OVERVIEW 1930-33

Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones

1905 -1935

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 Collectivisation.

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 doom.

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 remain silent.

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 Guardian, 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.


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