Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]

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The Western Mail, Cardiff, 15 October 1932

Will there be Soup?

Russia Dreads the Coming Winter 

by Gareth Jones 

“Will there be soup?” That is a question which the men and women of the Soviet Union are asking anxiously, dreadingly (sic), when they think of the rigours of the coming Russian winter. It is a question which is being asked, not only in Communist Russia, but also in Capitalistic America: but in Russia the voices of the questioners are fraught with greater fear, because the harvest is failed and the food is not there. 

I have before me a copy of the Izvestia, the organ of the Soviet Government, a newspaper which often openly criticises failures in the Five-Year Plan.  This is what I read in the number of October 5th, in an article on the Donetz Basin (the Glamorgan of Russia) which produces coal, iron and steel: 

In the shops of Makeysvka [Makeyevka] (the Pontypridd of the Soviet Union) the wives of the workers are waiting for vegetables.  Now and then a loaded lorry passes by. A thin autumn rain is falling monotonously.  The housewife waits … The shop attendant tries to calm her.  “Now don't get excited comrade housewife!”  But she looks at a empty basket, thinks of the winter, thinks of the cabbage, potatoes and tomatoes and asks one question:  “Will there be soup?” 

In the Countryside 

That is the Soviet Government's greatest problem in the last year of the Five-Year Plan which ends on December 31st

Why is there little soup?  Why is meat short?  Why is bread beginning to be rationed again?  

In search of answers to these questions I went to the Russian countryside, talked to numerous peasants in the Russian language, lived in a wooden huts and slept on their bug infested floors. 

I used to take a train, not knowing my destination, drop out at some small station and walk for miles until I was in Real Russia.  And then I learned from the mouths of the peasants themselves why there is not enough soup.  It was quite a different picture from that which the Communist had painted to me in Moscow.  A keen, well-built young Bolshevik said to me in the Commissariat of Agriculture: 

“Under the Five-Year Plan we are going to socialise agriculture.  We're going to sweep away the private farmer.  By the end of the plan no peasants will own land anymore.  The villages will be turned into collective farms where land and the cows and the horses and the pigs will be owned in common and the land ploughed in common by tractors. Private property is a curse and we will abolish it in the villages.  Our new methods are increasing harvests and are producing a happy and healthy countryside.” 

Peasants Questions 

It was certainly not a healthy and happy countryside that I found when, after a long tramp across fields; I marched at night into the village near the Volga about 1000 miles from where the well-built young Communist had talked to me.  

The sun had set in a deep red glow: below the steppes which stretched away to the East had grown blacker and gloomier.  I saw a light in a window of a wooden hut, knocked, went inside and saw a group of shaggy, rough peasants 

They stared at me in amazement and soon all gathered around.  “Where did I come from? Was it true that there would be a Bolshevik Revolution in England? Could one get meat in America?  Would I stay in one of the huts? 

They bustled around me with questions and offered hospitality.  Before long I was seated in a simple peasant’s hut, and talking to the peasant’s wife with ragged, blotchy-face children crawling and running about. 

“Is there enough food in Russia?”, I asked.  She grew excited and said: “Of course, there isn't.  How could there be?  They've taken the land from us to make these Communist collective farms.  We want our own land and look what they've done to our cows.  My husband and I had a fine cow.  They took it away and put all the cows of the village together and now cow is thin and scraggy and we don't get enough milk.” 

Collective Farming 

There was a rap at the door.  In came a handsome blackheaded peasant with flashing eyes and prominent white teeth.  He hesitated to talk first of all, but soon had confidence and said:  “It's a dog's life now, ever since they've forced us into collective farms.  1926 and 1927 were fine years when we still had our own land.  But it will be better to be under the earth than to live now.  Land, cow and bread they've taken away from us.  Nearly all our grain-and it was little enough-has been carted away and sent to the towns and we're afraid to speak.  What will we do during the winter?”  He ended with a groan of despair 

That is what I heard from the mouths of peasants in many parts of Russia.  “Why should we work?” they asked, “When our land and cow have been taken away from us.  Give us our land back.” Therefore they do not cultivate the land so thoroughly. 

- - - -

[Quoted in the Western Mail was also a] Times telegram from Riga:  “As a result of increased food difficulties the Soviet authorities have decided to reduce the rations of certain grades of professors and scientists by about 25 percent.” 

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