Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]

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 The 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.

GARETH JONES.  
London, May 1, 1933.

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