holodomor propaganda

Hiding the Truth: “Victorious Socialism” Propaganda Hid the Great Famine in Ukraine

Dr. Henry Prown
Dr. Henry H. Prown

Hiding the Truth: “Victorious Socialism” Holodomor Propaganda Hid the Great Famine in Ukraine[1]

May 30, 2023

Dr. Henry H. Prown, Temerty Fellow, HREC

In the early 1930s, the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) desperately sounded the alarm. Party propaganda outlets repeatedly warned that famine had struck the nation, impacting “hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions.”[2] It was, their journalists accusatorily claimed, “murder of the people by a government…each day more than one thousand drop away.”[3] The party’s principle paper, the Daily Worker, even wondered whether “it will continue to cannibalism?”[4] According to these dedicated Communists, there was only one “way out – the way of Soviet Russia.”[5]         

CPUSA Leader Earl Browder Touted “Victorious Socialism” At the US Communist Party’s National Convention of 1934

The Soviet counterpart always loomed large in this coverage. As the CPUSA’s leader Earl Browder would explain at a national convention in 1934: “Clearly the world is divided into two systems, moving in opposite directions.”[6] These words were not his, however. A few weeks earlier Browder had received direct and specific orders from the Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow to “contrast the world of dying capitalism to the world of victorious socialism” in his convention speech.[7] In fact, the Comintern regularly relayed such orders to their comrades in New York – repeatedly telling them to damn the American government’s failures and celebrate the Soviet state’s successes, including its ongoing collectivization campaign.[8]    

anti-holodomor propaganda
Communist Party leader Earl Browder delivered a “Victorious Socialism” address at the 1934 CPUSA national convention, under directive from Moscow, covering up the crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

But all was not well in the land of “victorious socialism,” and by 1933 disturbing news of mass starvation in Ukraine had reached the US. For instance, after visiting the Kharkiv region, Jewish Daily Forward editor Harry Lang testified that “these villages were the site of a terrible famine.”[9] Meanwhile, the Daily Worker, which also had correspondents in Kharkiv, painted a very different picture: “Ukraine Collectives Have Best Harvest in 30 Years.”[10] All contrary reports were merely “odious lies and slander…following the example of the German Fascists.”[11] Indeed, Lang and his paper were absurdly accused of “repeating every lie that was coming…out of the publicity machine of the Hitler government.”[12] Even Walter Duranty, now widely known for his downplaying of the Holodomor, came under fire for his otherwise mild equivocations.[13]

Moscow-Based Comintern Directed Holodomor Propaganda

The Moscow-based Comintern directed this pro-collectivization press campaign, commanding the CPUSA to reassure the public “that the collective farm system was necessary and superior, that collectivization took place voluntarily,” and “that in the USA the collectivization of farming can be realized with less difficulty [italics added]” – an obtuse admission reflecting the institutional silence surrounding the Holodomor which has been noted by historian Anne Applebaum.[14] The Americans did as they were told, profusely publishing party propaganda denying any starvation. As the Daily Worker’s leading editorialist would conclusively summarize in 1935: “The truth about the famine is that there was no famine.”[15]     

Dissenters From Communist Party Line Slandered and Harrassed

That same year, Harry Lang’s reporting was finally translated from Yiddish to English, and in response, the Communist paper printed a scathing series of rebuttals from a number of “prominent Socialists and liberals.”[16] These included the celebrated theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who openly admitted that “I have not read the articles [in question].”[17] This did not stop him from labeling Lang’s actions as “despicable,” however.[18] And he was not alone, with “hundreds of…sincere friends of the Soviet Union” doing the same.[19]

Lang’s wife, Lucy Robins Lang, would remember that “hell broke loose.”[20] Her husband was subject to a vicious and sustained crusade of slander and harassment which led to his blacklisting from the Socialist movement. The attacks ruined her personal life as well. “I was like a stranger among friends,” Lucy ruefully recalled, “I wanted to die…I carefully planned the end of my existence.”[21]      

One regretful participant later conceded that “I had no more thought of lying than of flying.”[22] Such sentiments were not exceptional. “I told no lies, but I didn’t tell all the truth,” the fellow traveling journalist Anna Louise Strong would subsequently write, “and I still think this may be the correct procedure.”[23] For, as she had candidly acknowledged at the time, building paradise came at a cost: “The greatest agricultural revolution in history could not possibly have been accomplished without sacrifices on the part of those who carried out this tremendous change, and suffering, especially on the part of those who opposed it [italics added].”[24]    

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Holodomor90 on Social Media…!