Skip to comments.Gareth Jones: correspondent who reported the Great Famine (Campaign to strip the NYTs of a Pulitzer)
Posted on 07/22/2003 7:57:24 PM PDT by DPB101
Beginning in 1928 and through 1933 Joseph Stalin implemented his Five-Year Plan of Collectivization. Under this Five-Year Plan Ukraine in particular suffered from an imposed famine that lasted from 1932 until 1933, during which about 7 million to 10 million people perished.
Journalists like George Bernard Shaw and Walter Duranty who were in Moscow at the time made no attempt to let the world know the truth about this famine that Stalin imposed, rather they denied any possibility of this.
The article "Gareth Jones: Hero of Ukraine" by Martin Sieff of United Press International (UPI) cites a statement made by correspondent Gareth Jones at a press conference in Berlin on May 29, 1933, that shows the people's knowledge of the misrepresentation of their dire situation.
"A foreign expert returning from Kazakhstan told me that 1 million out of 5 million there have died of hunger. I can well believe it," he said. "After Stalin, the most hated man in Russia is (George) Bernard Shaw among those who have read his glowing descriptions of plentiful food in their starving land."
Jones, however, went against the grain and wrote several articles depicting the atrocities he saw in the Soviet Union, focusing on Ukraine.
While journalists like Duranty who reported for The New York Times from Russia for 11 years wrote articles denying the Famine in 1933, Jones, age 28, traveled throughout Russia and Ukraine seeking out the truth. What he found during one of his three visits, when he took a 40-mile journey by foot through villages in Ukraine, horrified him.
Jones described in his letter to the editor of The New York Times of May 13, 1933, how in every village people were dying, the cattle were dying, and all that the survivors had left to eat was the dwindling supply of minimal bread and potatoes, and cattle fodder.
Jones not only saw the famine through the eyes of the peasants with whom he stayed in the villages, but also gathered information from foreign observers such as consuls and diplomats, peasants who left their homes to go to towns seeking food, letters that German colonists wrote to their brethren in Germany describing their starvation, and from journalists and technical experts who also had seen the conditions in the countryside and felt the same as he - that there was a famine in progress.
Portrayed as liar by Duranty
The only Western reporter in the Soviet Union after foreigners had been banned from the area, Jones wrote numerous articles describing what he witnessed. However, Duranty and others attempted to portray him as a liar. Writing in The Times on March 31, 1933, Duranty said that Jones could not determine the situation of a whole country just from his 40-mile trek through villages in which he did not even see dead bodies or cattle. Also in that article, according to Mr. Sieff of UPI, Duranty stated unequivocally that "there is no famine" and uttered his infamous words characterizing Stalin's policies: "you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs."
Jones responded in a letter to the editor of The New York Times published on May 13, 1933: "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."
Jones, for the most part, has been forgotten both by his fellow journalists and by the newspapers for which he reported. For example, fellow journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who exposed the Famine, never mentioned Jones' name when interviewed by Marco Carynnyk in the May 29, 1983, issue of The Ukrainian Weekly. When the researcher inquired of Muggeridge why he decided to write about the famine, Muggeridge responded that, "I could also see that all the correspondents in Moscow were distorting it." In reference to Shaw, Duranty and others this was true, but Jones did convey the truth concerning the gravity of the Famine.
UPI on Jones' fate
UPI's Mr. Sieff perfectly captured Jones' life and fate following his truthful accounts of the Famine in the June 13 article "Gareth Jones: Hero of Ukraine":
"You can expect to be branded as a liar in the most prestigious newspaper in the United States. You can expect to be murdered yourself by bandits probably in the pay of conspirators perpetrating equally colossal, monstrous crimes against humanity. [Jones was murdered in 1935 while on assignment in China, where he wrote about the Japanese army's attempt to seize control.] And you can even expect to be betrayed after your death and airbrushed out of existence by one of your closest professional colleagues and friends.
"That was the fate of Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones, a brilliant, idealistic and utterly fearless young journalist who published the first major exposé in the United States and the first signed articles in Britain of Joseph Stalin's deliberately imposed famine in Ukraine in 1933."
Jones did not collapse under censorship, while journalists like Duranty gave the Famine the polite name of "food shortage" and referred to death by starvation as "widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition," as Jones noted in his letter to the editor of The New York Times.
As a protest against the lies that Duranty disseminated, and as an attempt to finally bestow the honor upon Jones that he deserves, his niece Dr. Margaret Siriol Colley and his great-nephew Nigel Linsan Colley have written a letter to The Pulitzer Prize Committee to get Mr. Duranty's 1932 Pulitzer Prize revoked. (The full text of the letter here)
In addition to revoking Duranty's Pulitzer Prize, Dr. Colley proposes that the Pulitzer Prize be awarded posthumously to Jones. His courage to report truthfully about the people's starvation - as in his article in The Daily Express on April 4, 1933, in which he quoted a villager: "We are doomed in the Ukraine. In my village we had 80 horses. Now we have only 18. We had 150 cows. Now there are only six." - entitles him to this honor.
My gracious uncle...
. . .I turn to you with terrible and outrageous news: Famine!
My husband is a deaf-mute, and is 37 years old. I am 33 years old, and we have three children, who are 12, 8 and 6 years old. My youngest son has died. Right up to now, my husband, our children and I retain our belief in the Lord . . .(snip)
We no longer have a bed for each person. We now sleep four to a bed, my husband sleeps on the table. Now we want to forget everything, then it won't hurt so much. Oh Lord, hunger is so painful. We ate rotten turnips for five weeks that my husband, little children and I went begging for. But now we no longer have any more left, and the sack is empty.
We have been eating grass for the past two weeks. I even went to a little hill where a dead horse lay, and ate some of it. My husband is ill, his body is swollen, my children are swollen. The doctor claims that the people will be dropping like flies, due to the hot weather . . .Whole families lay unburied on the paths of the steppes for weeks. No one cares. Cats and dogs are eaten.
An underground trade organisation has been formed in the nearby town of Armawir, where people are slaughtered and are turned into sausages and cutlets, to be sold for food . . . full text plus other letters
Full text articles by Gareth Jones, Malcolm Muggeridge and Walter Duranty are here
(Jones' dispatches from Nazi Germany are a must read...he flew with Hitler to a Nuremberg rally)
This is an important issue as elections are coming up in Russia. Americans deserve to know who is doing what and what the possible effect on us will be. But the New York Times has it ass-backwards. The sickest part is the rest of the media will report the Times' misinformation as fact.
Jones was a thorough and honest reporter; it's nice to see him getting the respect he deserves.
Perhaps when things settle down a little, you could start a discussion about Richard Sorge. This portion of history is being ignored in the classrooms, and much of what we're dealing with today has roots in these important pieces of history.
I was struck by this line in the UPI story:
You can expect to be branded as a liar in the most prestigious newspaper in the United States
The more things change, the more they stay the same.