First published in the 1933 Nazi press, the Holodomor genocide myth still endures, serving as a precedent for the propaganda that Ukrainian Nazis are creating today before our eyes.
Editor’s Note: This article comes to us from The Revolution Report. The author list is Slava The Ukrainian Socialist.
No detective can ever solve a crime without studying all of the evidence and trying to stay as objective as possible. Similarly, in knowing history we can’t be confident about what happened without studying the relevant primary sources. The story of the “Holodomor” is one of many disputed cases in modern history. It’s a relatively new term, not just internationally but also in the Ukrainian language, and is made up of two words – “moryty holodom”, which translates as ‘to kill by starvation,” implying that the famine from 1932 to 1933 in Soviet Ukraine was a man-made project that killed millions of Ukrainians. This myth draws together thousands of lies and distorted half-truths. Like a layered onion, the more you peel back the layers, the better your chances of discovering what actually happened. So, let’s peel the first layer: the origin of this particular myth.
It turns out the story began with – surprise! – the nazis. Esteemed journalist Gareth Jones’ March 29th, 1933, press conference in Berlin resulted in a series of articles detailing his discovery of a famine in the Soviet Union. The initial stories made no mention of a genocide. Gareth, writing at that time for the Berliner Tageblatt newspaper in Berlin, had also enjoyed “the privilege” of being the first foreign journalist to fly with Hitler on February 23rd, 1933, less than a month after Hitler was appointed Chancellor. Later that year, a newspaper Hitler owned called the National Observer (Völkischer Beobachter) published an article called – “Hunger hell Soviet Russia – the mass deaths in Soviet Paradise” (original “Hungerhoelle Sowjetrussland – Das Massensterben in Sowjet Paradies”). Douglas Tottle situates this newspaper in the context of a larger information war in his book, Fraud, Famine, and Fascism: “In Germany, a country with a history of strong communist, socialist and trade union movements, the Nazis created the first organized propaganda campaign (1933-1935) as part of their consolidation of power.” Völkischer Beobachter’s myth of a deliberate famine was soon picked up and propagated in the USA by the fascist media tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. His “journalist on the ground” Thomas Walker wrote a series of articles portraying a mammoth famine in Ukraine that claimed an estimated six million lives. Hearst Press published Walker’s work in the Chicago American as well as the New York Evening Journal. It was later proven that Walker had in fact never set foot in Ukraine. He had instead recycled photographs of previous famines, from different places. Louis Fischer thoroughly debunked Walker’s article in an exposé entitled, “Hearst’s Russian Famine,” published by The Nation on March 13th, 1935. Not only had Walker’s Ukrainian reporting been fake, but the man himself was also anotorious fraud. Douglas Tottle revealed the truth about him in “Fraud, Famine, and Fascism” (left).
Even after Walker’s fiasco, America’s number one fascist Mr. Hearst continued his campaign to smear the Soviet Union and perpetuate the myth of what later would become known as the Holodomor. Hearst not only employed Mussolini, but also visited Nazi Germany to meet in person with Hitler. According to an article in Daily Worker from February 13th, 1935 (right), Hearst brokered a one-million-marks-a-year deal with a Nazi propaganda machine. That he published one fake story after another begins to make sense in light of such perverse incentives.
As the famous Russian saying goes “where there is smoke, there is fire,” meaning there is a grain of truth behind every lie. No one disputes that a famine took place in Ukraine between 1932 and 1933. Indeed, throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, most of the world experienced severe economic hardship. In the USA, it took the form of the Great Depression. This period saw many famines around the globe, but because at the time the United States was further developed than the Soviet Union, both industrially and agriculturally, famine there was less widespread. Even as millions suffered horribly and untold numbers died, this misery was never blamed on capitalism or president Hoover personally in the way the Ukrainian famine has been framed as a crime perpetrated by Stalin in the name of “evil” socialism. It is worth remembering the Soviet Union’s economic and geo-political conditions leading up to the famine.
First of all, the country was devastated by tremendous losses from World War I. Then, three weeks after the October Revolution, a coalition of 14 countries led by the US and UK invaded the USSR and committed mass atrocities, slaughtering tens of thousands of civilians. Wikipedia, of course, refers to these crimes with the euphemism, Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. The US and its allies followed up their unsuccessful invasion with crippling sanctions and embargoes on the Soviet Union. For example, because the USSR was barred from trading in gold, agricultural goods became the only option for currency. And yet, despite these obstacles, the Bolsheviks prevailed in improving living conditions for their people. Stalin’s administration delivered on its mission to modernize agriculture and raise living standards. In two decades, the USSR made remarkable strides, as life expectancy doubled from 35 years to 70 years in all of the Soviet territory. And when news of a famine in Ukraine (that is today referred to as the Holodomor) reached Moscow, Stalin immediately dispatched relief aid to the affected areas.
Mark Tauger is an associate professor at the University of West Virginia and specialist in economics and agriculture of the USSR who has conducted extensive research on the history of agriculture and famines in Ukraine. In Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933, Tauger shows that the USSR’s agricultural yield during 1932 was 20-30% lower than on average. In response to this shortfall, the USSR reduced export of its grain to 1%, with 99% reserved for feeding its population. Tauger argues that in 1932 the Soviets in fact developed an effective food distribution system that provided food to over 40 million people. The same year, Stalin sent 5,000 tractors to Ukraine, while thousands more were purchased from abroad. This begs the question, why would Stalin provide 5,000 tractors to Ukraine if his ultimate plan was to starve its inhabitants? The notion that Stalin committed genocide in Ukraine should be taken about as seriously as the joke that the Soviet leader “ate all the grain and paid the clouds not to rain.”
In his work, Tauger reserves particular ire and criticism for fellow American academic and historian James Mace, widely considered the father of the revisionist movement pushing the Holodomor narrative. On September 21st, 1984, U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine was established “to provide American society with a better understanding of the Soviet system by exposing the role of the Soviets in the Ukrainian famine.” Heading this new commission was a man named James Mace. When American historians greeted with skepticism Mace’s unscientific conclusions about the alleged genocide of the Ukrainian people, he decided to go to Ukraine. While visiting Kiev In the 1990s, Mace helped to mint and circulate in Ukraine a new phrase, “post-genocide society.” Before Mace’s visit, Ukrainians generally didn’t perceive themselves as victims of a historic injustice by the Soviet Union, but following his visit, a narrative gradually emerged. Another boost for the Holodomor narrative around the world was the 1987 film Harvest of Despair, a propaganda piece funded entirely by Ukrainian ultranationalists, themselves placed into positions of authority and influence by the US Central Intelligence Agency. The US helped these ultranationalists found various front groups disguised as academic institutions and to take key positions in universities – where they could more effectively manufacture anti-Russian propaganda and rewrite history to whitewash their collaboration with Nazis during World War II. The film, which passes off photos from the 1921-22 Volga famine as being taken instead during the 1932-33 famine, also interviews several Nazi collaborators as “witnesses.” The film should have been titled, Harvest of Deception.
The USA and Canada also gave Nazi collaborators a generous second chance, rehabilitating them for use in their imperialist, anti-communist crusade. In today’s new Cold War, just as in the old one, the west has whipped up neo-Nazis in Ukraine so as to wage a proxy war with Russia.
These ultranationalists were mobilized in 2014 to overthrow Ukraine’s legitimate government in a coup d’état, and ever since have been killing thousands of civilians in Donbass. Yet in the west, these fascist thugs are merely lauded as heroes fighting “evil” Russia. Indeed, new accusations of genocide have emerged that echo the Holodomor lie. Western media have spread a new myth that Putin hates all Ukrainians and wants to commit genocide. Western disinformation today bears a striking resemblance to anti-communist propaganda from the 1930s and 1980s. Photoshopped pictures and staged videos are produced as evidence of Russian troops’ atrocities. The so-called Bucha massacre, the siege of Mariupol, and the Izum torturers are just some of the countless doctored stories, created to provoke visceral reactions and manipulate the public. One such hoax, that the Bucha Massacre was perpetrated by the Russian army, has been thoroughly debunked here. As with the Holodomor myth, just because a certain narrative is well-established or relentlessly pushed doesn’t make it true. One should always take the time to peel back all the layers of an onion; always investigate, research, and find the clear and indisputable evidence before drawing your conclusion. Things are rarely just as they seem.