Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones
Gareth Jones accomplished a great deal in his very short
life. As a child he had heard many stories of the happy times his mother
spent with the family of Arthur Hughes from 1889 to 1892 as tutor to his
children. Arthur Hughes was the son of the Welshman, John Hughes the steel
industrialist who founded the town of Hughesovska, later the tragic town
of Stalino in World War II and today known as the city of Donetz.
These stories instilled in him a desire to visit the
Soviet Union and Ukraine. So with this goal in mind he studied languages
and had a brilliant academic career at University, both in Aberystwyth
and Cambridge where he gained first-class honours in French, German and
Russian; all of which he spoke fluently.
Jones family photograph, at Barry, South Wales, circa 1930. Gwyneth (Gareth's
sister), Annie Gwen and Major Edgar (Gareth's parents), Margaret Siriol (on
lap), Gareth, Eirian (Siriol's mother) and auntie Winnie (Annie's sister).
Graduating from Cambridge in 1930, he obtained the position
of Foreign Affairs Adviser to David Lloyd George and it was during the
summer of this year he made his first 'pilgrimage' to Hughesovka. The
visit was brief as all the food he could obtain him was one roll of bread.
In the following year 1931, he was offered employment
in New York by Dr. Ivy Lee, Public Relations adviser to organisations
such as the Rockefeller Institute, the Chrysler foundation and Standard
Oil to research a book on the Soviet Union. In the summer of 1931 he accompanied
Jack Heinz II to the Soviet Union (fortified with food from the Heinz
organisation) when at the end of their tour they visited Ukraine. Gareth
wrote a comprehensive diary of this visit and Jack Heinz was to publish
a book anonymously entitled Experiences in Russia 1931. A Diary,
which includes probably the first recorded (seven) references to the word
'starve' or 'starving' of the Soviet peasants as a result of
But due to the severe depression of 1931-32 in the U.S.A.
he was forced, due to financial reasons, to leave 'Ivy Lee and Associates'
in Wall Street and he returned to work for David Lloyd George. At this
time and little known to many, he assisted the former Prime Minister in
writing his War Memoirs.
In the autumn of 1932, there were rumours in London
of the famine occurring under Stalin's regime in the Soviet Union and
so Gareth Jones made further plans to visit the country. But dramatic
events were occurring in Germany and so in late January and early February
1933 he visited this country. He was present in Leipzig the day Adolf
Hitler was made Chancellor and a few days later flew with the dictator
in his famous plane 'Richthofen' to Frankfurt. There, Gareth Jones was
present at a great rally where the newly appointed Fuehrer was given a
tumultuous reception and where the hall echoed to the ovation given to
the newly appointed Chancellor of Germany.
It was early the next month, in March 1933, that he
made his third and final visit to Soviet Russia and Ukraine to investigate
the earlier reports he had heard of starvation. In his diary he records
that he met Malcolm Muggeridge in Moscow, before setting-off on a walking
tour of villages within OGPU-restricted Ukraine.
Whilst Gareth was in Ukraine, Muggeridge posted his
three articles to The Manchester Guardian, but when they were eventually
printed unsigned in late March,
they had also been drastically edited and lay 'buried' deep-within the
then, Communist-sympathetic newspaper.
However, returning to Berlin, Gareth Jones then made
his famous press release on the 29th of March 1933 and this was printed
in many American and British newspapers including the New York Evening
Post and The Manchester Guardian:
I walked along through villages and twelve collective
farms. Everywhere was the cry, 'There is no bread. We are dying. This
cry came from every part of Russia, from the Volga, Siberia, White Russia,
the North Caucasus, and Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth
region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because
the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves
what is happening.
In the train a Communist denied to me that there was
a famine. I flung a crust of bread which I had been eating from my own
supply into a spittoon. A peasant fellow-passenger fished it out and ravenously
ate it. I threw an orange peel into the spittoon and the peasant again
grabbed it and devoured it. The Communist subsided. I stayed overnight
in a village where there used to be 200 oxen and where there now are six.
The peasants were eating the cattle fodder and had only a month's supply
left. They told me that many had already died of hunger. Two soldiers
came to arrest a thief. They warned me against travel by night, as there
were too many 'starving' desperate men.
'We are waiting for death' was my welcome, but see,
we still, have our cattle fodder. Go farther south. There they have nothing.
Many houses are empty of people already dead,' they cried.
On the 31st of March, the infamous denial of Jones'
statement was made by Walter Duranty in the New York Times stating there
was no famine and these were the headlines to that article: RUSSIANS HUNGRY,
BUT NOT STARVING. Duranty maintained that the high death rate was from
diseases due to malnutrition, that the larger cities had food and that
it was Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga Regions that suffered from
shortages. He said the Kremlin denied the doom and that: 'Russian and
foreign observers in country could see no grounds for predications of
disaster'. He then stated that:
Mr. Jones is a man of a keen and active mind, and he
has taken the trouble to learn Russian, which he speaks with considerable
fluency, but the writer thought Mr. Jones's judgment was somewhat hasty
and asked him on what it was based. It appeared that he had made a forty-mile
walk through villages in the neighbourhood of Kharkov and had found
conditions sad. I suggested that that was a rather inadequate cross-section
of a big country but nothing could shake his conviction of impending
On May 13th the
New York Times published a stinging
reply from Jones which reiterated that he stood by every word he had said:
... I stand by my statement that Soviet Russia is suffering
from a severe famine. It would be foolish to draw this conclusion from
my tramp through a small part of vast Russia, although I must remind
Mr. Duranty that it was my third visit to Russia, that I devoted four
years of university life to the study of the Russian language and history
and that on this occasion alone I visited in all twenty villages, not
only in the Ukraine, but also in the black earth district, and in the
Moscow region, and that I slept in peasants' cottages, and did not immediately
leave for the next village.
My first evidence was gathered from foreign observers.
Since Mr. Duranty introduces consuls into the discussion, a thing I
am loath to do, for they are official representatives of their countries
and should not be quoted, may I say that I discussed the Russian situation
with between twenty and thirty consuls and diplomatic representatives
of various nations and that their evidence supported my point of view.
But they are not allowed to express their views in the press, and therefore
Journalists, on the other hand, are allowed to write,
but the censorship has turned them into masters of euphemism and understatement.
Hence they give "famine" the polite name of "food shortage"
and "starving to death" is softened down to read as "widespread
mortality from diseases due to malnutrition." Consuls are not so
reticent in private conversation.
My second evidence was based on conversations with peasants
who had migrated into the towns from various parts of Russia. Peasants
from the richest parts of Russia coming into the towns for bread. Their
story of the deaths in their villages from starvation and of the death
of the greater part of their cattle and horses was tragic, and each
conversation corroborated the previous one.
Third, my evidence was based upon letters written by
German colonists in Russia, appealing for help to their compatriots
in Germany. "My brother's four children have died of hunger."
"We have had no bread for six months." "If we do not
get help from abroad, there is nothing left but to die of hunger."
Those are typical passages from these letters.
Fourth, I gathered evidence from journalists and technical
experts who had been in the countryside. In The Manchester
which has been exceedingly sympathetic toward the Soviet régime,
there appeared on March 25, 27 and 28 an excellent series of articles
on "The Soviet and the Peasantry" (which had not been submitted
to the censor). The correspondent, who had visited North Caucasus and
the Ukraine, states: "To say that there is famine in some of the'
most fertile parts of Russia is to say much less than the truth: there
is not only famine, but - in the case of the North Caucasus at least
- a state of war, a military occupation." Of the Ukraine, he writes:
"The population is starving."
My final evidence is based on my talks with hundreds
of peasants. They were not the "kulaks"- those mythical scapegoats
for the hunger in Russia-but ordinary peasants. I talked with them alone
in Russian and jotted down their conversations, which are an unanswerable
indictment of Soviet agricultural policy. 'The peasants said emphatically
that the famine was worse than in 1921 and that fellow-villagers had
died or were dying.
Mr. Duranty says that I saw in the villages no dead human
beings nor animals. That is true, but one does not need a particularly
nimble brain to grasp that even in the Russian famine districts the
dead are buried and that there the dead animals are devoured.
May I in conclusion congratulate the Soviet Foreign Office
on its skill in concealing the true situation in the U.S.S.R.? Moscow
is not Russia, and the sight of well fed people there tends to hide
the real Russia.
Gareth Jones was to write many other freelance articles
on the famine in British and American newspapers up until June 1933. In Danzig, two months later he met the German consul to Kharkov
who had praised these articles but said the conditions were far worse
than Jones had described them and that millions were dying in Ukraine.
As a result of Gareth Jones' embarrassment to the U.S.S.R.,
Soviet Foreign Commissar Litvinoff, (whom he had interviewed whilst in
Moscow) accused him of espionage. In a personal letter from Litvinov to
Lloyd George, Gareth Jones was informed that he had been banned from ever
returning to the U.S.S.R.. This was no doubt a disappointment to Jones
as he was unable to return to a country which he had spent so much time
studying her literature, history and language.
With further journalistic investigation of the Soviet
Union being curtailed to Jones, he turned his professional attention towards
the Orient. The Far East was an enigma to the West and Gareth therefore
wanted to investigate the Japanese intentions of expansion in the Far
East and in particular, in northern China and Manchukuo. He left Britain
in late 1934 and embarked on a 'Round-the-World Fact-Finding Tour'. He
spent five or six weeks in Japan, interviewing several important generals
and leading politicians - and in his usual fashion, asking some very embarrassing
questions regarding Japanese intentions in the Orient. Whilst in Tokyo,
Jones resided, unbeknown to himself, in the apartment of the radio operator
of the major Soviet spy, Richard Sorge, and he would have clearly been
aware of Gareth Jones' previous embarrassing reports from Soviet Ukraine...
After leaving Japan, he visited many countries across
the Far East before he eventually reached Beijing. From there, the intrepid
journalist travelled into Inner Mongolia with a native German believing
it to be free of bandits. They ventured into newly-created Manchukuo territory
that had been had infiltrated by the Japanese just a few days earlier
and where troops were amassing. Apprehended by the Japanese they were
eventually told that there were three ways back to the Chinese town of
Kalgan, only one of which was safe. Taking this route the following day,
they were captured by bandits and held for ransom for 100,000 Mexican
dollars. The German was released within two days, but after 16 days in
captivity, the bandits, disbanded Chinese soldiers whose families may
have been held to ransom by the Japanese murdered Gareth Jones.
Gareth Jones' death in August 1935, on the eve of his
thirtieth birthday was a tragic loss not only to his family but to the
world and society as a whole. He had revealed to the world the terrible
famine in the Soviet Union and Ukraine; he predicted the Second World
War in Europe would breakout following the Danzig Corridor dispute and
the designs of territorial expansion by the Japanese would bring about
a conflagration in the Far East.