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Free Alexei Gaskarov and Political Prisoners in Russia!

By Antonio Negri, 9 July 2013
Image: Alexei Gaskarov, one of 28 Russians arrested for peaceful protest

Antonio Negri on the arrest and imprisonment of the Russian activist Alexei Gaskarov. Mute is publishing his letter and calling on our readers to sign the petition (details below) in solidarity with Alexei and others facing intensifying State repression in Russia. 

Some context on the situation:

Alexei Gaskarov, a Russian left activist and anti-fascist, was arrested and detained in prison in Moscow on April 27, 2013, one year after participating at the Anti-Putin mass demonstration on May 6, 2012. The Russian Investigative Committee has accused Gaskarov of involvement in riots and violence against officials on May 6, 2012, when Russian riot police attacked a peaceful, authorized demonstration in Moscow. He became the twenty eighth arrested participant of the demonstration. The accused were drawn both from the ranks of seasoned political activists (mainly leftists) as well as from ordinary people, for whom the May 6th demonstrations were their first experience of street politics. The aim of the prosecution is self-evident: to break the will for political struggle of those unhappy with the current political regime and to systematically demolish the existing political opposition—a significant portion of which is situated on the political left. The Investigative Committee—a structure accountable only to president Putin—has constructed the case as a wide-ranging conspiracy stretching from rank-and-file street protestors to established politicians. The recent arrests, threats, beatings, aggressive media attacks and moves towards declaring leftist groups illegal all point to the new general strategy on the part of the authorities, much more cruel and much less predictable than that of recent years. Today’s wave of repressions in Russia is the most important test for Russia’s new protest movement: either it holds strong or a new period of mass apathy and fear awaits it. It is precisely for this reason, in the face of unprecedented political pressure, that solidarity of comrades in struggle in Europe, and in the entire world, is so crucial.

Gaskarov became an activist in the early 2000s. In 2006, he began working with the Institute for Collective Action (IKD), where he was involved in supporting and coordinating social movements.  Around the same time, he also became significant part of the anti-fascist movement. Gaskarov gained fame in summer 2010, when, during the protest campaign against the destruction of the Khimki Forest in Moscow region, he was arrested along with Maxim Solopov and accused of orchestrating an attack by 300 to 400 young anti-fascists, who supported the environmentalists, on the Khimki city administration building. In autumn 2010, Gaskarov and Solopov were released from prison, thanks to a massive international campaign on behalf of the “Khimki Hostages.” In summer 2011, Gaskarov was acquitted of all charges. On May 6, 2012, Riot Police officers beat Alexei Gaskarov with batons and boots. He filed a complaint against the officers who beat him up, but no one was charged. Year later, just a few days before the anniversary of the May 6 demonstration he has had a set of absurd charges brought against him and been arrested and became victim of the State repression against left activist and ordinary participant of the anti-Putin repressions.


Dear comrades,

Your news about the heavy-handed repression against leftist opposition in Russia saddens me, worries me and angers me. Following the great demonstrations that have periodically taken place since 2011 and that demonstrate a growing opposition in Russia to the capitalist organization of society and the state, a counter attack by the governing oligarchy has begun – a repression that doesn’t leave much hope for reopening a correct democratic experience in Russia.

The arrest and detention of Alexei Gaskarov is a grave sign – an insult to the democratic rules of freedom of association and political expression.

We have never eluded ourselves on the universal effectiveness of these principles, yet there is a limit that cannot be exceeded: the very right to protest, the radical and obstinate claim to live in a political order where it is not  necessary to be forced to consent to a government’s orders, to police intimidation and to the blackmail of a populism of “law and order”. You may persecute us, but you will never appropriate our souls because they resist, fed by an intransigent democratic passion.

However, attention: today labor is evermore intellectual and subjectivities are evermore productive. You, men of power, oligarchs who have grabbed both political and economic power at once, no doubt have the strength to repress – but who can assure you that this repression won’t send your own system of production into crisis? Intellectual labor, the consciousness expressed by its free nature, the multitudes of wage laborers and/or precarious workers, are all revolting the world over. From Arab countries in Maghreb to Madrid and Barcelona, from Greece to New York and Montreal… And today in Turkey and Brazil. Alexei Gaskarov is part of this generation of indignant activists. Did you think that this libertarian tsunami wouldn’t reach Russian shores? You must give Gaskarov his freedom because he represents the voices of this multitude of new material and immaterial workers upon which wealth and knowledge depend.

Gaskarov’s will to rebel is sacred. Thousands of other citizens have grown up with him and his will to rebel; they cannot be repressed, the reasons for their rebellion must be understood. Even we, antifascists and people who fought for egalitarian justice, were repressed after ’68. We came out of prison stronger and more intelligent. Shouldn’t you want to free those who have begun to rebel since 2011? It is sad to see what we are seeing all over Europe and the world in Russia: the end of a governing class educated under socialism that, after being politically defeated, becomes reactionary. This is the true corruption of our contemporary political system: putting power at the service of administrative cynicism and abandoning justice.

When Stalinism fell, we distrusted the capitalist invasion of Russia; when the first neoliberal Russian governments were ousted from power, we hoped that Europe and Russia, the multitudes of cognitive labor and productive intelligence, could find themselves united in the hope for peace and justice. Today it seems that Russian oligarchs and neoliberal Europeans are going down a dead end: they use repression, they move farther from the people and they break the multitude’s hope for happiness.

Freedom for Alexei Gaskarov.

Toni Negri

Venice, 1 July 2013




Letter translated by Jason Francis Mc Gimsey