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The Long Retreat

The Long Retreat

Strategies to Reverse the Decline of the Left

by Boris Kagarlitsky

Foreword by Patrick Bond

Translated by Renfrey Clarke

Series: Transnational Institute

An intellectual tour-de-force by one of Russia's most prominent dissidents

'A man of enormous intellect, knowledge and bravery' - Jeremy Corbyn MP

'Perhaps the most prominent Marxist thinker in the post-Soviet space' – Open Democracy

Authoritarianism is rampant across the globe. Right-wing governments from Russia to America oversee wars from Ukraine to Palestine, while capitalism lurches from crisis to crisis, its citizens mired in poverty. Imprisoned Putin critic Boris Kagarlitsky confronts this stark reality, demanding a clear strategy from the left to dismantle this ever-darkening nightmare.

As well as bringing Russian and Western thinkers into dialogue, Kagarlitsky draws upon his experiences as a Russian dissident since the latter days of the Soviet Union in this detailed analysis of leftist strategy. As a Marxist, he engages in radical ideas including Universal Basic Income and decentralised collective ownership, as well as looking at historical and contemporary examples of revolution and dissent, covering the left's response to the war in Ukraine.

Written just before Kagarlitsky's imprisonment, The Long Retreat stands as a testament to subversive Russian literature. It asks if the left can put aside its paralysing sectarianism and conceits of ideological purity in order to transform society for the benefit of the global working class. Kagarlitsky believes it can, as long as it is unafraid to look critically at its own ideas and actions.

Boris Kagarlitsky is a Russian Marxist theoretician and sociologist who has been a political dissident in the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. He is the author of many books, his latest being The Long Retreat: Strategies to Reverse the Decline of the Left. In 2023 he was detained under Putin’s regime for speaking out against the war in Ukraine, and in February 2024 he was sentenced to five years in a penal colony. Since then, the Daniel Singer Foundation designated him as the recipient of its 2024 Prisoner of Conscience Award.

Patrick Bond is Distinguished Professor at the University of Johannesburg Department of Sociology, where he directs the Centre for Social Change. He is the author of several books, including BRICS and Elite Transition.

Renfrey Clarke is an Australian journalist, translator and left activist.

'Boris Kagarlitsky is a man of enormous intellect, knowledge and bravery. He has done so much for the ordinary people of Russia, including in his campaign for socialism, democracy and peace. His unjust imprisonment is a chilling attack on free speech - and his courageous words must be heard. I've always been stimulated by discussions with Boris and his relationship with thoughtful figures all around the world. Boris represents Russia's future, not that of the oligarchs and greed.'

- Jeremy Corbyn MP

'This gloomy book will depress everyone who reads it. A willingness to confront our miserable circumstances honestly and directly, though, may be exactly what the Left needs to build itself into a force that can win.'

- Jodi Dean, author of 'The Communist Horizon'

'This brilliant and profound book is likely to become a classic. Boris Kagarlitsky brings his formidable, clear-eyed analytical power and immensely readable style to what may become the definitive assessment of the Soviet experiment and its aftermath. In the process he also provides insights into decaying democracy under neoliberal capitalism. A major work by this courageous and committed scholar.'

- Jayati Ghosh, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

'This remarkable book tackles a formidable problem: the global crisis of the left in the 21st century. It explains how the contradictory tendencies of neoliberal capitalism contributed to this crisis and discusses strategies for overcoming it. As with everything that Boris Kagarlitsky writes, the book offers an impressive and deeply informed analysis, moving effortlessly between countries and continents, global perspectives and local specificities, theoretical discussions and empirical facts of everyday life.'

- Alexei Yurchak, author of 'Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation'



Part I: Socialism as a Problem
1. In the Labyrinth of Ideology
2. Revolution as Practice
3. The State and the Bureaucracy

Part II: The Revenge of Capital
4. From Nomenklatura to Bourgeoisie: The Evolution of the Soviet Elite
5. What Remains of the Welfare State?
6. A Kaleidoscope of Problems and Opportunities

Part III: Neoliberalism: Long Goodbyes
7. A Sick Society
8. War, Hunger and Economic Restructuring

Part IV: The Fallen Banner
9. Who Will Transform Society?
10. The Problem of Control
11. Between Reform and Revolution

Part V: The Return of Hope
12. Where to Begin?
13. Plan and Market
14. From the Coalition of Resistance to the Coalition of Change


Published by Pluto Press in May 2024
Paperback ISBN: 9780745350288
eBook ISBN: 9780745350271

140mm x 216mm