original Russian version. Clarke also translated Kagarlitsky’s latest book, The Long Retreat: Strategies to Reverse the Decline of the Left, available now for pre-order from Pluto Press.

Reporting to the State Duma, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has cited a host of figures testifying to the growth of the economy and the increased well-being of the population. Unfortunately, there is another index in our country that is growing steadily. That is the number of political prisoners.

A substantial number of the people who are behind bars for their political convictions belong to left organisations. Socialists, communists and anarchists, along with left democrats who are not members of any party or group, are constantly falling victim to the machinery of repression. Every case, of course, has its own peculiarities, but the overall situation is clear. The left movement is speaking out for social and democratic rights, against militarism and authoritarianism, and it is paying the price.

Fortunately, support for political prisoners in our country is also becoming a mass phenomenon. Thousands of people are writing to those who have been arrested, are putting together parcels, and are sending food and warm items. Beyond question, it is necessary to support all those who, without resorting to violence, defend their views and are subjected to persecution as a result. We need to know and remember all their names.

Nevertheless, people on the left can and should do more for their co-thinkers. Most important is the fact that through combining our efforts to help political prisoners we aid in strengthening the movement, and build coordination between individuals and groups. Working together to help our co-thinkers who are suffering for their beliefs is much more fruitful than carrying on endless arguments about who was right in the Soviet political discussions of the 1920s, about how to regard Stalin and Trotsky, and about who should be considered an impeccable Marxist and who a reformist, an opportunist, or on the other hand, a sectarian.

Political unity and political maturity are achieved in the course of political activity. Under today’s conditions, when political action and self-organisation in our country have become extremely difficult, helping our co-thinkers who have been imprisoned is not just humanitarian activity, but also an important political gesture, an act of practical solidarity.

Now that this initiative [in support of left-wing political prisoners] is finally coming to practical realisation, we must all support it; we can and must unite around it. After the first step, other steps will follow. For the future to become reality, we must put in the work now.

I hope very much that my viewers and readers will give their backing to the unity initiative in support of political prisoners and all left activists who have suffered from political repression.

This is how we are going to win!

Boris Kagarlitsky

4 April 2024

11 Apr 2024 by Boris Kagarlitsky

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