Gareth Jones

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The Western Mail, April 5th, 1933

O.G.P.U.’S Reign of Terror in Russia

By Gareth Jones

The trial of the British engineers is something more than the symbol of the collapse of the Five-Year Plan.  It is an Indication of the grip which the O.G.P.U. (the “State Political Department,” i.e., political police) has over the whole life of the Communist party. 

When I was in Russia in 1931 a period of toleration had begun.  The O.G.P.U. had had some of its fangs extracted and was under the control of Akuloff, a moderate man and an economist.  The dangerous Yagoda had been removed.  Stalin had preached the doctrine of fair-play to non-Communists and the whole country breathed a sigh of relief that the terror was over. 

But now, in 1933, the terror has returned and in a form multiplied a hundredfold. Yagoda is back again at his work, slashing out left and right at all those suspected of opposition to the regime.  The drive is now against all kinds of opposition.  Formerly there would have been a drive against the Right Wing opposition, then against the Trotzkyists, then against the former bourgeois. 

Attack On All Fronts 

But now the attack is on all fronts-on party members, of whom numbers have been shot; on the intelligentsia, of whom there are countless representatives in Solovki; on the peasants for merely having wished to till their soi1 for themselves, and on the Ukrainian, Georgian, and Central Asian nationalists who have struggled for the rights of small countries.  More and more power is being put into the bands of the O.G.P.U. and a small clique dominates the rest of the party, the members of which, although in their hearts. recognising the colossal failure of the Five Year Plan policy, do not dare to raise even one small voice in contradiction to the general line of Stalin. 

O.G.P.U.’s Mistakes 

The O.G.P.U.. has become the owner of large plots of land in the great cities.  The finest buildings which have been built in Moscow are those O.G.P.U. residences and in the South the O.G.P.U. has entrenched itself and has excellent houses.  The shops of the O.G.P.U. are the best stocked in all Russia.  The wives of O.G.P.U. officials have the best dresses and the best fur coats.  Many of those excellent foreign cars which are now common in Moscow belong to O.G.P.U. men.  They have the greatest privileges in the Soviet Union. 

But now the O.G.P.U. has made the greatest mistake of its career and it will rue the day when it arrested the engineers.  Among most experts in Moscow it is believed that the O.G.P.U. acted on its own and that the Soviet Foreign Office is furious at this false step, which spoils many of the plans of its foreign policy.

America Stops to Think 

How the Soviet Foreign Office must curse the clumsiness which has so embittered their relations with Britain!  But still more must they curse the spoke which it has put in the wheel of American recognition.  A great triumph for Soviet diplomacy was in the offing.  The United States, which had refused to recognise the Soviet Union and which has never had an Ambassador nor a Consul in Moscow, was seriously considering taking the step which Britain took in 1924. 

President Roosevelt was said to be favourable.  Business men were booming recognition with all the arts of American publicity.  Then suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, six British engineers are arrested.  America stops to think, and the Soviet Government is now not so sanguine about recognition by America. 

Soviet’s Difficulties 

One reason why America wished to recognise the Soviet Union was to extend her trade in Russia.  The arrest of the British engineers, however, throws a vivid light upon the difficulties which the Soviet Government is experiencing in meeting payments abroad.  Up to now it has met its obligations with a punctiliousness which commands our respect. 

Is this Metro.Vickers’ case an attempt to avoid payment?  That is the question many observers are asking.  For difficulties are crowding upon the Soviet Commissariats, which are drastically cutting down orders from abroad. 

The case of the six British engineers must be seen with the hunger and the terror of the Russia of 1933 looming behind.  For the mistaken policy which caused this visitation of famine British engineers have to atone in the cells of the O.G.P.U. headquarters.


Kremlin from a postcard collected by Gareth 


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