Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]

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Tell Them We Are Starving

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Gareth Jones – The Pen is Mightier than the Hammer & Sickle

[Pictured are Lubomyr Luciuk & Nigel Colley]

Speech by Nigel Linsan Colley

at Aberystwyth University, 2nd May 2006

Gareth Jones’ remarkable life almost reads like an epic Greek tragedy – he was indeed a solitary beacon of light illuminating the darkness of a tumultuous world of evil tyranny. 

His innate goodness stemmed from his devout Welsh, non-conformist roots; he was instilled with clear black and white values of right and wrong. So, wherever he saw injustices he felt compelled to confront them with the might of his pen… 

From his humble beginnings in Barry, his star was always destined to become meteoric through his thirst for knowledge and understanding of the world around him.

After three formative years in Aberystwyth, he gained a scholarship at Cambridge in 1926, where he was a contemporary of the likes of Anthony Blunt and Alistair Cooke. Unfazed by the privileges of wealth that surrounded him, he continued to shine academically whilst socially making influential friends for the future. 

In the depths of the 1930s depression he secured employment as a foreign affairs advisor within the secretariat of then the Welsh wizard, David Lloyd George.  This was the opportunity of a lifetime, giving him an automatic direct entrée into the world of the high and mighty.  

In 1931, he was sought after by the world’s largest Public Relations firm in New York to be their expert on Soviet Affairs and it was through his work he acted as an independent USSR tour guide to a young Jack Heinz of ketchup family fame. It was on this trip that Gareth and Heinz got well off the official beaten track and slept on bug-infested floors of Ukrainian peasants and witnessed the onset of a famine. In early 1932, Gareth’s diary notes were privately published by Heinz in which they documented on no fewer than half a dozen occasions the word ‘starving’, in his first attempt to alert the western world to the terrible agricultural situation. Historically, this was actually the first western published account of the Holodomor. 

His prophesies were to no avail, as back in London with Lloyd George in autumn 1932, the rumours of a Soviet famine were  the talk of every informed source of Gareth, but this news was being wickedly suppressed and censored by the Soviet propaganda machine. Realising that his two articles in the Cardiff Western Mail entitled “Will there be Soup” would not suffice, Gareth’s sense of human morality was invoked and he decided that he must bravely witness the famine firsthand in order to bring greater authenticity to his allegations. 

Immediately on arrival back in the West from the USSR, he held a press conference and by the following day his famine story was internationally out… Gareth even rebuked his old employer, stating "The situation is so grave, so much worse than in 1921 that I am amazed at your admiration for Stalin."  

But unfortunately the coterie of Moscow foreign correspondents refused to back up a story they clearly knew to be true, for fear of angering the Soviet Press Censor, whom they were dependent upon for their jobs.  

In order to bury the story, the hatchet job was presented to Walter Duranty of the New York Times, where he brutally portrayed Mr. Jones as being both a scaremonger and a liar. Duranty further stated, "There is no actual starvation or death from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from disease due to malnutrition." 

Notwithstanding, Gareth again put his head above the parapet to challenge Walter Duranty, the then feted doyen of foreign corresponding in a letter to the editor of  New York Times, in which he stood by his original statement:  

"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.” 

He ended his letter stingingly: "May I in conclusion congratulate the Soviet Foreign Office on its skill in concealing the true situation in the USSR? Moscow is not Russia, and the sight of well-fed people there tends to hide the real Russia." 

The personal consequences for Gareth were immediate; he was no longer the blue-eyed boy and was snubbed in every direction including by his childhood hero, Lloyd George. Foreign Commissar Litvinov took the highly unusual step of personally banning Gareth from the USSR by telegram. Gareth’s world had tumbled around him in his pursuit of truth and for a year he was banished to the wilderness. 

But fortune favours the brave, when Gareth interviewed press baron Randolph Hearst at his Welsh castle at St Donats in July 1934, they evidently got on well.  An open invitation was afforded to Gareth to meet Hearst again at his palatial Californian ranch. 

At the ensuing meeting on New Years Day 1935, Gareth was given carte blanche to write some of the most vitriolic articles on the Bolshevik regime at that time. Repeating his observations of the Ukraine famine in 1933, they were both hart-rending and incisively cutting – it was in these articles in which he personally coined the term “man-made famine” and also dared to suggest that the recent murder of Kirov, Stalin’s main politburo rival may well have been at the hands of the Stalin himself. 

To have crossed Stalin once, may be construed as unwise, but twice and under the patronage of Hearst, and with the hindsight of time, one can now see was ultimately to be a fatal mistake. 

Instead of rebutting Gareth directly, this time it appears that the Soviets were clearly more skilful. When Gareth was in communicado, back-packing around the Far East, enter one bogus journalist named Thomas Walker – unbelievably an escaped American convict who hood-winked Hearst into publishing his fantasy account of an unescorted 1934 trip to Ukraine, where he claimed the famine was still prevalent, ably supported by fake photos to boot.  

Soon thereafter, at the simple stroke of a Soviet apologist’s pen, the complete exposure of these fraudulent articles tainted every previous anti-Soviet report of a famine as conservative lies – including Gareth’s and which for the next 70 years were to be entirely forgotten – the deliberate cover-up of an atrocity greater than the Holocaust by the Soviets was now almost complete. 

Four months afterwards, Gareth was kidnapped by bandits in North China and a fortnight later he was dead and to all intensive purposes so was his memory… Gareth had quite simply been airbrushed out of history – Until now… 

For the past twenty years, our family’s relentless unravelling of his death has been a remarkable tale of unearthing subterfuge and smokescreens almost straight out of a spy novel. 

In the aftermath of his death, in a 500-page confidential report the British Foreign Office concluded that allegations by Gareth’s co-captive Dr Mueller that the Japanese had orchestrated his kidnapping as a political incident after coming across Japanese troop movements in Manchuria were open to doubt. Gareth death was put down to the bullet of a miscreant. Never in their entire report did Whitehall even consider Gareth’s Soviet reporting to be a possible cause for his premature murder… 

Recently released Public Records from Kew, which I discovered, show that Gareth was kidnapped from a vehicle belonging to Soviet Secret Police, and that they also had a 34-year confidential dossier detailing Dr Mueller’s Soviet sympathies in China.  One should recall that Mueller was conveniently and quite unusually released unharmed after two days in captivity. The chances then of the Soviet NKVD not being behind Gareth’s murder now look very remote – Gareth had perhaps become the last victim of the Holodomor. 

Gathered here today in remembrance of such a remarkable man, I hope the unveiling of this wonderful plaque will serve as an inspiration to all those who follow in his footsteps, that the truth will out, as Gareth’s pen has proven to be mightier than the hammer and sickle.

However tragic it is to reflect on what the world lost upon his death and what he surely would have achieved, in his noble achievements my great uncle will now be recognised as a true hero of both Wales and Ukraine.


Original Research, Content & Site Design by Nigel Linsan Colley. Copyright © 2001-11 All Rights Reserved Original document transcriptions by M.S. Colley.Click here for Legal Notices.  For all further details email:  Nigel Colley or Tel: (+44)  0796 303  8888