The London Evening Standard, March 31st, 1933
FAMINE RULES RUSSIA
- - -
The 5-year Plan Has Killed the Bread Supply.
By GARETH JONES.
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Mr. Jones is one of Mr. Lloyd George’s private secretaries. He has just returned from an extensive tour on foot in Soviet Russia. He speaks Russian fluently - and here is the terrible story the peasants told him.
A few day sago I stood in a worker’s cottage outside Moscow. A father and a son, the father, a Russian skilled worker in a Moscow factory and the son a member of the Young Communist League, stood glaring at one another.
The father trembling with excitement, lost control of himself and shouted at his Communist son. It is terrible now. We workers are starving. Look at Chelyabinsk where I once worked. Disease there is carrying away numbers of us workers and the little food there is uneatable. That is what you have done to our Mother Russia.
The son cried back: “But look at the giants of industry which we have built. Look at the new tractor works. Look at the Dniepostroy. That has construction has been worth suffering for.”
“Construction indeed!” Was the father's reply: “What’s the use of construction when you have destroyed all that’s best in Russia?”
What that worker said at least 96 per cent. of the people of Russia are thinking. There has been construction, but, in the act of building, all that was best in Russia has disappeared. The main result of the Five Year Plan has been the tragic ruin of Russian agriculture. This ruin I saw in its grim reality. I tramped through a number of villages in the snow of March. I saw children with swollen bellies. I slept in peasants’ huts, sometimes nine of us in one room. I talked to every peasant I met, and the general conclusion I draw is that the present state of Russian agriculture is already catastrophic but that in a year’s time its condition will have worsened tenfold.
What did the peasants say? There was one cry which resounded everywhere I went and that was: “There is no bread.” The other sentence, which as the leitmotiv of my Russian visit was: “All are swollen.” Even within a few miles of Moscow there is no bread left. As I was going through the countryside in that district I chatted to several women who were trudging with empty sacks towards Moscow. They all said: “It is terrible. We have no bread. We have to go all the way to Moscow to get bread and then they will only give us four pounds, which costs three roubles (six shillings nominally). How can a poor man live?”
“Have you potatoes?” I asked. Every peasant I asked nodded negatively with sadness.
“What about your cows?” was the next question. To the Russian peasant the cow means wealth, food and happiness. It is almost the centre-point upon which his life gravitates.
“The cattle have nearly all died. How can we feed the cattle when we have only fodder to eat ourselves?”
“And your horses?” was the question I asked in every village I visited. The horse is now a question of life and death, for without a horse how can one plough? And if one cannot plough, how can one sow for the next harvest? And if one cannot sow for the next harvest, then death is the only prospect in the future.
The reply spelled doom for most of the villages. The peasants said: “Most of our horses have died and we have so little fodder that the remaining ones all scraggy and ill.”
If it is grave now and if millions are dying in the villages, as they are, for I did not visit a single village where many had not died, what will it be like in a month’s time? The potatoes left are being counted one by one, but in so many homes the potatoes have long run out. The beet, once used as cattle fodder may run out in many huts before the new food comes in June, July and August, and many have not even beet.
The situation is graver than in 1921, as all peasants stated emphatically. In that year there was famine in several great regions but in most parts the peasants could live. It was a localised famine, which had many millions of victims, especially along Volga. But today the famine is everywhere, in the formerly rich Ukraine, in Russia, in Central Asia, in North Caucasia - everywhere.
Child Beggars in Moscow
What of the towns? Moscow as yet does not look so stricken, and no one staying in Moscow would have an inkling of what is going on in the countryside, unless he could talk to the peasants who have come hundreds and hundreds of miles to the capital to look for bread. The people in Moscow warmly clad, and many of the skilled workers, who have their warm meal every day at the factory, are well fed. Some of those who earn very good salaries, or who have special privileges, look even, well dressed, but the vast majority of the unskilled workers are feeling the pinch.
I talked to a worker who was hauling a heavy wooden trunk. “It is terrible now” he said. “ I get two pounds of bread a day and it is rotten bread. I get no meat, no eggs, no butter. Before the war I used, to get a lot of meat and it was cheap. But I haven’t had meat for a year. Eggs were only a kopeck each before the war, but now they are a great luxury. I get a little soup, but it is not enough to live on.”
And now a new dread visits the Russian worker. That is unemployment. In the last few months very many thousands have been dismissed from factories in many parts of the Soviet. Union. I asked one unemployed man what happened to him. He replied: “We are treated like cattle. We are told to get away, and we get no bread card. How can I live? I used to get a pound of bread a day for all my family, but now there is no bread card. I have to leave the city and make my way out into the countryside where there is also no bread.”
The Five-Year Plan has built many fine factories. But it is bread that makes factory wheels go round, and the Five-Year Plan has destroyed the bread-supplier of Russia.
As a publicity trailer, advertising the above article, the Evening Standard published on the previous day (March 30th 1933), the following :
Russia as It is
Mr. GARETH JONES, one of Mr. Lloyd George’s private secretaries, has just returned to London after an extensive tour on foot in Soviet Russia.
He will give a vivid account of his experiences in a special article in the “Evening Standard” to-morrow.
Mr. Jones, who speaks Russian fluently, is the first foreigner to visit the Russian countryside since the Soviet confined foreign correspondents to the city of Moscow.