By Martin Sieff, UPI Senior News Analyst
United Press International, Washington, D.C., June 12, 2003
WASHINGTON, June 12 (UPI) -- What can you expect if you fearlessly expose
the systematic, genocidal murder of 10 million people?
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. And you can even 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 expose
in the United States and the first signed articles in Britain of Josef
Stalin's deliberately imposed famine in the Ukraine in 1933.
In the exhausted grayness of a 1920s Britain pulverized by a million dead
young men from World War I, Jones shone out for his decency and promise.
A graduate of Cambridge University with first class honors in French, German
and Russian, he worked as foreign affairs adviser to former British Prime
Minister David Lloyd George, the only prominent British politician of the
time with the vision to end the appalling destitution and economic
depression of Britain's 1920s and early '30s. A safe, bright future
But Jones wanted to see the world, and indeed he did. Fluent in Russian, he
became a productive and rising young journalist. Writing for the Western
Mail in his native Wales, the Times of London, the Manchester Guardian and
the Berliner Tageblatt in Germany, he proved prescient on many issues
including the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany and the machinations of
Imperial Japan's senior army commanders to seize and pillage vast realms of
On March 29, 1933, right after Malcolm Muggeridge's three unsigned articles
exposing the famine first ran in Britain's Guardian, young Jones -- he was
only 28 years old -- gave a press conference in Berlin with far wider
impact, especially in the United States, exposing the scale and depth of
sufferings caused by the famine.
In a report that day carried across the United States by the Evening Post
News Service, Jones, said, "Everywhere was the cry, 'There is no bread. We
are dying.' This cry came from every part of Russia, from the Volga,
Siberia, White Russia, the North Caucasus and Central Asia.
"A foreign expert returning from Kazakhstan told me that one million out of
five million there have died of hunger. I can well believe it. 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."
Walter Duranty, the veteran Moscow correspondent of The New York Times,
whose admirers ranged from H.L. Mencken and Walter Lippmann to President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, responded only two days later in the pages of his
august publication. Far more than anything disgraced former Times reporter
Jayson Blair wrote, it was arguably the most infamous piece of reporting or
analysis ever to appear in that great paper.
Duranty, an 11-year veteran of Moscow who had won the Pulitzer Prize the
previous year, disparaged Jones as having made a "somewhat hasty" judgment
on the basis of "a 40-mile walk through villages near Kharkov" where he "had
found conditions sad."
Having dismissed the conditions that in fact led to the deaths of 10 million
men, women and children as merely "sad," Duranty went on to explained that
"you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." He explicitly stated
"there is no famine."
On May 13, The New York Times published Jones' rebuttal of Duranty's
article. He had visited, he said, many villages in the Moscow area as well
as the Ukraine and also in the rich "black earth" lands of the North
Caucasus. He had amassed evidence from "between 20 to 30 consuls and
diplomatic representatives of various nations and ... their evidence
supported my point of view." And he had talked with hundreds of peasants in
those regions. The Soviet propaganda machine in Moscow meanwhile worked
overtime to brand Jones a liar.
Jones' passion for adventure, justice and, most dangerous of all, the truth
was unabated by his Ukraine-Moscow experience. Two years later, still in his
20s, he traveled extensively through northern China and Inner Mongolia
exposing the machinations of the Japanese Army to seize full control of the
most populous nation on earth. And there he was murdered by Chinese bandits,
possibly linked with the Soviet secret police, the OGPU or, more likely, to
senior Japanese army officers.
Jones was long mourned by his family and close friends but otherwise he was
forgotten. Indeed, Malcolm Muggeridge, the other British journalist who had
done the most to expose the famine, gave him no acknowledgement, even though
Jones had generously praised Muggeridge's three unsigned articles in his own
New York Times response to Duranty.
Indeed, Pye, Muggeridge's "truth-sayer" character in his novel "Winter in
Moscow", published in 1934, is depicted in many respects as the mirror
opposite of Jones. He is old where Jones was young, cynical where Jones was
idealistic and a hard drinker and chain smoker where Jones was a teetotaler.
It is as if Muggeridge, a cynic, smoker and chronic drinker himself, was
driven to expurgate the very image of Jones, even though he had written him
a letter of support during the controversy.
And even when Muggeridge wrote his phenomenally successful memoirs
"Chronicles of Wasted Time" 40 years later, with his coverage of the famine
as its highlight, he airbrushed Jones out of existence and gave him no
credit at all. Muggeridge even misrepresented Duranty's notorious March 31
article as if it had been written to rebut his three previous Manchester
Guardian articles when Duranty never referred to them once, and made clear
it was Jones' article he was seeking to refute.
By contrast, Muggeridge's own sympathetic but honorable biographer, Richard
Ingrams, acknowledged Jones' role in his book "Muggeridge" as did historian
Robert Conquest in "Harvest of Sorrow," his classic work documenting the
Last week, the 100th anniversary of Muggeridge's birth was celebrated with
pomp and panoply at London's famed Garrick Club. Jones' niece, Margaret
Siriol Colley, attended it. But in his native Britain and in the United
States, where his reports played such a pioneering role in revealing the
unprecedented and monstrous extent of Soviet communist crimes under Joseph
Stalin, Jones remains almost forgotten.
Almost, but not quite. For the Ukrainian people have not forgotten Gareth
Jones. His early classic reports on the famine can be found on the Website
of the Ukrainian Weekly in its special section devoted to remembering the
famine and honoring its myriad victims, at www.artukraine.com created by
Morgan Williams and at www.colley.co.uk/garethjones created by Nigel
Colley, Jones' great-nephew.
In this season of Jayson Blair, it is well to remember that journalism is an
honorable and necessary profession and that its practitioners include the
most admirable heroes. Gareth Jones, who risked so much for no material
gain and public ridicule and who paid the ultimate price while still in the
flower of his youth, deserves to rank high among their august number.
Among his many other outlets, Gareth Jones wrote for the Hearst
International News Service, which after World War II merged with the
United Press to form United Press International. Here at UPI we are proud
to acclaim him as a Unipresser. One of our own.
United Press International, Washington, D.C., Thursday, June 12, 2003
For Personal and Academic Use Only