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Epoch Times (New York) | 28Nov2011 | Gary Feuerberg

Due Recognition Sought for Reporter of 1930s Ukraine Famine

Welsh journalist Gareth Jones may have been murdered for interviewing starving peasants

WASHINGTON -- The great famine in the Ukraine in 1932-1933 -- called the Holodomor -- is known by relatively few people. This was a man-made famine during Joseph Stalin’s rein where an estimated 6 million - 10 million people, mostly Ukrainian peasants, were left to starve to death as the world was kept in the dark. 

Even less known than this atrocity, was the role that the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones played in revealing it.

Behind the story of Gareth Jones and the reporting of the famine is the world press corps that suppressed the truth and “forgot” the man most responsible for exposing the Holodomor.

To tell this story, the grandnephew of Jones, Nigel Linsan Colley, spoke as a guest of the National Press Club’s Newsmaker on Nov. 21, 2011. He assisted his mother, Margaret Siriol Colley, and Jones’s niece in the writing of two books on Gareth Jones.

Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones was a Wales Englishman, born on Aug. 12, 1905. After graduating from Trinity College-Cambridge in 1929, he went to work for Lloyd George, the former British Prime Minister (1916-22), as a “foreign affairs adviser.” Jones was fluent in Russian, German, and French, which served him well as a foreign correspondent.

As the “eyes and ears” of Lloyd George, many doors opened for the young man around the globe, enabling him to meet powerful people, including Adolf Hitler whom he interviewed and accompanied on a flight from Berlin to Frankfurt.

The foreign press reporter Eugene Lyons acknowledged that Jones provided the first reliable report of the Russian famine in his 1937 book, Assignment in Utopia, in which he described him: “An earnest and meticulous little man, Gareth Jones was the sort who carries a notebook and unashamedly records your words as you talk.”

Jones also meticulously kept diaries of his travels, which were only discovered in 1990 when his elder sister’s home was being cleared out by his niece.

Communist Collectivization

Between 1930 and 1933, Jones visited the Soviet Union on three occasions and after each, he wrote articles for a number of newspapers regarding conditions he observed resulting from Stalin’s Five-Year Plan.

The strategic goal of the first Five-Year Plan (1928–33) was to accelerate industrialization, based on Stalin’s notion that Russia was backward and needed to catch up with the West. The communist aim was to force peasants into collective farms. Stalin had said the “state needed to seize grain for export to finance expansion of mining and manufacturing output,” writes Robert Service in his biography Stalin. The policy was ruthlessly applied. 

“Nothing less than a hysterical campaign to collect and sell wheat abroad would satisfy [Stalin],” wrote Service. 

This policy brought about disruptions to the economy and starvation in Ukraine, south Russia, and Kazakhstan.

President Obama paid tribute to the victims of the famine on Ukrainian Holodomor Remembrance Day in November 2009:

“[In 1933] millions of innocent Ukrainians … starved to death as a result of the deliberate policies of the regime of Joseph Stalin … From 1932 to 1933, the Ukrainian people suffered horribly during what has become known as the Holodomor -- ‘death by hunger’ -- due to the Stalin regime’s seizure of crops and farms across Ukraine.”

Eyewitness to Ukraine Famine

During Jones’ first trip to Russia (in the 1930s, the U.S.S.R was referred to as Russia) in 1930, he wrote three articles for the London Times, which were unsigned, where he described the onset of famine conditions in the U.S.S.R. 

He returned again in 1931. “Sleeping in bug-infested floors of the Soviet peasantry,” he said he experienced the further worsening of starvation in Ukraine. He learned from several sources that hunger was severe in southern Russia and that famine was already a reality in the Ukraine. In October 1932, Jones wrote articles for a Welsh newspaper, “Will There Be Soup?” in which he predicted a bleak Soviet winter. 

Jones knew, however, that to be credible he needed to see the famine with his own eyes. The Soviet censors would always deny its existence.

On March 5, 1933, Jones arrived in Moscow. After five days interviewing diplomats and journalists, Jones slipped out of Moscow and left by train for the Ukraine. 

He chose to travel third-class in order to encounter ordinary Soviet citizens. 

Colley quoted from Jones’s diary: “Boy on train asking for bread. I dropped a small piece of bread on floor and put it in a spittoon. Peasant came and picked it up and ate it.” 

Later in the diary, Jones says: “Man speaking German, same story. ‘Tell them in England, Starving, bellies extended. Hunger.’”

Journalists were officially banned from leaving Moscow, and so Jones left the train and crossed the border on foot into Ukraine. “For two days, he walked along the railway line and stopped off in several villages along the way talking to the inhabitants and again sleeping rough in their dwellings,” said Colley. 

“Everywhere I talked to peasants who walked past, they all had the same story: “There is no bread -- we haven’t had bread for over 2 months -- a lot are dying,” says Jones’s diary. 

Jones returned to Berlin and held a news conference March 29, 1933, where he exposed the famine. The press release included examples Jones had recorded in his diaries. Because of his position with Lloyd George his allegations were given credence, said Colley.

Denial of Famine By Foreign Press

However, two days later, in the New York Times, Walter Duranty, a U.S. correspondent, 1932 Pulitzer Prize Winner, and a friend to the Soviet government, denied there was a famine. His rebuttal is a classic example of deception by the use of understatement. 

In Duranty’s article, “Russians Hungry But Not Starving,” he says, “There is serious food shortage throughout the country with occasional cases of well-managed state or collective farms. … There is no actual starvation or death from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition …”

To respond to the denial, Jones wrote in a letter to the New York Times, “The Soviet 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.’”

However, the Western correspondents in Moscow closed ranks and went along with the Duranty deception. They knew Duranty was writing for the Soviet censors. Lyon said, “Inside Russia, the matter was not disputed. The famine was accepted as a matter of course in our casual conversation at the hotels and in our homes.”

The catch for the foreign press was that if they did not go along with the Communist fiction, they would be denied access in the Soviet Union. Duranty was rewarded on Christmas Day 1933 with an interview with Stalin himself, who told him he had done a good job in reporting on the U.S.S.R., according to Duranty.

“Gareth’s revelations had embarrassed both the Americans and the Soviets, who were engaged in negotiations toward establishing diplomatic recognition between the two countries. Gareth’s reward was to be banished from the international journalistic scene from more than a year,” said Colley.

Jones was blacklisted by the Soviet police, barred from entering the Soviet Union, and even accused of espionage, which amused him when he heard about it. 

In December 1934, Jones traveled across the United States and delivered a speech where he stated, “The exile of five million Kulaks was one of the most brutal crimes in European history.” Colley said that this statement would have been noted in Moscow.

Jones died mysteriously, said Colley, who edited and published his mother’s book, A Manchukuo Incident, which is about the particulars of his death. Jones was making a tour of the Far East in 1935, with one of his aims to learn the intentions of Imperial Japan’s military. He was kidnapped by Chinese bandits in Japanese-controlled territory, and 16 days afterward was suspiciously murdered in Inner Mongolia, the day before his 30th birthday.

After the book was written, it was pointed out to Colley the possibility that Jones’s death was the work of Soviet intelligence. Indeed, Colley has reached that conclusion and provides much evidence in support.

Colley’s website, www.garethjones.org, dedicated to Gareth Jones, lists his articles and contains much valuable information.