As soon 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.

On 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’:

"It 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.]

But - 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]...

Since 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."

The "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:

 "We 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.

Throwing 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....

The 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 worked out.

We 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.] 

The 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”.

Gareth's letter is printed below in full:

New York Times. Date: May 13th, 1933.

Mr. Jones Replies:

Former Secretary of Lloyd George Tells of Observations in Russia

  To the Editor of The New York Times:

On 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.

Walter 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.” 

Evidence From Several Sources. 

While 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 ventured.

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 Are Handicapped. 

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. 

Statements by Peasants. 

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.

London, May 1, 1933.

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