by Arnold Beichman, The Weekly Standard
Washington, D.C., Thursday, June 12, 2003
AT LONG LAST a Pulitzer Prize committee is looking into the possibility that
the Pulitzer awarded to Walter Duranty, the New York Times Moscow
correspondent whose dispatches covered up Stalin's infamies, might be
In order to assist in their researches, I am downloading here some of the
lies contained in those dispatches, lies which the New York Times has never
repudiated with the same splash as it accorded Jayson Blair's comparatively
"There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be."
--New York Times, Nov. 15, 1931, page 1
"Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant
--New York Times, August 23, 1933
"Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please. Weaklings and
despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength
of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin's program,
believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding."
--New York Times, December 9, 1932, page 6
"You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs."
--New York Times, May 14, 1933, page 18
"There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is
widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition."
--New York Times, March 31, 1933, page 13
I would like to add another Duranty quote, not in his dispatches, which is
reported in a memoir by Zara Witkin, a Los Angeles architect, who lived in
the Soviet Union during the 1930s. ("An American Engineer in Stalin's
Russia: The Memoirs of Zara Witkin, 1932-1934," University of California
Press ). The memoirist describes an evening during which the Moscow
correspondents were discussing how to get out the story about the
Stalin-made Russian famine. To get around the censorship, the UP's Eugene
Lyons was telephoning the dire news of the famine to his New York office but
the was ordered to stop because it was antagonizing the Kremlin. Ralph
Barnes, the New York Herald Tribune reporter, turned to Duranty and asked
him what he was going to write. Duranty replied:
"Nothing. What are a few million dead Russians in a situation like this?
Quite unimportant. This is just an incident in the sweeping historical
changes here. I think the entire matter is exaggerated."
And this was at a time when peasants in Ukraine were dying of starvation at
the rate of 25,000 a day.
In his masterwork about Stalin's imposed famine on Ukraine, "Harvest of
Sorrow," Robert Conquest has written:
"As one of the best known correspondents in the world for one of the best
known newspapers in the world, Mr. Duranty's denial that there was a famine
was accepted as gospel. Thus Mr. Duranty gulled not only the readers of the
New York Times but because of the newspaper's prestige, he influenced the
thinking of countless thousands of other readers about the character of
Josef Stalin and the Soviet regime. And he certainly influenced the
newly-elected President Roosevelt to recognize the Soviet Union."
What is so awful about Duranty is that Times top brass suspected that
Duranty was writing Stalinist propaganda, but did nothing. In her exposé
"Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty, the New York Times's man in Moscow,"
S.J. Taylor makes it clear that Carr Van Anda, the managing editor,
Frederick T. Birchall, an assistant managing editor, and Edwin L. James, the
later managing editor, were troubled with Duranty's Moscow reporting but did
nothing about it. Birchall recommended that Duranty be replaced but, says
Taylor, "the recommendation fell by the wayside."
When Duranty of his own volition decided to become a special correspondent
on a retainer basis for the New York Times, the newspaper published an
editorial reassuring its readers that his reputation as "the most
outstanding correspondent of an American newspaper during all the years of
his faithful and brilliant work at Moscow will remain unimpaired in the
slightest degree by the change now made." This about a man whom Malcolm
Muggeridge, the Manchester Guardian correspondent and Duranty's
contemporary, described as "the greatest liar of any journalist I have met
in fifty years of journalism."
Duranty was one of a gaggle of Stalin's intellectual admirers. Muggeridge,
whose centennial we celebrate this summer, wrote about them in these
"Wise old [Bernard]Shaw, high-minded old [Henri]Barbusse, the venerable
[Sidney and Beatrice] Webbs, [Andre] Gide the pure in heart and [Pablo]
Picasso the impure, down to poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and
millionaires, driveling dons and very special correspondents like Duranty,
all resolved, come what might, to believe anything, however preposterous, to
overlook nothing, however villainous, to approve anything, however
obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve
intact the confident expectation that one of the most thorough-going,
ruthless and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on earth could be relied on to
champion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good
liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives. ("Chronicles of
Wasted Time," pages 275- 276.)"
Let's all give a great encouraging cheer to the Pulitzer committee for
undertaking a task 70 years late. And perhaps the Times will now a look back
at the Herbert L. Matthews coverage of Cuba and the man he so admired,
Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for
the Washington Times, Washington, D.C.
The Weekly Standard, Washington, D.C., Thursday, June 12, 2003
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/791vwuaz.asp; Letters to the Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
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