COMMENTARY by Pat Buchanan
The Washington Times, Washington, D.C.
Section: A, Edition: 2, Page: A21
September 20, 1993
This September one of the great horrors in history, Stalin's "Terror Famine"
in which 1 in 4 of the men, women and children of rural Ukraine were starved
to death, as a matter of state policy, is being memorialized.
In that terrible winter of '32-'33, 60 years ago now, Malcolm Muggeridge,
then a dedicated young socialist, had come to Moscow to cover the brave new
world in which he had come to believe. Hearing of starvation in Ukraine,
disbelieving the party would tolerate such a horror, he bought a train
ticket and traveled to Kiev and Rostov.
What he saw terminated his affair with communism.
"The famine," Mr. Muggeridge wrote in shock, "is an organized one." More
than that, it is "a military occupation; worse, active war."
Stalin's objective: break Ukraine. His strategy: requisition all grain, send
in troops to search cellars and remove hoarded food, make certain the
peasants did not escape their famished towns and villages. With the
Russia-Ukraine border sealed, the starving could not escape the barren land,
and food to save them could not get in.
Stalin's motives for this crime of the century: He was paranoid about the
nationalities, especially Ukrainians. His party nourished a class hatred for
"kulaks," i.e, "rich" farmers who owned 25 acres or three cows; he needed
scapegoats for his failed harvests. Despising the peasantry for their
attachment to old ways and old values, he wanted to collectivize all food
supplies, to guarantee that the army and urban proletariat he feared, and
needed to defend and industrialize his state, were fed . As the dying Roman
emperor told his son: Pay the soldiers, the rest do not matter.
So began what historian Robert Conquest would call "The Terror Famine" and
the world's "Forgotten Holocaust."
In "Stalin's Apologist," biographer S.J. Taylor describes the reaction of
Mr. Muggeridge, Arthur Koestler and other honorable men, as well as that of
her subject, the corrupt and odious Walter Duranty of the New York Times:
"In Kuban well-fed troops were being used to control and coerce peasants who
were in many cases starving to death. The supplies of grain sent into the
area were being used to feed the troops who, along with party activists,
were still searching barns and cellars for hidden grain or hoarded food.
Meanwhile, Muggeridge reported, there were `fields choked with weeds, cattle
dead, people starving and dispirited, no horses for ploughing or
transportation, not even adequate supplies of seed for the spring sowing.' "
To Mr. Koestler, who spent the winter in Kharkov, then Ukraine's capital,
the children looked like "embryos out of alcohol bottles." Traveling by rail
was "like running the gantlet; the stations were lined with begging peasants
with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows
horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs, swollen
Mr. Koestler found the local press full of reports about industrial
progress, but "not one word about the local famine epidemics, the dying out
of whole villages. . . . The enormous land was covered with a blanket of
The blanket of silence covered a country, wrote Mr. Conquest, that had
become one vast concentration camp with a "quarter of the rural population,
men, women and children" dead or dying of hunger in the streets.
Overseeing this act of genocide was Stalin's "chained cur and toady" (Nikita
Khrushchev's phrase), Lazar Kaganovich, who died just two years ago in
peaceful retirement in Moscow, though, in the judgment of historian Roy
Medvedev he had "on his conscience quite as many crimes as there were on the
consciences of the Nazis hanged in 1946 at Nuremberg."
What was the reaction of the West to the deliberate starvation of millions
in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the Caucuses? Dead silence. As the famine was
coming to an end, the new U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt, was extending
a warm hand of recognition to the monster who instructed Kaganovich to carry
Why did America not protest? Why did we not help?
Because America did not know. And high among the reasons we did not was that
Walter Duranty, dean of correspondents in Moscow, lied for Stalin. Mr.
Duranty was a "fashionable prostitute" who "covered up the horrors and
deluded an entire generation by prettyfying Soviet realities," said Joe
Alsop, "He lived comfortably in Moscow, too, by courtesy of the KGB."
For 14 years, Mr. Duranty's was the most authoritative voice from Moscow.
When editors asked if there was starvation, he wrote back: "There is no
actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is a widespread
mortality from diseases due to malnutrition."
"The famine is mostly bunk," he wrote a colleague.
Mr. Duranty's work won him a Pulitzer in 1932 for "dispassionate
interpretive reporting of the news from Russia." Fifty years later, Time put
the total number of deaths from the terror famine Walter Duranty had covered
up at between 8 million and 10 million souls.
On this 60th anniversary of the Forgotten Holocaust, the New York Times
would do well to renounce Duranty's Pulitzer, apologize to the people of
Ukraine, and admit on Page One what the world now knows: Its famous
correspondent Walter Duranty was, to borrow from Khrushchev, nothing but the
"cur and toady" of Joseph Stalin.
Patrick Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist.
The Washington Times, for personal and academic use only