Two cheers for Boris Kagarlitsky

Adam Novak
August 3, 2023

The arrest of Boris Kagarlitsky has sparked a proliferation of solidarity statements and petitions in the western left. Kagarlitsky opposed the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s increasing authoritarianism. That is why he was arrested. He is the most widely known Russian leftist in the west, and his case can be used to build solidarity with all persecuted anti-war activists, saboteurs and conscription refusers.

This will not be an easy campaign. ENSU was one of the first groups to launch a Kagarlitsky-focused petition for solidarity with Russian anti-war activists. For ENSU and other groups like Britain's Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (USC) and Irish Left with Ukraine (ILWU), anti-war resistance in Russia is a second front. Refusing conscription, sabotage of the war effort administration and logistics, protest and spreading the truth about the invasion of Ukraine all helps weaken Russian citizens' support or tolerance of the Putin regime and the war.

The thing is, most of the petitions now circulating were launched and initially supported mostly by Kagarlitsky allies: people who share his sympathies with pre-2022 Russian aggression in Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. Like Kagarlitsky, some of these people have changed for the better after the full-scale invasion. But many of them still discourage discussion of Russia’s war against Ukraine. They oppose Ukraine resistance, western arms supply, sanctions and boycots, and call for a ceasefire so that Russia can keep the territory it currently occupies.

Just before his arrest, Kagarlitsky repeated his plan for continued Russian civilian control of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea, with UN Peacekeepers in place to prevent any Ukrainian attempt to regain those territories. Not suprisingly, Ukrainian leftists and solidarity movements don't agree with these manoeuvres. So these campaigns for Russian anti-war activists like Kagarlitsky represent only a partial convergence of interests.

Above all, the Kagarlitsky campaign offers a narrow common ground, where the Ukraine solidarity campaigns can encourage western leftists to take more action to support Russian anti-war activists.

Russian left groups like the Russian Socialist Movement (RSD) are central in these campaigns, and can be a focus of international left solidarity. Of course, their proposals for building anti-war resistance in their own country are crucial.

Ukraine solidarity activists might sign any or all of the following petitions. Their combined visibility helps win better conditions for anti-war prisoners in the Russian Federation and raises awareness of Russia’s descent into authoritarianism.

Free Boris Kagarlitsky! ((EN/FR/ES). One of the first petitions, launched by ENSU supporters and other Ukraine solidarity activists. We focus on the repression of anti-war activists since the full-scale invasion, and call for solidarity with anti-war and political prisoners.
Freedom for Boris Kagarlitsky! (EN, FR, ES, IT, DE, SK, РУ/RU) Prepared by Kagarlitsky’s website Rabkor. Includes exaggerated, nationalistic praise for Kagarlitsky. Clearly identifies the full-scale invasion as unjustified aggression, and links this to the alarming decline in freedom inside the Russian Federation. Calls for freedom for Boris and solidarity with other anti-war prisoners.  First signatures include some ENSU supporters. This petition is supported by Russian left groups including Russian Socialist Movement (RSD).
Freedom for Boris Kagarlitsky! (EN) Launched by the British Stop the War group, which ‘regrets’ the invasion but opposes Ukrainian resistance and any Western support to Ukraine. Short, factual petition mentioning Kagarlitsky’s opposition to Russian and Western aggression. Calls for release of all anti-war prisoners. Organisers also recommend signing the Rabkor petition.