The prize for broad-handed exaggeration goes to William Randolph Hearst, in his recent radio broadcast on proletarian Russia, the substance of which is now being “plugged” by the Hearst publications.
His papers apprise the entire world in big letters that “between five and ten million Russians starved to death in 1933, the same number starved to death in 1934, and an equal number are expected to starve to death this year.”
So much falsehood, deliberate and innocent, has surrounded the figures on the Soviet famine that a cold statement of the few known facts may be in place. It amounts, at best, to an estimate.
To begin with, the famine got under way in the last months of 1932 and reached its most disastrous point in the Spring of 1933. With the new harvest that Summer and Autumn, the famine was over. In stretching it over 1934 as wellâ€”and into 1935 as a prophecyâ€”Hearst let his enthusiasm get the better of his arithmetic.
As to the casualties in the one famine year: the highest estimate which I heard in Russia from Communist and non-Communist sources alike was seven million. The lowest was one million. One guess is almost as good as another within those two figures.
William Henry Chamberlin places it at four million. A better known American correspondent, upon returning from the famine area, placed the deaths due directly or indirectly to food short-age at between five and seven millions. A famous pro-Soviet lecturer on Russia, who visited the affected area in recent months declares that Communists there no longer deny that famine and estimate the dead at “several millions.”
That is as much as anyone outside of the highest Soviet circles know. Of course, if the authorities were not so anxious to hide the true state of affairs, it would be easy enough to check up. One need only compare the death rate for the region in the famine months with the normal death rate.
But vital statistics, once freely published by the Soviet authorities, have in the last years been made a State secret. Even the statistics of marriage and divorce have, for some mysterious reason, been put into the same class with war secrets and famine figures.
SOVIET DENIALS BAD TACTICS
The Hearst organs have not only expanded the figure but have refused to admit that the famine covered a definite period of time and has been over since the Autumn of 1933. The mystery in which that tragic episode has been shrouded by the Soviet authorities, the lengths to which they went to deny a major disaster which was generally known, are partly responsible for the exaggerations now afloat.
From the point of view of the Kremlin itself, it would now seem, it would have been wiser to be less vehement in denials. They did not succeed in concealing the facts. They succeeded only in postponing their dissemination. For this they have paid with a loss of world confidence. The formal and repeated denials of the great famine of 1932-33 stands as perhaps the greatest official fib on the records of our epoch. Next time some general report is vehemently contradicted by the Moscow regime, and the world tends to dis##gard the vehemence, whose #ault will it be?
A COMMUNIST SNEER
Whose fault? Mine perhaps. At a cocktail party recently I made the mistake of a polite hello to a Communist leader. What I got for my pains was a sneering frown, or maybe a frowning sneer.
“I suppose now you’re happy,” he managed to sputter.
“What about?” I asked innocently.
“Huhâ€”this barrage of attack on the #oviets,” said he.
“On the contrary,” I assured him, “I’m distressed that Russia is giving cause for it.”
He strode off with a remark the purport of which was that I, single-handed, had loosed the said barrage. The famine, the recent executions, the detailed stories by escaped hostagesâ€”these had nothing to do with it.
Jan Czynski, born of Jewish parents and himself a zealous defender of the Jews, served as chief of staff to General Szczeptycki in the Polish revolt of 1830.