as Gareth's press release was issued (29th March 1933) and published
around the world, the Soviet propaganda machine with Walter Duranty at its
fore, got into full swing, to attack and denounce Gareth Jones as a liar.
the March 31st, 1933 in the New York Times, Walter
Duranty, their Moscow based correspondent, and 1932 Pulitzer Prize Winner,
long in Soviet good graces,
denied there was famine and promptly presented a rebuttal, but it
was a rebuttal of classic Orwellian ‘doublespeak’:
is all too true that the novelty and mismanagement of collective farming,
plus the quite efficient conspiracy of Feodor M. Konar and his associates
in agricultural commissariats, have made a mess of Soviet food production.
[Konar was executed for sabotage.]
- to put it brutally - you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs,
and the Bolshevist leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that
may be involved in their drive toward socialization as any General during
the World War [One]...
I talked with Mr. Jones I have made exhaustive inquiries about this
alleged famine situation. . . . There is serious food shortage throughout
the country with occasional cases of well-managed state or collective
farms. The big cities and the
army are adequately supplied with food.
There is no actual starvation or death from starvation, but there
is widespread is mortality from diseases due to malnutrition. . . . In
every Russian village food conditions will improve henceforth, but that
will not answer one really vital question - What about the coming grain
crop? Upon that depends not
the future of the Soviet power which cannot and will not be smashed, but
the future policy of the Kremlin."
"containment" of the Jones story is perhaps the most telling
event in what Eugene Lyons called "the whole shabby episode of our
failure to report honestly the gruesome Russian famine of 1932-33."**
The Soviets were able to elicit tacit collaborations from the American
press because of an upcoming show trial of British engineers employed by
the Metropolitan Vickers corporation. Following the publication of
Jones story, Lyons recalled how the matter was settled in cooperation with
Konstantin Umansky, the Soviet censor:
all received urgent queries from our home offices on the subject. But the
inquiries coincided with the preparations under way for the trial of the
British engineers. The need to remain on friendly terms with
the censors at least for the duration of the trial was for all of us
compelling professional necessity.
down Jones was a unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of
juggling the facts to please dictatorial regimes---but throw him down we
did, unanimously and in almost identical formulas of equivocation....
scene in which the American press corps combined to repudiate Jones is
fresh in my mind. It was in the evening and Comrade (Soviet censor
Konstantin--JM) Umansky, the soul of graciousness, consented to meet
us in the hotel room of a correspondent. He knew he had a strategic
advantage over us because of the Metro-Vickers story. He could
afford to be gracious. Forced by competitive journalism to jockey
for the inside track with officials, it would have been professional
suicide to make an issues of the famine at this particular time.
There was much bargaining in a spirit of gentlemanly give-and-take, under
the effulgence of Umansky's gilded smile, before a formula of denial was
admitted enough to soothe our consciences, but in round-about phrases that
damned Jones as a liar. The filthy business having been disposed of,
someone ordered vodka and zakuski, Umansky joined in the celebration, and
the party did not break up until the early morning hours." **
From Eugene Lyons, Assignment in Utopia, pp. 572, 575-576.]
New York Times on
May 13th, 1933 then printed a reply from ‘Mr. Jones’
to Walter Duranty’s article of March 31st in which
Gareth, in a letter to the newspaper said he stood by
his statement that the Soviet Union was suffering from a severe famine.
The censors had turned the journalists into masters of euphemism
and understatement and hence they gave “famine” the polite name of
“food shortage” and “starving to death” was softened to read as
“widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition”.
letter is printed below in full:
York Times. Date: May 13th, 1933.
Secretary of Lloyd George Tells of Observations in Russia
To the Editor of The New York Times:
my return from Russia at the end of March, I stated in an interview in
Berlin that everywhere I went in the Russian villages I heard the cry;
“There is no bread, we are dying,” and that
there was famine in the Soviet Union, menacing
the lives of millions of people.
Duranty, whom I must thank for his continued kindness and helpfulness to
hundreds of American and British visitors to Moscow, immediately cabled a
denial of the famine. He suggested that my judgment was only based
on a forty-mile tramp through villages. He stated that he had
inquired in Soviet commissariats and in the foreign embassies and had come
to the conclusion that there was no famine, but that there was a
“serious food shortage throughout the country …
No actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread
mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”
From Several Sources.
partially agreeing with my statement, he implied that my report was a
“scare story” and compared it with certain fantastic prophecies of
Soviet downfall. He also made the strange suggestion that I was
forecasting the doom of the Soviet régime, a forecast I have never
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
May 1, 1933.