Walter Duranty

Walter Duranty

Walter Duranty was born in Liverpool on 25th May 1884. His father, William Steel Durranty, was a prosperous merchant who had inherited a sizeable fortune from his father, Alexander Duranty. It was a religious family and Walter later wrote: "When I was a child in Englands ecular books were not considered suitable reading for the young on the Sabbath Day, and their place was taken by improving works, like Pilgrim's Progress or, as in my home, by Foxe's Book of Martyrs, profusely illustrated... with martyrs being tortured."

Duranty was educated at Harrow School and soon showed a facility for language and according to his biographer, Sally J. Taylor, could translate English text "into perfect French, Latin and Greek... It was only in mathematics that the young Duranty fell down, turning in a mediocre performance." Duranty recalled that life at Harrow "was primarily a toughening or hardening process in which children learnt to conceal or repress their more tender emotions, and to create for themselves a fairly cheerful and self-controlled existence away from their homes."

Death of Parents

Disaster struck in 1894. As James William Crowl pointed out: "When he was ten, Duranty's parents were killed in a train crash... Duranty was sent to live with his father's aging bachelor uncle who largely turned him over to a succession of English public schools. It was the beginning of his study of the classics... Smaller than is classmates and still trying to adjust to the loss of his family, he had to endure the taunts of fellow students because of his middle-class background. His unhappiness in these years left a lasting imprint, and much of his determination to excel and prove himself apparently stemmed from these early school experiences."

Cambridge University

In 1903 Duranty began his studies at Emmanuel College. He enjoyed his time at Cambridge University and later claimed it "trained his mind" and "taught him how to "meet people without embarrassment". He took part in university debates which encouraged him "to get up on his feet and talk" and leant how to play bridge and poker. Duranty was also a keen member of the rowing team.

While at university one of his tutors told him that he was "unstable" and would not achieve much in life. Duranty later recalled: "I was much cast down by this reproof until one day I thought to myself that I did not particularly want to excel. What I wanted, I thought, and what I still want, I know, is to see and hear new things, and to find out - to find out the great things of world affairs and the samall things in people's minds, not for any profound purpose, good, bad, or indifferent, but for my own interest, entertainment and... amusement. It is perhaps a selfish philosophy and somewhat negative, but it is neither greedy nor cruel; nor is it foolish or frightened."

The author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) argues that Duranty was not an attractive looking young man: "He had a mug face, his hairline high, receding a bit already. He wore his hair cropped short in an abbreviated Roman style. His thick-lipped, sensual mouth seemed to have a slightly cynical twist around the corners. The nose was fine-chiseled but a shade too large, that bit too flat. The only relief in this none-too-handsome face was a pair of clear, gray eyes, slightly hooded, twinkling, letting it be known somehow that one was in the presence of a keen intellect, a man with an unusual sense of mischief and of humor. At full height, Duranty was no taller than five feet six inches; this as well as the look of youthful idealism he conveyed in his more serious moments made him look a good deal younger than he was. And his lively manner, his outrageous talk, added to the impression."

Life of Leisure

After leaving university Duranty spent his time enjoying himself in London, New York City and Paris. This was financed by a the trust fund his wealthy grandfather had provided. Duranty enjoyed the company of women. One of his girlfriends said: "He had a kind of magic... He could make you laugh. An evening with him was like an evening with no one else." Harrison Salisbury called him "one of the great lady's men of his generation". Another recalled: "When he hit upon a fascinating topic, like sex or politics, Duranty's eyes would sparkle with a tiny gleam, at once humourous and intriguing. And part of his charm was that Duranty... was also a good listener, always allowing the other person to talk as well."

Duranty became a close friend of Aleister Crowley. One person commented that their friendship was "cemented by the pair's common interest in smoking opium and in a woman, said to be a former artist's model... Jane Cheron." Crowley was later to describe Cheron in The Diary of a Drug Fiend (1922): "She was a brilliant brunette with a flashing smile and eyes with pupils like pin-points. She was a mass of charming contradictions. The nose and mouth suggested more than a trace of Semitic blood, but the wedge-shaped contour of the face betokened some very opposite strain. Her cheeks were hollow, and crow's feet marred the corners of her eyes. Dark purple rims suggested sensual indulgence pushed to the point of weariness. Though her hair was luxuriant, the eyebrows were almost non-existent. She had pencilled fine black arches above them."

While in New York City he met the journalist, Alexander Woollcott, who later commented about Durranty: "No other man... could make a purposeless hour at the sidewalk cafe so memorably delightful." They visited nightclubs and theatres together and it was Woolcott who first gave Durrantly the idea that he should take up journalism.

New York Times

On his return to Paris he went to visit, Wythe Williams, the bureau chief of the New York Times. He took with him an article about the pilot, Adolphe Pégoud, who had just completed the world's first "looping the loop". Williams claimed that Duranty had "no sense of journalism" and therefore could not publish it. Duranty replied: "I know that... You please rewrite it and let me watch how it is done." Williams recalled in Dusk of Empire: The Decline of Europe (1937): "I did so with Duranty looking over my shoulder, and gave this well-known journalist his first lesson in preparing copy for a newspaper."

The article about Pégoud appeared in the New York Times on 2nd September, 1913: "Several days ago he left his machine in midair and came to earth in a parachute. While dropping to the ground he saw his aeroplane fly upside down by itself and land safely, right side up. He then conceived the idea of making the machine repeat the performance, with himself in it... At the moment of his departure he was by far the calmest person present. He rose to a height of 3,000 feet and then turned the nose of the machine earthward. For 200 feet it fell like a stone. It then turned inward till it was flying on its back, after which it rose perpendicularly upward. Then it completed the circle by regaining its normal flying position, having accomplished an apparent impossibility."

Duranty continued to visit Wythe Williams who later recorded : "His eyes always shining as he asked questions about what made up the news." Duranty brought several ideas for stories and eventually, in December, 1914, he decided to employ Duranty: "He (Duranty) finally talked himself into a position because he talked so much I could no longer refuse him and arranged with the New York Times to give him a salary."

In the winter of 1914 Alexander Woollcott, who also worked for the New York Times, joined Duranty and Williams in Paris. During this period Duranty described Woollcott as "an exhilarating companion of my youth". They together covered the trial of Henriette Caillaux, who had murdered Gaston Calmette, the editor of Le Figaro, who she had accused of slandering her husband, Joseph Caillaux, the Minister of Finance.

First World War

On the outbreak of the First World War Duranty, still based in Paris, was in a good position to report on the war. Other journalists who joined him in France included Richard Harding Davis, Philip Gibbs, Percival Phillips, William Beach Thomas, Henry Perry Robinson, Herbert Russell, Frederick Palmer, Floyd Gibbons, Edwin L. James and William Bolitho who worked for the Manchester Guardian. Duranty later argued that Bolitho taught him "nearly all about the newspaper business that is worth knowing." He added that Bolitho "possessed to a remarkable degree... the gift of making a quick and accurate summary of facts and drawing there from the right, logical and inevitable conclusions."

Walter Duranty during the First World War
Walter Duranty during the First World War

At first Duranty concentrated on reporting the impact that the war was having on civilians. In January 1916, he was in a French town behind the front-line that was hit by German howitzer guns: "At the smitten street... the firemen and police were busy amid the ruin, and bodies awaiting removal to the Morgue were lying on heaps of rubbish in the narrow courtyards. The houses that had been hit looked exactly like the photographs of gun-ravaged towns. Here half the front of a house had been torn away, leaving a child's cot hanging over the edge. Its occupant was somewhere under the ruins, and the neighbors were trying to comfort the frantic mother in the next-door kitchen. The worst case of all was a five-storey tenement at the end of a cul-de-sac.... Here the family of a zouave, Auguste Petitjcan, were celebrating the father's leave from the front. His wife and 15-year-old daughter, Lucie, his old father-in-law... and his sister... with her two little boys... had gathered around a table to hear stories of the war. Suddenly the war struck them. All seven were killed instantly. When I left there four bodies already had been recovered."

Wythe Williams was the main journalist covering the war for the New York Times. However, he got into serious trouble with the authorities in April 1917 when he sent an article criticizing French politicians and generals over the failed Nivelle Offensive without submitting it for approval. He was only saved from deportation by the intervention of George Clemenceau. Williams was now transferred to army headquarters and Duranty took over as the newspaper's main reporter from the front-line.

Frederick Palmer, who by this time was working as a censor, commented that it was a difficult job reporting the war: "The journalists... went and came always with a sense of incapacity and sometimes with a feeling that writing was a worthless business when others were fighting." Duranty later commented: "There were things I saw in the war which won't bear telling, but after a time you became hardened or callous or maybe a little crazy for the rest of your life."

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In his report for the New York Times on 3rd June, 1918, Duranty compared the battlefields to those of the American Civil War: "The observer might be watching a reproduction of one of the battle stories of Ambrose Bierce. Here is a battery position at the edge of a wood. A little further machine guns are installed to sweep the river bank, and among the trees behind them a battalion of infantry is under cover... On the heights to the left sudden smoke clouds leap up incessantly where the shells are obstructing the advance of the German infantry toward Chateau Thierry. From time to time one catches sight of them scurrying forward like ants across an interval of meadow between the woods that cover most of the country."

As Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has argued: "Duranty's rousing prose, heroic in form to match the momentous events he was describing. The ebullience and energy of his style were incomparable, even on the staff of the New York Times, and it brought him growing fame as a page-one war correspondent.... Duranty had this ability to figure out what readers would be curious about, what they wanted to know... imaginative, observant, he made a feast of the leavings of the other correspondents."

The Russian Revolution

Duranty developed a reputation for writing reports that were highly critical of the Russian Revolution and the decision of Lenin and the Bolshevik Government for withdrawing from the First World War. "At French headquarters it was an axiom that the Bolsheviks were enemies of God and Man, and sold to Germany - a loathsome union of anti-Christ and Judas." Duranty believed that if Russia had remained on the side of the Allied forces, the war would now be over.

At the end of the First World War Duranty applied to enter Russia to report on the Civil War. The authorities refused as they had been upset by his hostile reporting in the New York Times. He therefore travelled to Finland where he reported on the initial White Guard victories over the Red Army. However, on 21st November, 1919, he admitted that General Nikolai Yudenich had withdrawn to Estonia "thoroughly beaten". Duranty was highly critical of the revolutionaries and described Bolshevism as "a compound of force, terror and espionage, utterly ruthless in conception and execution".

The following month Duranty was reporting the arrests of Bolsheviks in Latvia and the plan to export the communist revolution to the United States: "A great Bolshevist conspiracy has just been discovered here, and the leaders with the principal subordinates have been arrested to the number of 100. The object was to overthrow the Government and establish Bolshevist rule. Last, but not least, a Russian sailor was taken bearing large sums of money and jewels of great value concealed in the soles of his boots and a letter from one of Lenin's closest satellites to comrades in America... It is said to contain minute directions for the conduct of the Bolshevist campaign in America, for the organization of various centres, and the methods to be followed subsequently."

During this period Duranty was extremely hostile to the new Russian government. He wrote in the New York Times in January 1920: "An interrogation of Red prisoners in which The New York Times correspondent took part a couple of days ago reveals the Bolshevik system in its true light as one of the most damnable tyrannies in history. It is a pity some of the zealous advocates of Bolshevist theories were not present to learn how Bolshevism works in practice. Actually it is a compound of force, terror and espionage, utterly ruthless in conception and execution."

In March 1920 Duranty went to report on the communist rebellion that was taking place in the Rhineland. He was joined by his friend, William Bolitho, who had recently been covering a rebellion by coal miners in Alten Essen. Bolitho had spent time with the revolutionaries and was amazed by their attitude. According to Sally J. Taylor: "He told the leaders they had only one chance, and that was to threaten to blow up all the key mines and factories in the area, then go ahead and blow one up to show they meant to do what they threatened. Bolitho advised them that they could then bargain for certain political and economic concessions, as well as their own pardons... They had told Bolitho that if they blew up the mines, they would have nowhere to work afterwards. They preferred to throw themselves on the mercy of the authorities, who, Bolitho told Duranty, had already begun executing the men even before he could get out of town."

In the summer of 1921, Carr Van Anda, the managing director of the New York Times, sent Duranty to report on the new policy of war communism in Russia. At first, Maxim Litvinov, refused to let him into the country because of his previous hostile stories about the government. George Seldes, of the Chicago Tribune, said that nobody expected Duranty to get a visa. "Litvinov singled Walter Duranty out - he didn't want to admit him."

The Great Famine

However, Litvinov changed his mind and did issue him with a visa after he read an article by Duranty that appeared in the New York Times on 13th August, 1921: "Lenin has thrown communism overboard. His signature appears in the official press of Moscow in August 9, abandoning State ownership, with the exception of a definite number of great industries of national importance - such as were controlled by the State in France, England and Germany during the war - and re-establishing payment by individuals for railroads, postal and other public services." However, like the other Western journalists, he was still not allowed into the famine areas.

David Randall, the author of The Great Reporters (2005) has argued: "Some time that summer, word began to leak out of the new Soviet state that people in their millions were starving in the Volga region. Checking these rumours was easier said than done. The Bolshevik government allowed no Western journalists to be based in Moscow, and coverage of the country was in the hands of reporters who hung around Riga's restaurants talking to emigres, White Russians and other unreliable witnesses.... The Soviets were not letting them in; they wanted US food aid, but were afraid the full extent of the tragedy would be revealed. After the Tribune's men kicked their heels for a week, Chicago cabled Floyd Gibbons to go to Riga himself..... The rest of the press had dutifully filled out an application form for entry. Not Gibbons. Instead he told his German pilot to keep his plane primed for take-off, and let it be known around the bars that lie was thinking of making an illicit flight into Russia. Sure enough, informants picked up the story, and next day Gibbons was summoned to see Litvinov, the Soviet ambassador. The meeting pitted the two wiliest brains in Riga against each other. Litvinov said he knew about Gibbons's plane, and warned him that if he tried to fly across the border he would be shot down. Gibbons countered by pointing out that the Russian border ran from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and anti-aircraft guns covered a mere traction of it. Litvinov then threatened to have Gibbons arrested, to which the reporter replied that the Soviets had just released all their US prisoners in order to secure food aid and were not likely to start incarcerating Americans again. Checkmate. That night, while the rest of the press fumed in Riga, Gibbons boarded a train for Moscow with Litvinov, and, after a few days in the capital, was on another train bound for the Volga."

Duranty said that Floyd Gibbons "fully deserved his success because he had accomplished the feat of bluffing the redoubtable Litvinov stone-cold... a noble piece of work." Over the next few days Gibbons was the only reporter to document the horrifying prospect of the deaths of as many as fifteen million people from starvation.

Duranty arrived in the Samara six days after Gibbons. He reported that the children were so thin that their "fingers are postively no fatter than a good sized match" and their arms were "no wider than rulers." One boy's face was "shrunk to the size of a woman's hand and the blue eyes are utterly disinterested. The body may weigh fourteen pounds - just skin tense over the wasted little skeleton." He added that unlike the children, most adults did not die "of actual hunger, but typhus, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and scurvy, the diseases of malnutrition, took their plenteous toll."

A week later Duranty was back in Moscow reporting that it was possible to dine well if you knew where to go and if you had the right money. He described the meals available in a restaurant near to his hotel: "fresh Astrakhan caviar, with pre-war vodka; white bread and butter, delicious borscht soup, with old sherry; grilled salmon and roast partridge, with vontage burgundy or champagne; cakes of every kind, cream, sugar, custard, fine Russian cheese, hot-house grapes, old port and older cognac."

Duranty accepted the policy of submitting his articles to the Russian censor before sending them to the New York Times. One of the American journalists based in the city, Paul Sheffer, later recalled: "The journalist in Moscow had to become master of a new art: the art of telling three-quarters, a half, still smaller fractions, of the truth; the art of not telling the truth in such a way that the truth would be made apparent to a thoughtful reader; or conversely, the art of telling the whole truth up to the point where its negative or positive significance would become apparent."

Duranty claimed that Bolshevik censorship was easier to deal with the restrictions imposed on him by the French authorities during the First World War. On 13th September 1923, complained: "Freedom of speech, as the term is understood in America, does not exist in Russia. Newspapers are all state-controlled and nothing may appear that does not meet the approval of the censorship." He went on to argue that the "country was too backward to understand what they were attempting, so the leaders of the country were obliged to control the reading material of the masses for their own good." He went on to argue that censorship had been tolerable until the trial of Archbishop Zepliak, when "panic and fear" began to dominate the Russian censors.

In his autobiography, Write As I Please (1935), Duranty recorded that William Bolitho once told him: "Don't forget ... that the majority of people and the majority of opinions are nearly always wrong about everything, not always, but nearly always, and if you ever are in doubt and can't make up your mind, and have to make it up, there are long odds in favor of your being right if you take the opposite view from the majority." Duranty claimed that he followed this advice and was always wary of information provided by the Russian authorities. Carr Van Anda, the managing editor of the New York Times, disagreed and told Duranty that he could not understand why he did not report on the execution of Father Butchkavitch, one of Zepliak's co-defendants.

Many years later Duranty admitted that it did not do a good job with the trial of Zepliak and Butchkavitch: "Honesty compels me to add that from a newspaper point of view I mishandled the whole trial. To begin with I underestimated its news value at home, which is an unpardonable sin for a reporter to commit; secondly, I was convinced that it was a more or less formal affair which would end quietly with an exchange of prisoners. At the outset I may have been right in this opinion but I held on to it too long and played down a story that I should have written up. My New York office dealt with my shortcomings more in sorrow than in anger, but I realized that I had failed them and asked myself why."

Moscow Correspondent

Despite the complaints that his reports were too pro-Soviet, Duranty was appointed as the New York Times correspondent in Moscow. One of his main tasks was to interpret government policy. In September 1923 Duranty speculated that Joseph Stalin and not Leon Trotsky would take over the leadership of the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin. "Trotsky is a great executive, but his brain cannot compare with Lenin's in analytical power.... But during the last year Stalin has shown judgment and analytical power not unworthy of Lenin. It is to him that the greatest part of the credit is clue for bringing about the new Russian Union, which history may regard as one of the most remarkable Constitutions in human history. Trotsky helped him in drawing it up, but Stalin's brain guided the pen."

Durantlater explained to his fellow reporter, Hubert Knickerbocker: "Of course I didn't go Bolshevik or think Bolshevism would work in Western countries or be good for them. I don't believe I even cared in those days whether it would be good for Russia, or work there in practice. But I did think that the Bolsheviks would win in their own country and that the Soviet Union would become a great force in world affairs."

While in Moscow Duranty married Jane Cheron. A regular visitor to their rented apartment was the journalist, George Seldes. He later recalled that Duranty was the "kind of man who wouldn't hesitate to attempt sexual conquests with his wife present." They employed a young cook, who Seldes described as "a very pretty peasant girl... pretty and young and vivacious and all of that; and tall, for a Russian." According to Seldes the young woman quickly became Duranty's mistress and Jane did not appear to be terribly upset by the arrangement.

Another visitor during this period was Bill Hayward, the former leader of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) and senior figure in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Haywood had opposed the United States becoming involved in the First World War and he was arrested under the Espionage Act. After a long trial Haywood was sentenced to a fine of $20,000 and twenty years' imprisonment. Haywood jumped bail and fled to the Soviet Union. Hayward told Duranty he was "used to fighting scabs and police and mine-guards, but could not really tolerate the continuous ideological talk of the Bolsheviks. He predicted that the Soviet leadership would eventually split over these issues.

Duranty also got to know Alexandra Kollontai, a leading feminist in Soviet Russia. It was claimed that Duranty "was fascinated by Kollontai's controversial attitudes toward the relations between the sexes". During this period Kollontai suggested that "erotic friendships" among Bolsheviks that could "function as part of communism by forging bonds of commradely solidarity". To some of her critics she was advocating sexual promiscuity.

Kollantai became increasing critical of the Communist Party and joined with her friend, Alexander Shlyapnikov (Commissar for Labour) to form a faction that became known as the Workers' Opposition. In 1921 Kollantai published a pamphlet The Workers' Opposition, where she called for members of the party to be allowed to discuss policy issues and for more political freedom for trade unionists. She also advocated that before the government attempts to "rid Soviet institutions of the bureaucracy that lurks within them, the Party must first rid itself of its own bureaucracy." This attack on the Bolsheviks meant the end of Kollantai's political career in Russia. At the Tenth Party Congress in 1922, Lenin proposed a resolution that would ban all factions within the party. He argued that factions within the party were "harmful" and encouraged rebellions such as the Kronstadt Rising. The Party Congress agreed with Lenin and the Workers' Opposition was dissolved.

In 1923 George Seldes was expelled from the country. Seldes later reported in the Chicago Tribune that the main problem was the role played by Cheka in the Soviet Union: "Freedom, liberty, justice as we know it, democracy, all the fundamental human rights for which the world has been fighting for civilized centuries, have been abolished in Russia in order that the communist experiment might be made. They have been kept suppressed by the Cheka." Duranty responded by defending the country. He argued that: "freedom of speech and the press in America and England are the slow outcome of a centuries long fight for personal freedom. How can you expect Russia, just emerged from blackest tyranny, to share the attitude of Anglo-Saxons who struck the blow against royal tyrants a thousand years ago at Runnymede?"

Duranty also spent time in Berlin where he worked alongside journalists such as Edgar Ansel Mowrer, Hubert Knickerbocker, Dorothy Thompson, William Henry Chamberlin and Eugene Lyons. According to Mowrer: "Berlin in the nineteen twenties was a kind of stopping off place not only for Russians heading west, but for Americans entering or leaving the Soviet Union, including those who lived there and needed occasionally to come up for air. Among these were newsmen like H. R. Knickerbocker, Frederick Kuh, Walter Duranty, Eugene Lyons, William Henry Chamberlin, and the author, Maurice Hindus. In addition, Samuel Harper, the Russian specialist of the University of Chicago, never went in or out of the Soviet Fatherland without pausing in Berlin to report and enjoy a few good arguments."

Duranty also liked to visit France and while travelling on the boat train from Paris to Le Havre in November 1924, it "ran off the rails in a tunnel and another train ran into it". Duranty later explained how he found himself flying "twenty-five yards through the air". When he regained consciousness he discovered that he had "white pieces of bone sticking out above his shoe". He was taken to a local hospital where the surgeon felt he had to remove the leg between the ankle and the knee.

Duranty was convinced he was going to die. He wrote in Write As I Please (1935): "None of the things I have been afraid of before, complaints by my boss or the loss of my job or the opinion of my friends or any danger, are as bad as the thing I am facing now, which is death by slow torture. Than that there is nothing worse; if I escape it I can say to myself that I at least can no longer be frightened by anyone or anything. Now, facing death, I regret few of the things I have done, but I regret not doing a great many things I might have done and not saying or writing things I might have said or written."

Walter Duranty
Walter Duranty

On leaving hospital Duranty went to live with his wife who had recently rented a house in St. Tropez. Duranty was in so much pain that he returned to taking drugs. He found that morphine made the pain bearable, the morphine led to opium. Duranty admitted that "after a while, you are thoroughly hooked, and the horrible nightmares begin, and you find you are stuck like a fly on flypaper." He told a young friend: "If you ever get the chance, smoke opium two times. The first time, it will make you sick. The second time, smoke to enjoy it. And then, don't ever smoke it again!" Duranty told his friend, Robin Kinkead, that he eventually gave up drugs because they took away his sex drive - "an intolerable condition".

In January, 1924, Duranty returned to Moscow. Later that month he reported the death of Lenin; "Premier Lenin died last night at 6.50 o'clock. The immediate cause of death was paralysis of the respiratory centres due to a cerebral haemorrhage." On 24th January he described Lenin lying in state: "In the center of tile room Lenin lay on a high couch with four columns that gave the effect of a sort of old-fashioned four-poster bed without curtains. Over his feet was a grey rug with something stencilled on it, over his body a dark red blanket; and his head rested bare on a white pillow. The face was a yellow-white, like wax, without the slightest wrinkle and utterly calm. The eyes were closed, yet the expression was one of looking forward seeking something beyond his vision."

Joseph Stalin

Duranty continued to predict that Joseph Stalin would eventually overcome Leon Trotsky to become the leader of the Soviet Union. On 31st July, 1926, he wrote that Trotsky was a "far abler and more popular" leader, Stalin had "more political sense than the rest of the Communist Party put together". Duranty went on to argue: "He (Stalin) is a remarkable personality, this son of a Georgian cobbler who veils his cold-blooded astuteness behind an apparently brusque simplicity." On 18th October he was reporting the "complete defeat for Trotsky and his associates". Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has suggested: "It was not a matter of Duranty's preferring one Socialist leader to the other. It was a matter of being right."

In December, 1926, Averell Harriman arrived in the Soviet Union on business matters. Duranty told him to meet with Stalin as he was the man of the future. Harriman later recalled that he found the journalist "particularly well-informed" with "good judgment". Harriman did not consider Duranty to be left-wing but explained that at that time "you were accused of being pro-Soviet" if you predicted the communist system in the Soviet Union would last.

Duranty also became friends with Dorothy Thompson. According to Sally J. Taylor: "Her presence in Moscow was the occasion for a good deal of socializing, which included meeting other reporters in the Soviet capital." Thompson met Sinclair Lewis at one of Duranty's parties. Taylor points out: "Lewis and his wife were the guests of honor at a dinner given at Duranty's apartment. Always known for his outrageous behaviour. Lewis discoursed wisely on this occasion, did a brilliant reading of his own work, and then, dead drunk, fell asleep on Duranty's couch. Finally, not knowing what else to do, everybody just went home. Duranty always held it against Lewis, believing that Lewis had behaved deplorably."

During this period Duranty became friends with Louis Fischer and Vincent Sheean. He was also close to Hubert Knickerbocker, the Moscow correspondent for the International News Service. The two men began collaborating on a series of short stories. They agreed to write one a week. They then exchanged their stories and edited one another's work. The plan was to submit the stories they wrote together under Duranty's name, since it was better known than Knickerbocker's name.

In 1927 Knickerbocker was posted to Berlin but they continued to write stories together. On 27th June Duranty wrote to Knickerbocker: "I have just had a foul and bitter disappointment. That lousy bastard in New York wrote me a pompous and idiotic letter the upshot whereof was that he was sending the stories back without even trying to place any of them. I still don't really understand why, because he said they were splendidly written." According to Duranty the agent complained the stories "resembled episodes from real life rather than short stories and also deal with persons and events alien to American life." Duranty dismissed these views because it was "highbrow nonsense about the form and function of the short story... I suppose the blighter has never heard of Maupassant or disapproves of him".

In the summer of 1927 Vincent Sheean introduced Duranty to his new girlfriend, Rayna Prohme. Rayna wanted to study at the Lenin Institute "to be trained as a revolutionary instrument". Sheean was against the idea arguing that Marxism was "a false cloud". According to Sally J. Taylor: "They took rooms together, arguing late into the night about her decision. But she found the debates tiring, and often had trouble getting out of bed the following morning."

While on a visit to the apartment of Dorothy Thompson, another journalist based in the Soviet Union, Rayna fainted. She soon became extremely ill and Durranty arranged for her to be seen by a local doctor. Rayna told Sheean: "The doctor thinks I am losing my mind and that is the worst thing of all. He won't say so, but that is what he thinks. I can tell by the way he holds matches in front of my eyes and tests my responses. He doesn't think I can focus on anything."

Vincent Sheean recalled in his autobiography, Personal History (1933): "She had spoken vaguely of the fear before, and all I could do was say that I did not believe it was well founded. But on the next day she felt certain that this was the case, and it kept her silent and almost afraid to speak, even to me. I sat beside her hour after hour in the dark, silent room, and blackness pressed down and in upon us." Sheean said that two or three times she raised her voice to say: "Don't tell anybody". Rayna Prohme died of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, on Monday, 21st November 1927.

In November 1927, Duranty received news that one of his stories written with Hubert Knickerbocker, The Parrot , had been accepted for publication in the women's magazine, The Redbook. Knickerbocker was overjoyed: "Upon receipt of your letter I went into a trance during which I consumed half a bottle of Scotch... By God it would be great to get out of this grind of newspaper work. Once we have sold, say, twelve in a row, we could afford to talk about throwing up our jobs. But not until then." The story only made the men $40 but it did win the respected O. Henry Award for the year's best short story. Unfortunately, it was published under Duranty's name and Knickerbocker received none of the glory. Duranty wrote a letter of apology saying it was "awfully unfair that I should get the credit alone... and I'll be glad to sign any letter to the O. Henry people you care to suggest". However, it never happened and Knickerbocker was never acknowledged as the co-author of the story.

Eugene Lyons arrived in Moscow in December, 1927. Lyons wrote in his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937): "Among the newspapermen, Walter Duranty, a little Englishman who had been in the New York Times service since the war, reigned supreme. Urbane, clever to a fault, a scintillating talker, he remained, after all his years in Russia, detached from its life and fate, curiously contemptuous of Russians. He spoke of Soviet triumphs and travail much as he might of a murder mystery he had read, but with not half the passion or sense of personal involvement. His spoken views of the Russian scene, when the mood was upon him, would have shocked New York radicals who mistook him for a Soviet enthusiast, even as they shocked me."

In 1928 John Gunther met Duranty in Moscow. "When one dines with him in Moscow, an extremely pretty girl, smart in semi-evening frock, opens the door, shaking hands. She then disappears again, and late in the evening, asks Walter if he wants to get to work, she has finished the Izvestia proofs. Then they go to bed together. In the morning, she shines the shoes. Mistress, secretary, servant. An unholy trinity for you! Of course, by Moscow law, since they share the same residence, she’s his wife, too."

Collectivization

In January 1930, an announcement of an all-out drive to collectivize agriculture, was published in Pravda. It was a belated admission of events that had been taking place in the countryside for almost two years. In an article published by Walter Duranty in the New York Times he argued: "Stalin in my opinion marks the beginning of a new militant phase - like militant communism - and is out to accomplish what Lenin could not - collectivization of the peasants".

Joseph Stalin had decided that the peasants were putting their own welfare before that of the Soviet Union. Local communist officials were given instructions to confiscate kulaks property. This land would then be used to form new collective farms. It has been argued that in the next eight weeks ten million peasant households were forced to join collective farms. The kulaks resisted this process. It has been estimated that during this period some "fourteen million head of cattle were destroyed, one-third of all pigs, one-quarter of all sheep and goats".

Stalin gave orders that the kulaks were to be "liquidated as a class". This was to take the form of exile either to Central Asia or to the timber regions of Siberia, where they were used as forced labour. According to Sally J. Taylor: "Many of those exiled died, either along the way or in the makeshift camps where they were dumped, with inadequate food, clothing, and housing." Thousands were executed and an estimated five million were deported. Of these, approximately twenty-five per cent perished by the time they reached their destination.

Walter Duranty visited Central Asia in April 1930 and reported on the fate of the kulaks: "At the windows haggard faces, men and women, or a mother holding her child, with hands outstretched for a crust of bread or a cigarette. It was only the end of April but the heat was torrid and the air that came from the narrow windows was foul and stifling; for they had been fourteen days en route, not knowing where they were going nor caring much. They were more like caged animals than human beings, not wild beasts but dumb cattle, patient with suffering eyes. Debris and jetsam, victims of the March to Progress."

Eugene Lyons loyalty to the Soviet government resulted in him being chosen as the first western journalist to be granted an interview with Joseph Stalin. It took place on 22nd November, 1930. Lyons claimed that: "One cannot live in the shadow of Stalin's legend without coming under its spell. My pulse, I am sure, was high. No sooner, however, had I stepped across the threshold than diffidence and nervousness fell away. Stalin met me at the door and shook hands, smiling. There was a certain shyness in his smile and the handshake was not perfunctory. He was remarkably unlike the scowling, self-important dictator of popular imagination. His every gesture was a rebuke to the thousand little bureaucrats who had inflicted their puny greatness upon me in these Russian years.... At such close range, there was not a trace of the Napoleonic quality one sees in his self-conscious camera or oil portraits. The shaggy mustache, framing a sensual mouth and a smile nearly as full of teeth as Teddy Roosevelt's, gave his swarthy face a friendly, almost benignant look."

Duranty was furious when he heard that Stalin had granted Lyons this interview. He protested to the Soviet Press office that as the longest-serving Western correspondent in the country it was unfair not to give him an interview as well. A week after the interview Duranty was also granted an interview. Stalin told him that after the Russian Revolution the capitalist countries could have crushed the Bolsheviks: "But they waited too long. It is now too late." Stalin commented that the United States had no choice but to watch "socialism grow".

In the interview Stalin did express the fear that the Great Depression would lead to another world war. "When, where, and on what pretext it will begin I cannot tell, but it is inevitable that the efforts of the stronger power to overcome the economic crisis will force them to crush their weaker rivals. That does not necessary mean war - not for the time being - until a later day, when the giant powers must fight for markets among themselves."

Duranty argued that unlike Leon Trotsky Stalin was not gifted with any great intelligence, but "he had nevertheless outmaneuvered this brilliant member of the intelligentsia". On 18th January, 1931, he wrote in the New York Times: "Stalin has created a great Frankenstein monster, of which... he has become an integral part, made of comparatively insignificant and mediocre individuals, but whose mass desires, aims, and appetites have an enormous and irresistible power. I hope it is not true, and I devoutly hope so, but it haunts me unpleasantly. And perhaps haunts Stalin."

Duranty was one of the first journalists to identify correctly the changes that Joseph Stalin was making to the Soviet economy. On 14th June, 1931 Duranty argued in the New York Times that "the dominant principle in Russia today" was not "Marxism or Leninism" but "Stalinism". In his book, Write As I Please (1935): Stalin got rid of NEP as soon as he could, but instead of reverting to dogmatic Marxism, went forward to a collectvist system which the Russians... call socialism and which actually is not far removed from state capitalism. This is Stalinism as distinguished from Leninism."

Walter Duranty's wife was now living permanently in France. He obtained a large apartment at 53 Bolshaya Ordinka. The household included his mistress Katya, a chauffeur (Duranty owned a five-passenger touring car), a charlady and a cook. He also employed an assistant, Robin Kinkead, who did most of his research. Duranty told Kinkead that "most people are interested in sex and gold and blood, and if you get a story in which the lead combines all of those, you've got something."

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

In 1932 Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of the Soviet Five Year Plan. The citation said: "Mr. Duranty's dispatches show profundity and intimate comprehension of conditions in Russia and of the causes of those conditions. They are marked by scholarship, profundity, impartiality, sound judgment and exceptional clarity and are excellent examples of the best type of foreign correspondence." James William Crowl argued in his book, Angels in Stalin's Paradise (1982): "What is so remarkable about Duranty's selection for the Pulitzer is that, for a decade, his reports had been slanted and distorted in a way that made a mockery of the award citation. Probably without parallel in the history of these prestigious prizes, the 1932 award went to a man whose reports concealed or disguised the conditions they claimed to reveal, and who may even have been paid by the Soviets for his deceptions."

In his acceptance speech Duranty pointed out: "I went to the Baltic states viciously anti-Bolshevik. From the French standpoint the Bolsheviks had betrayed the allies to Germany, repudiated the debts, nationalized women and were enemies of the human race. I discovered that the Bolsheviks were sincere enthusiasts, trying to regenerate a people that had been shockingly misgoverned, and I decided to try to give them their fair break. I still believe they are doing the best for the Russian masses and I believe in Bolshevism - for Russia - but more and more I am convinced it is unsuitable for the United States and Western Europe. It won't spread westward unless a new war wrecks the established system."

Some people argued that Duranty had been involved in a cover-up concerning the impact of the economic changes that were taking place in the Soviet Union. An official at the British Embassy reported on the 21st June 1932: "A record of over-staffing, overplanning and complete incompetence at the centre; of human misery, starvation, death and disease among the peasantry... the only creatures who have any life at all in the districts visited are boars, pigs and other swine. Men, women, and children, horses and other workers are left to die in order that the Five Year Plan shall at least succeed on paper."

Duranty argued that the United States should assume normal diplomatic relations with the Soviet government. With the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the presidency, the diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union seemed assured. In November 1933 the Soviets were invited to send a representative to Washington to begin negotiations. Duranty obtained permission to accompany Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov on his historic journey across the Atlantic. When they reached New York Duranty quoted Litvinov as describing the skyline as "looming like castle giants in the hazy morning".

As Jean Edward Smith pointed out in FDR (2007): "The ostensible outstanding issues involved freedom of religion for Americans in Russia and the continued agitation for world revolution mounted by the Comintern. The real sticking point was restitution of American property seized by the Soviet government in its nationalization decree of 1919. Roosevelt and Litvinov compromised. The agreement is known as the Litvinov Assignment. The Soviet government assigned to the United States its claim to all Russian property in the United States that antedated the Revolution. The United States agreed to seize the property on behalf of the Soviet Union, thus giving effect to the Soviet nationalization decree, and use the proceeds to pay the claims of Americans whose property in Russia had been confiscated.... Shortly after midnight on the morning of November 17, FDR and Litvinov signed the documents restoring diplomatic relations."

Duranty wrote in the New York Times on 18th November 1933 that he had just witnessed "the ten days that steadied the world". His role in the negotiations was recognized by a dinner given in Litvinov's honour at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The toastmaster, Hugh Lincoln Cooper introduced Duranty as "one of the great foreign correspondents of modern times, serving a great newspaper of this city". Alexander Woollcott commented, "one quite got the impression that America, in a spasm of discernment, was recognizing both Russia and Walter Duranty." Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has suggested that at this time "he was arguably the best-known foreign correspondent in the world".

On his return to Moscow Duranty was granted another interview with Joseph Stalin. In his autobiography, Write As I Please (1935) he quoted Stalin as saying: "You have done a good job in your reporting the USSR, though you are not a Marxist, because you try to tell the truth about our country and to understand it and to explain it to your readers. I might say that you bet on our horse to win when others thought it had no chance and I am sure you have not lost by it."

Great Famine

The journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, discovered the existence of widespread famine in the Soviet Union in 1933. He knew that his reports would be censored and so he sent them out of the country in the British diplomatic bag. On 25th March 1933, the Manchester Guardian published Muggeridge's report: "I mean starving in its absolute sense; not undernourished as, for example, most Oriental peasants... and some unemployed workers in Europe, but having had for weeks next to nothing to eat." Muggeridge quoted one peasant as saying: "We have nothing. They have taken everything away." Muggeridge supported this view: "It was true. The famine is an organized one." He went to Kuban where he saw well-fed troops being used to coerce peasant starving to death. Muggeridge argued it was "a military occupation; worse, active war" against the peasants.

Muggeridge travelled to Rostov-on-Don and found further examples of mass starvation. He claimed that many of the peasants had bodies swollen from hunger, and there was an "all-pervading sight and smell of death." When he asked why they did not have enough to eat, the inevitable answer came that the food had been taken by the government. Muggeridge reported on 28th March: "To say that there is a famine in some of the most fertile parts of Russia is to say much less than the truth; there is not only famine but - in the case of the North Caucasus at least - a state of war, a military occupation."

Malcolm Muggeridge left the Soviet Union and moved to Nazi Germany. Over the next few weeks he compared the crimes against their citizens of these two countries. He later described the famine as "one of the most monstrous crimes in history, so terrible that people in the future will scarcely be able to believe it ever happened."

On 31st March, 1933, The Evening Standard carried a report by Gareth Jones: "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... 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."

Eugene Lyons, the Moscow correspondent of the United Press International pointed out in in his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937): "On emerging from Russia, Jones made a statement which, startling though it sounded, was little more than a summary of what the correspondents and foreign diplomats had told him. To protect us, and perhaps with some idea of heightening the authenticity of his reports, he emphasized his Ukrainian foray rather than our conversation as the chief source of his information. In any case, we all received urgent queries from our home offices on the subject. But the inquiries coincided with preparations under way for the trial of the British engineers. The need to remain on friendly terms with the censors at least for the duration of the trial was for all of us a compelling professional necessity."

Lyons and Duranty decided to try and undermine these reports by Jones. Lyons told Bassow Whitman, the author of The Moscow Correspondents: Reporting on Russia from the Revolution to Glasnost (1988): "We admitted enough to soothe our consciences, but in roundabout phrases that damned Jones a liar. The filthy business having been disposed of, someone ordered vodka."

Duranty published an article, Russians Hungry But Not Starving , in the New York Times on 31st March 1933, where he argued that there was a conspiracy in the agricultural sector by "wreckers" and "spoilers" had "made a mess of Soviet food production". However, he did admit that the Soviet government had made some harsh decisions: "To put it brutally - you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and the Bolshevik leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that may be involved in their drive toward socialism as any General during the World War who ordered a costly attack in order to show his superiors that he and his division possessed the proper soldierly spirit. In fact, the Bolsheviki are more indifferent because they are animated by fanatical conviction."

Duranty then went on to criticize Gareth Jones. He admitted that there had been "serious food shortages" but Jones was wrong to suggest that the Soviet Union was enduring a famine: "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from disease due to malnutrition, especially in the Ukraine, North Caucasus, and Lower Volga." He then went on to claim that Jones description of famine in the Soviet Union was an example of "wishful thinking".

Eugene Lyons has argued: "Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes - but throw him down we did, unanimously and in almost identical formulas of equivocation. Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstakingly garnered from our mouths were snowed under by our denials."

Gareth Jones wrote to the New York Times complaining about Duranty's article in the newspaper. He pointed out that he was not guilty of "the strange suggestion that I was forecasting the doom of the Soviet regime, a forecast I have never ventured". Jones argued that he had visited over twenty villages where he had seen incredible suffering. He accused journalists such as Duranty and Lyons of being turned "into masters of euphemism and understatement". Jones said that they had given "famine" the polite name of "food shortage" and "starving to death" is softened to read as "wide-spread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition".

Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has argued that Lyon's record on the famine was appalling: "He had been among the earliest to hear of it, suggested at first by the investigations of his own secretary and confirmed later by the findings of Barnes and Stoneman. But Lyons declined to go into the famine-stricken area.... The zealous Lyons fulminated about moral and ethical issues, but he had shown little inclination himself to interrupt what was an unusually successful social life in Moscow."

James William Crowl, the author of Angels in Stalin's Paradise (1982) attempted to explain why this cover-up took place: "Most of the reporters took shelter behind the censorship and kept quiet about the famine. They wrote about it only when they left Russia, and even then they found that their accounts were met with disbelief. Eugene Lyons, for instance, returned to New York late in 1933 and began to write cautiously about the famine. Soviet sympathizers and liberals treated him as a renegade, he recalls, though his first descriptions of the famine fell far short of the horrible conditions that he knew had existed. A few correspondents, among them Duranty and Fischer, went beyond mere compliance with the censorship. While most of their colleagues passively accepted the famine cover-up, they echoed Soviet denials of the famine and blasted anyone who carried word of conditions to the West. Their distortion of the news, then, went beyond the demands of the censorship and was a vital factor in convincing the West that there was little or no truth to the famine stories. Moreover, by their active role in the cover-up they made it more unlikely that the foreign press in Moscow might force some kind of showdown with the censors or confront the West with the truth about Soviet conditions."

Duranty and the other journalists who were based in Moscow were not allowed to travel into the areas that Malcolm Muggeridge and Jones had described the famine that was taking place. Later historians have estimated that as many as seven million people died during this period. Journalists such as Duranty were willing to accept the word of the Soviet authorities for their information. Duranty even told his friend, Hubert Knickerbocker, that the reported famine "is mostly bunk".

Duranty was not the only journalist in the Soviet Union who attacked Gareth Jones for his account of the famine. Louis Fischer questioned Jones estimate of a million dead: "Who counted them? How could anyone march through a country and count a million people? Of course people are hungry there - desperately hungry. Russia is turning over from agriculture to industrialism. It's like a man going into business on small capital."

William Henry Chamberlin was eventually allowed into Kuban that autumn. On 13th September, 1933, Chamberlain argued in the Christian Science Monitor: "The whole North Caucasus is now engaged in the task of getting in the richest harvest of years, and shows few outward signs of recent poor crops." However, Chamberlain told officials at the British Embassy that he estimated that two million had died in Kazakhstan, a half a million in the North Caucasus, and two million in the Ukraine.

Duranty was later to be attacked by Joseph Alsop for his coverage of the 1932-33 famine in the Soviet Union. "Duranty... covered up the horrors and deluded an entire generation by prettifying Soviet realities... He was given a Pulitzer Prize. He lived comfortably in Moscow, too, by courtesy of the KGB... Lying was his stock in trade." Alsop claimed that Duranty was responsible for an entire group of intellectuals who admired the Soviet experiment. However, but they were relying on "a lower class Englishman who had a thing about girls, a shrivelled little man with a clubbed foot and a limp... not a man ladies leapt naturally into the bed of."

Walter Duranty at a dinner party in his Moscow apartment.
Walter Duranty at a dinner party in his Moscow apartment.

In 1934 Duranty told Anne O'Hare McCormick, that it was "quite possible that as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year". According to Eugene Lyons in his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937), McCormick replied: “But, Walter, you don’t mean that literally?” Duranty responded: “Hell I don’t... I’m being conservative, but they’re only Russians.”

Fellow journalist, William Harlan Stoneman, admitted that "Duranty was the grand old man of Moscow correspondents to whom everybody was referred if and when he was assigned to cover the Soviet Union. Duranty was invariably kind and considerate and went out of his way to help stray characters like myself. In return a hell of a lot of them took pleasure in criticizing him as a 'fellow traveller'. I have tried to avoid doing so."

I Write as I Please

In 1935 Duranty published his autobiography, I Write As I Please. It was a great success and became a bestseller. Sally J. Taylor claimed: "It turned out to be an extremely readable book, written in the style of a comfortable, chatty monologue, and it remains perhaps the only record of Duranty's distinctive conversational style, capturing the considerable, if highly perishable, charm of his talk." The reviewer in the New York Times said the book would "make every reporter proud of the reporter's trade."

Duranty explain his political philosophy in his autobiography: "I did not particularly ask myself whether (a course of action) was a right path or a wrong path; for some reason I have never been deeply concerned with that phase of the question. Right and wrong are evasive terms at best and I have never felt that it was my problem - or that of any other reporter - to sit in moral judgment. What I want to know is whether a policy or a political line or a regime will work or not, and I refuse to let myself be side-tracked by moral issues or by abstract questions as to whether the said policy or line or regime would be suited to a different country and different circumstances."

Duranty blamed his experiences during the First World War for not being a humanitarian: "I saw too much useless slaughter in the World War - for that matter I think the War itself was useless, unless you believe that Hitler in the Kaiser's place is a benefit to humanity - to allow my judgment of results to be biased by the losses or suffering involved. I'm a reporter, not a humanitarian, and if a reporter can't see the wood for trees he can't describe the wood. You may call that special pleading or call me callous, and perhaps it is true, but you can't blame me for it: you must blame the War, because that was where my mental skin got thickened."

Moscow Show Trials

Following the assassination of Sergey Kirov by Leonid Nikolayev the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin claimed that this was part of a larger conspiracy led by Leon Trotsky against the government. This resulted in the arrest and trial in August, 1936, of Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Ivan Smirnov and thirteen other party members who had been critical of Stalin. All were found guilty and executed.

Duranty wrote in the The New Republic that while watching the trial he came to the conclusion "that the confessions are true". Based on these comments the editor of the journal argued: "Some commentators, writing at a long distance from the scene, profess doubt that the executed men (Zinoviev and Kamenev) were guilty. It is suggested that they may have participated in a piece of stage play for the sake of friends or members of their families, held by the Soviet government as hostages and to be set free in exchange for this sacrifice. We see no reason to accept any of these laboured hypotheses, or to take the trial in other than its face value. Foreign correspondents present at the trial pointed out that the stories of these sixteen defendants, covering a series of complicated happenings over nearly five years, corroborated each other to an extent that would be quite impossible if they were not substantially true. The defendants gave no evidence of having been coached, parroting confessions painfully memorized in advance, or of being under any sort of duress."

Leon Trotsky, who was living in exile in Mexico City, was furious with Duranty and described him as a "hypocritical psychologist" who tried to explain away the terrors of the regime with "glib and facile phrases." Trotsky condemned Joseph Stalin "for betraying socialism and dishonoring the revolution" and describing the leadership as being "dominated by a clique which holds the people in subjection by oppression and terror." The trial, Trotsky claimed was a "frame-up" that lacked "objectivity and impartiality" and volunteered to go before an international commission to prove his innocence."

On 14th July 1937, Duranty wrote another article on the show-trials, The Riddle of Russia , for The New Republic. He argued that since November 1934, that agents working for Nazi Germany had infiltrated the ranks of the Soviet leadership, while Trotsky, like an exiled monarch, was the leader of the conspiracy to overthrow Stalin. Duranty went on to claim that this conspiracy had involved many men in the highest echelons of government. But now "their Trojan horse was broken, and its occupants destroyed."

James William Crowl, the author of Angels in Stalin's Paradise (1982 has argued: "Although Louis Fischer reserved judgment on the trials, Duranty vigorously defended them. According to him, Trotsky had created a spy network at the very time that Germany and Japan were spreading their own spy organizations in Russia. He explained that the two groups shared a hatred for Stalin, and fascist agents had cooperated with the Trotskyites in Kirov's assassination. The show-trials, Duranty insisted, had revealed the Trotskyite-fascist link beyond question. The trials showed just as clearly, he argued (on 14th July, 1937), that Stalin's arrest of thousands of these agents had spared the country from a wave of assassinations. Duranty charged that those who worried about the rights of the defendants or claimed that their confessions had been gained by drugs or torture, only served the interests of Germany and Japan." The socialist journalist, Heywood Broun, accused Duranty of "writing editorials from Moscow disguised as news dispatches".

Duranty always underestimated the number killed during the Great Purge. As Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has argued: "As for the number of resulting casualties from the Great Purge, Duranty's estimates, which encompassed the years from 1936 to 1939, fell considerably short of other sources, a fact he himself admitted. Whereas the number of Party members arrested is usually put at just above one million, Duranty's own estimate was half this figure, and he neglected to mention that of those exiled into the forced labor camps of the GULAG, only a small percentage ever regained their freedom, as few as 50,000 by some estimates. As to those actually executed, reliable sources range from some 600,000 to one million, while Duranty maintained that only about 30,000 to 40,000 had been killed."

Sidney Hook
Walter Duranty

Harrison Salisbury has argued that during the years Duranty reported from Moscow, he was one of the highest-paid correspondents in the world. It is believed that he was paid $10,000 a year, plus expenses. Eugene Lyons, who by this time held extreme right-wing views argued that Duranty was under the control of the KGB while living in Moscow. He said they provided him with "an automobile, a particularly comfortable apartment, and a mistress by the KGB". Lyons also claimed that the wife of Maxim Litvinov told him "that she walked in on a scene at the Paris Embassy when Duranty was receiving some cash." Salisbury, who worked for the New York Times, denied that Duranty was corrupt: "He was not in the pay of the KGB or anybody except the New York Times. Duranty was simply incapable of reporting something that broke the pattern he had established."

Duranty was considered by many to be a great journalist. Walter Kerr wrote: "Others brought with them their own prejudices. They viewed everything with alarm. Duranty viewed it with alarm. Duranty viewed it with alarm, but he always placed the horrors into the main picture... he always saw more to Russia than just that. He saw a vitality, a strength, that most outsiders could not see." Walter Winchell claimed that Duranty "had a superior reporter's ability to spot significant details as well as a poets eloquence."

Duranty sometimes had difficulty writing. He told a friend: "My blackest depressions, despairing, tragic, almost suicidal, have been when I've tried to write and I couldn't. I think my worst moment came after I had signed a contract to write my first book... I thought I could never write anything good, and wished I was dead... I've never been satisfied with anything I've ever done... I've never been satisfied with anything."

In December, 1937, William Shirer, who was working for Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in Berlin, recruited Duranty to be interviewed about his views on the situation in the Soviet Union. The broadcast went well and listeners approved of his "clipped British accent". Duranty argued that Joseph Stalin was feeling isolated and was frightened of Germany in the west and Japan to the east. He also viewed China with renewed apprehension.

Nazi-Soviet Pact

On 3rd May, 1939, Stalin removed his Jewish Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Maxim Litvinov, from office. Litvinov, who had been closely associated with the Soviet Union's policy of an anti-fascist alliance. Duranty wrongly attributed this to Litvinov's poor health, dismissing any speculation that it might indicate a major change in Stalin's foreign policy.

Meetings soon took place between Vyacheslav Molotov, Litvinov's replacement and Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister. On 28th August, 1939, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed in Moscow. Under the terms of the agreement, both countries promised to remain neutral if either country became involved in a war. Within days, Adolf Hitler ordered an attack of Poland and this led to the Second World War. Duranty was criticised for being wrong about the dismissal of Litvinov.

In March, 1940, Duranty wrote in Atlantic Monthly that although the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were "to all intents and purposes allies" the natural animosity between the two countries, and indeed their rival systems of government, dictated that such an alliance could not last. It was, he wrote, an alliance built upon "a temporary community of interests and a joint dislike of others, which is surely a slender foundation on which to build a permanent edifice."

In 1940 Clare Hollingsworth met Duranty in Rumania. She had just left the staff of the Daily Telegraph to join the Daily Express. Hollingworth later remarked that Duranty enjoyed a position of high status amongst journalists and was described as the "dean of newspapermen". Hollingsworth added that "he was a respected, privileged senior correspondent". She remembered his gesturing widely with his cane, from side to side, as he climbed stairs or moved across the marble floors of the hotel, shouting "get out of my way". Hollingsworth found his behaviour "shocking", especially his predilection for opium and young women "for whom I presume he paid". Cyrus Sulzberger said that Duranty "made a gallant figure hobbling around in his straw hat and his wooden leg." Another journalist, Robert William St. John, said he was a familiar fixture, sitting in "a soft leather chair, deep and comfortable" in the bar of the Athenee Palace Hotel in Bucharest.

Duranty was expelled from Rumania on 25th September 1940. Duranty claimed that "in certain quarters I am regarded as a British agent!" Duranty returned to Soviet Union but the following month he was told that New York Times intended to close down the Moscow bureau at the end of the year. Duranty now became a foreign correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA).

On 17th June 1941 Duranty reported that an inside source in Moscow had told him that the Soviet Union would soon be at war with Germany. Although the source was "unimpeachable" Duranty said he found the story "improbable". He went on to argue that "it looks as though there was some rift in the relationship, but I shall be surprised if the clash occurs now." Five days later, Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa.

Cass Canfield was a friend of Duranty's and was with him when the invasion took place. In his autobiography, Up and Down and Around (1971) he wrote: "I attended a dinner dance on Long Island at the home of the John Parkinsons at which Walter Duranty, the expert on Russia and an indisputable authority on world affairs, was also a guest. As the men were having coffee and brandy, Duranty expatiated on the developing Soviet-Nazi crisis of the late spring of 1941, which he minimized. In fact, he argued convincingly that the idea of Hitler's attacking Russia was absurd. This assurance lifted our spirits and the dance went on merrily. Later in the evening I noticed Duranty sitting at a table enjoying his champagne. In the interval since dinner a pretty young blonde with whom I was dancing had told me some interesting news and, on a wicked impulse, I beckoned to Walter and advised him to cut in on the lady. She imparted to him the report she had heard earlier on the radio that the Nazi divisions had just invaded Soviet territory. Duranty's reaction would have done justice to a George Price cartoon; he rushed from the dance floor and was off in a flash to the Times office in New York."

Stalin's Apologist

Duranty now came under attack from a former colleague, Eugene Lyons. In his book, The Red Decade: The Stalinist Penetration of America (1941) Lyons criticized Duranty's reporting on the Soviet Union. He said that one of his major problems was that he believed that he never considered Russians to be quite human and could "only be managed with whips, bayonets, and execution squads". Lyons also rejected Duranty's view that Leon Trotsky had been the head of a "Fifth Column" in the Soviet Union. Instead, he thought Duranty was part of "Stalin's Fifth Column in America... that had... blind allegiance to the will of Moscow". According to Lyons his allegiance was "to a foreign dictator."

In December 1941 Duranty published The Kremlin and the People. In it he argued that the Great Purge was a successful attempt to destroy pro-Nazi forces in the Soviet Union. He claimed that: "It is unthinkable that Stalin... and the court martial could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proof of their guilt were overwhelming." Duranty goes on to argue that "it is unthinkable that Stalin and Voroshilov and Budyonny... could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proofs of guilt were overwhelming." James William Crowl points out: "Yet Duranty showed no interest in examining the evidence, and he appears to have accepted the charges solely on his faith in the Soviet leadership." In the book Duranty also supported the claim that Mikhail Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders were guilty of plotting with enemy agents. The accused had "all confessed guilt," and he took the suicide of General Yan Gamarnik as proof that they "had engaged in some deal with the Germans".

Louis Fischer, who had worked in Moscow with Duranty reviewed the book in the Saturday Review of Literature. He argued that Duranty's had provided no evidence at all for his "Fifth Column thesis" and that he had shown great naivety by believing the confessions of the show trails. Malcolm Muggeridge suggested in his autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time (1973) that there might have been psychological reasons for his defence of Joseph Stalin: "I had the feeling...that in thus justifying Soviet brutality and ruthlessness, Duranty was getting his own back for being small, and losing a leg... This is probably, in the end, the only real basis of the appeal of such regimes as Stalin's, and later Hitler's; they compensate for weakness and inadequacy... Duranty was a little browbeaten boy looking up admiringly at a big bully."

Duranty continued to believe this theory. He wrote to the publisher, Cass Canfield absolving Joseph Stalin of blame and claiming that it was the work of Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the NKVD: "I know that many innocent people suffered unjustly, but the fact remains that Russia was swept clean of Fifth Columnists, enemy agents and a whole raft of other dubious elements."

Duranty's next book was USSR: The Story of Soviet Russia (1944). He argued that Joseph Stalin was a popular leader who had successfully managed to reform this backward country: "In a bare quarter-century the USSR has accomplished ages of growth. The most ignorant and backward of all the white nations has moved into the forefront of social, economic, and political consciousness. Its obsolete agricultural system has been modernized and mechanized; its small and artificial industry has become gigantic and self-supporting; its illiterate masses have been educated and disciplined to appreciate and enjoy the benefits of collective effort."

California

Duranty moved to California and began work on his next book. Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has argued: "By now, he was bald, so much so that it looked as if a swimming cap had been stretched across the top of his head. His sad sack face appeared distinctly unreal in the California sunshine, the wrinkles across his forehead so deep they looked as if they might have been stencilled in. His nose was large and prominent. His eyes, like dark half moons painted into his face and pointing slightly downwards at the sides, added to the appearance of self-parody. With a slightly pathetic expression on his face - half hoping, half expecting the worst - he seemed a caricature of the man he once was."

A fellow journalist, John Gunther, commented that Duranty was a very kind man. When his young son, Johnny, was dying of a brain tumour, visited him in hospital: "Walter Duranty, bless him, dropped in for two long afternoons, and enchanted Johnny with his conversation, making him laugh almost until he cried with anecdotes of his own school days at Harrow and how he had played hookey to see the Grand Prix in Paris."

Duranty's last book, Stalin & Co.: The Politburo, The Men Who Run Russia, was published in 1949. Unable to get employment as a journalist, his main source of income was from the lecture circuit. In the early 1950s he became a strong anti-communist and urged the government to send troops to help the British in Burma and the French in Vietnam. He also praised the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been compiling information on Duranty since the 1930s. Some acquaintances suggested he was a secret member of the American Communist Party and a propaganda agent for the Soviet Union. The FBI could find no hard evidence that this was true and although they kept a close watch on the articles that he wrote the file was effectively closed in 1951.

In the 1950s Duranty had difficulty finding work. John Gunther, a successful journalist, helped him out financially. Duranty told Gunther: "Of all the successful people I've come across, you, my dear John, are the most utterly and sincerely modest, and I suppose that even now at the height of your career you haven't a tenth of the idea how much people really admire you.... For me, John, you stand so high above anyone I have known, you yourself as a person, not in relation to me, that I brought my troubles to you with complete confidence that henceforth it would be all right, that I could rely upon you. And of course you didn't disappoint me. You helped me not only with money but with encouragement that I needed equally, and I felt safe in your friendship. Perhaps I felt too safe, too sheltered and secure in the knowledge that I could count on you always. That's what worries me now, that you might think I would presume on that feeling of safety and take things for granted, almost as a matter of convenience. Perhaps in a way I did, but never in that way."

Walter Duranty was in poor health and on 8th September 1957 he entered Orange Memorial Hospital in Orlando. Aware that he was dying, Duranty married his long-term partner, Anna Enwright, on 26th September. He died from an internal hemorrhage on 3rd October, 1957. He was seventy-three years old.

Primary Sources

(1) James William Crowl, Angels in Stalin's Paradise (1982)

When he was ten, Duranty's parents were killed in a train crash. The experience must have been a terrible one for him as it left him virtually without family, but he shied away from writing about it. In neither his reminiscences I Write As I Please or his semi-fictionalized autobiography Search Tor a Key does he dwell on the tragedy. Duranty was sent to live with his father's aging bachelor uncle who largely turned him over to a succession of English public schools. It was the beginning of his study of the classics, and for anyone familiar with his journalism, his fondness for the classics is obvious. His articles and books are so studded with classical allusions as to make it something of a trademark for him.

While he excelled at these studies and won scholarships to Harrow and to Emmanuel College at Cambridge, Duranty's social life was painful. Smaller than is classmates and still trying to adjust to the loss of his family, he had to endure the taunts of fellow students because of his middle-class background. His unhappiness in these years left a lasting imprint, and much of his determination to excel and prove himself apparently stemmed from these early school experiences.

(2) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990)

Duranty seemed an unlikely candidate for such heroic stuff. Short, balding, and unprepossessing in appearance, his one outstanding characteristic was a limp, which resulted from the loss of his left leg in a train accident in France some years before. That and his keen gray eyes were what saved him from the commonplace. No one, though, who had ever seen him animated, his eyes glittering, could forget the engaging and provocative style of his conversation, even if they did somehow forget exactly what it was he had said.

Perhaps it was the way he talked that made him such a hit with the ladies, for Duranty possessed this extraordinary attraction for women. His sexual escapades were legion, despite the loss of the leg - or, as some believed, because of it. The rumors were fed by his keeping a Russian mistress discreetly at home in Moscow and a French wife, even more discreetly, in a villa in St. Tropez.

Coeds from Eastern schools, departing from European tours to witness the building of Paradise, adored the Times correspondent and his titillating banter. He told them tales about the dangers of opium, to which he had briefly become addicted, so went the story, in the painful days following the loss of his leg. He chain-smoked Camels and sipped Scotch as he talked, making no apologies for his admiration of V. L Lenin and his successor Joseph Stalin, whose methods, he believed, would ultimately prove successful in the backward Russian state.

For them, and for his readership in America, Duranty created the leaders of the Soviet Union, much as a novelist creates a set of memorable characters. In his own unmistakable, personalized style, he vividly recounted the conflicts among them, the dramatic ebbs and flows of their struggles for power. Lenin: cold, logical, and wise. Trotsky: brilliant, but erratic; fatally flawed. Stalin: man of steel; "a Frankenstein monster."

Two exclusive interviews with the reclusive dictator gave the impression that Duranty was Stalin's Western confidant. The first was in 1930 at Duranty's request; the second, at Stalin's, on Christmas Day

1933 - a seeming reward for Duranty's part in helping to achieve U.S. recognition.

As Fascism rose in Europe and Japanese Imperialism threatened the East, Western powers sank deeper into the quagmire of the Great Depression, unable, it seemed at the time, to protect themselves from these forces. Against this background, Duranty touted the accomplishments of Stalin's Five-Year Plan, ushering in what would come to be called "the Red Decade." His stubborn chronicle of Soviet achievements made him the doyen of left-leaning Westerners who believed that what happened inside Soviet Russia held the key to the future for the rest of the world...

The brutality of Stalin's policy of collectivization that displaced millions, his establishing of the Gulag Archipelago that sent untold numbers of Soviet citizens to work and to die in unimaginable degra¬dation and squalor-these were lightly glossed over by the Soviet Press Office, in a policy of propaganda that succeeded even beyond the expectations of government officials. The bloody purges that would expunge Stalin's opponents from every sphere of Soviet life were but a dark shadow against the future.

But in 1933, the watershed year, when Stalin finally achieved U.S. recognition, disquieting rumors had begun to surface. There was a growing number of reports about a famine, purported to have taken place in the grain-growing districts of the Ukraine, the Northern Caucausus, and across the nomadic cattle country of Kazakhstan: a disaster that cost the lives of millions of peasants, a calamity of incalculable dimensions.

For later generations, as the sheer magnitude of that event began slowly to emerge, questions would arise as to why nobody knew, why the American public hadn't been told. How did Stalin manage to conceal the greatest man-made disaster in modern history, when perhaps as many as ten million men, women, and children were allowed to die by slow starvation as a result of their refusal to conform to Stalin's plan to collectivize agriculture?

Had this been a deliberate act of genocide against the Soviet peasantry, or, as Duranty characterized it, an example of anti-Communist propaganda promulgated in "an eleventh-hour attempt to avert American recognition by picturing the Soviet Union as a land of ruin and despair"?

Throughout his career Duranty would claim his only object as a journalist was "to find the truth and write it as best I could." Yet despite this high-minded goal, by 1957, the year of his death, Duranty would be labeled "the No. 1 Soviet apologist in the United States"; and in the years that followed, he would become the prototype for the dishonest reporter: "a fashionable liar," some would call him, "a journalistic shill," others would say.

What were the loyalties of this complicated man? What motivated the line of action he adopted?

"What I want to know is whether a policy or a political line or regime will work or not," Duranty once said; and he refused "to be sidetracked by moral issues or to sit in judgment in the acts of individuals or of states."

(3) Walter Duranty, New York Times (16th January, 1920)

An interrogation of Red prisoners in which The New York Times correspondent took part a couple of days ago reveals the Bolshevik system in its true light as one of the most damnable tyrannies in history. It is a pity some of the zealous advocates of Bolshevist theories were not present to learn how Bolshevism works in practice. Actually it is a compound of force, terror and espionage, utterly ruthless in conception and execution.

(4) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990)

He had a mug face, his hairline high, receding a bit already. He wore his hair cropped short in an abbreviated Roman style. His thick-lipped, sensual mouth seemed to have a slightly cynical twist around the corners. The nose was fine-chiseled but a shade too large, that bit too flat. The only relief in this none-too-handsome face was a pair of clear, gray eyes, slightly hooded, twinkling, letting it be known somehow that one was in the presence of a keen intellect, a man with an unusual sense of mischief and of humor. At full height, Duranty was no taller than five feet six inches; this as well as the look of youthful idealism he conveyed in his more serious moments made him look a good deal younger than he was. And his lively manner, his outrageous talk, added to the impression.

(5) Walter Duranty, New York Times (2nd September, 1913)

Several days ago he left his machine in midair and came to earth in a parachute. While dropping to the ground he saw his aeroplane fly upside down by itself and land safely, right side up. He then conceived the idea of making the machine repeat the performance, with himself in it....

At the moment of his departure he was by far the calmest person present.

He rose to a height of 3,000 feet and then turned the nose of the machine earthward. For 200 feet it fell like a stone. It then turned inward till it was flying on its back, after which it rose perpendicularly upward. Then it completed the circle by regaining its normal flying position, having accomplished an apparent impossibility.

(6) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990)

During these first years of the war, Duranty remained too much a novice to be considered for use as a war correspondent, and he stayed mainly in Paris, picking up what news was current in the capital. At home his countrymen were queuing up to enlist. In later years, there would emerge several myths-the sort that always surround celebrity - that purported to explain why Walter Duranty never served in the armed services himself during World War I. Some would say, mistakenly, that he was exempted from service because of his leg. Others had the notion he had lost his leg in the war, taking it as a matter of course. But it was still several years before Duranty would have the accident that cost him his left limb. Finally, a cult of pacifism grew up around the famous Duranty: in his obituary it would be said that "he was of the generation which was rigidly pacifist on political grounds.

Realistically speaking, it would hardly have been in character for the self-interested Duranty to rush home to join the throngs volunteering for what would become the most futile slaughter in the history of warfare. What Duranty really needed was an excuse, and the eloquent apologia he devolved later in life lent dignity to his rather conspicuous decision not to fight. He had known, he estimated, some 3,000 boys during his schooling, and "pitiless statistics" showed him that two-thirds of them were dead. "So that," Duranty wrote, "if you will forgive me, is why I don't talk of the friends of my youth and why I am not overproud to think I'm still alive."

Wythe Williams, on the other hand, volunteered to drive an ambu¬lance, disgruntled by a censorship system that prevented him from reaching the front. He was "determined to do something useful and served under fire at Amiens";°" anything seemed better to him than sitting uselessly around the Paris bureau. By early 1915, the French relented.

(7) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

Some men in an army are what one terms cowards, that is they can't control their fear and their nerves break sooner or later. They try to run or hide in the first shell-hole, or shoot themselves in hand or foot and in extreme cases, deliberately seek the death they fear by putting their heads over the top of a trench; I've known that to happen. Then there is a larger group, whose nerves are dull. They don't much fear danger, or grow used to it, and carry on calmly with more interest most of the time in how they are fed and clothed and paid, and whether the trenches are damp or dry, and what the girls and eats and drinks will be like in their next period of rest behind the line, than in the enemy's shelling or their own fears. Finally there are the exceptional men, one in ten thousand or more, like Alexander and Sweeney, who get a real kick from danger, and the greater the danger the greater the kick.

(8) Walter Duranty, New York Times (31st January, 1916)

Around each doorway was gathered an excited group of children half dressed and running about shouting. From the whole quarter arose a murmur like the buzz of a huge and angry hive of bees. As I stumbled through the darkness - the taxi was not allowed to pass - I heard constantly one word, "reprisals," as the keynote of every conversation and shouted in every gathering.... At the smitten street... the firemen and police were busy amid the ruin, and bodies awaiting removal to the Morgue were lying on heaps of rubbish in the narrow courtyards. The houses that had been hit looked exactly like the photographs of gun-ravaged towns. Here half the front of a house had been torn away, leaving a child's cot hanging over the edge. Its occupant was somewhere under the ruins, and the neighbors were trying to comfort the frantic mother in the next-door kitchen.

The worst case of all was a five-storey tenement at the end of a cul-de-sac.... Here the family of a zouave, Auguste Petitjcan, were celebrating the father's leave from the front. His wife and 15-year-old daughter, Lucie, his old father-in-law... and his sister... with her two little boys... had gathered around a table to hear stories of the war. Suddenly the war struck them. All seven were killed instantly. When I left there four bodies already had been recovered.

(9) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990)

One of the first ones back in was a man who seemed an unlikely candidate - Duranty's old pal Alexander Woollcott, or Aleck, as he preferred to be called by his friends. Pudgy and artistically inclined, the New York Times drama critic didn't seem cut out for the vicissitudes of soldiering, but immediately after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, there he was, lining up to share in all of the rights and privileges extended to a private in the U.S. Army. He hoped, he explained somewhat shamefacedly to his friends, that basic training would run some of the fat off him, and it must have done so because he good-humoredly made it through the ordeal and thus across the Atlantic, making light of any inconvenience or embarrassment he had suffered. What he had intended was to join the fighting men at the front, but he ended up on the "bedpan brigade" at a hospital in Savenay. Not surprisingly, he was immensely popular, not only with the string of celebrities who found their way into the orderly room at the hospital but also with his patients and fellow workers. Somehow, he always managed to have a bottle of something drinkable on hand for anything that could be construed as an appropriate occasion. Duranty turned up there regularly.'

And of course, when Woollcott wasn't on duty, he traveled to Paris, where he managed, despite the hardships imposed by the war, to live characteristically high. "His special haunts were the Cafe Napolitain, where he stood drinks to all comers and held forth oracularly to all listeners in alternate French and English, and the Cornille... in the Latin Quarter..." There, he initiated "a convivial poker game" that continued intermittently throughout the war. At Christmas in 1917, Woollcott, Duranty, and Wythe Williams managed to get together for "a real reunion" at the Parisian flat of Heywood Broun of the New York Tribune and his wife Ruth, who lured them all with the promise that they would "collapse from overeating" if they contrived to get there.

Surprisingly, Aleck Woollcott became one of the best-known war correspondents at the front. A few months after the Christmas feast at the Brouns he was drafted for work on Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military newspaper, where he met Harold Ross, later the editor of The New Yorker and one of the original founders of the Thanatopsis Club that met at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Ross was running Stars and Stripes, and Private Albian A. Wallgren of the Marines was working up the cartoons.

Wallgren took one look at Woollcott and created the character that would make Woollcott the most beloved mascot of the American enlisted man. Soon, this new cartoon character appeared on the pages of Stars and Stripes: the figure of a "chubby soldier in uniform and a raincoat, his gas mask worn correctly across his chest, and a small musette bag at his side, tin hat placed correctly, straight across his head, puttees rolled beautifully, prancing with that almost effeminate rolling gait of Aleck's."

Meantime, Woollcott made his way fearlessly in and around the front, gathering material for the kinds of things the fighting men wanted to read: stories about rotten cooks, nosey dogs, leaky boots, and other common nuisances of life at the front. He was well known as "Our Intrepid Hero, Med. Sgt. Alexander H. Woollcott-A War Correspondent For Whom The Front Never Had No Terrors."'

Wherever Woollcott went, light-hearted stories followed. He wrote to a friend that he was "on Montmartre not long ago with my dear Walter Duranty, than whom no one can have a warmer spot in my foolish heart."

(10) Walter Duranty, New York Times (12th June, 1918)

In the last twenty-four hours the violence of the fighting has increased still further. The limit of human endurance has been forced yet another notch higher. Along a front of nearly twenty miles the Germans are driving more than a quarter of a million men forward through a sea of blood. The defenders say that it is as though the whole of the German Army is engaged against them; no sooner is one battalion annihilated than another takes its place and another and another....

The grassy slopes of the hill bore a hideous carpet of thousands of German dead, over which new forces still advanced with the same madness of sacrifice as the Carthaginians of old, flinging their children, their possessions, and themselves into Moloch's furnace. The bloody religion of militarism that Germany has followed for forty years has led its votaries to culminating orgies of destruction.

(11) Walter Duranty, New York Times (27th September, 1918)

As far as the eye could see the northern sky was split up with flashes that winked out continuously along the whole line. Nearly all were the sudden, broad glare of French "departures." But now and then a tiny triangle of light marked the explosion of a German "arrival."

Right ahead a crimson glow now rising high above the horizon, now scarcely distinguishable, told of a huge German munition dump that blazed for three long hours....

At brief intervals a white star shell or colored rocket would soar up from a German position. One could well imagine the desperate plight of some German commander as he called in vain for his own artillery to protect him against the inferno of destruction.

As the bombardment swelled in volume toward the dawn, the words "drum fire" exactly expressed the sound. All night the air had been filled with an enormous and irregular tumult, in which the deep drone of the allied aircraft passing, as it seemed, in an unbroken stream, to add their part to the work of destruction seemed the leitmotif of the cannon's thundersong.

But when the climax came it was like nothing so much as the roll of a titanic drum, explosion so thick upon explosion that no separate sound could be distinguished."

(12) Walter Duranty, New York Times (21st October, 1918)

Grass and weeds are the tragedy of Ypres; one cannot even tell where the houses stood or the roads once ran. But the appalling shell-torn waste that is the battlefield of Flanders surpasses the wildest visions of Dore in ghastliness and gloom. For nearly four miles the road of rotting planks that is the sole passage across the ridges winds amid acres of shell holes merging one into another.

No single tree or bush or hedge or building remains to tell that human beings once cultivated this desert. Here lies a rusting tank and three broken caissons. Further on is a hole that was a dugout where men lived and died. Everywhere are shattered concrete barbed wire in crazy festoons, convex roofs of corrugated iron that gave some shelter against the elements, planks by millions for roadways, and faded crosses that mark innumerable graves.

This frightful realization of Macbeth's "blasted heath" is the resting place of tens of thousands of brave men to whom death must have been a relief from more than mortal hardship. Now only rats-huge, gaunt, and hungry since the humans have departed-inhabit the accursed spot.

(13) Roger Sandall, The American Interest (Autumn 2007)

Duranty was not, alas, just a scamp. He was also a man many regarded then and now as a scoundrel. Not for nothing did Malcolm Muggeridge call him “the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in fifty years of journalism,” or Joseph Alsop describe him as a “fashionable prostitute”, or Robert Conquest, later, call for every word he ever wrote about the Soviets and collectivization to be challenged again and again.

It’s possible that Duranty was in the pay of the Soviets, though another long-term New York Times correspondent, Harrison Salisbury, who looked into things during his own stay in Moscow, denied that Duranty was ever in the pay of anyone except the New York Times.

Perhaps. Yet it’s inescapable that his immediate reward for doggedly covering up mass murder in the Ukraine was the indulgence of the regime, the tumultuous applause he received in the Waldorf-Astoria in 1933 for assisting America’s diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union, and a call from Stalin four weeks after Duranty’s return to Moscow offering the unprecedented privilege of a second interview. Stalin’s words at the time, however accurately or inaccurately rendered by Duranty afterwards, were something he quoted with pride for the rest of his life:

You have done a good job in your reporting the USSR, though you are not a Marxist, because you try to tell the truth about our country and to understand it and to explain it to your readers. I might say that you bet on our horse to win when others thought it had no chance and I am sure you have not lost by it.

(14) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

They were full of stories, because the tank corps "saw life," as they say in the Marines - and death. I do not know about the other armies, but with the French it was not considered tactful to ask after friends in any tank or battle-plane outfit who were not around when you came to visit. They might be on leave or just sick or slightly wounded, but the odds were they were dead. The tanks lost sixty per cent killed of their effectives in the French Army, which is the highest mortality for any branch of any fighting service in the War.

While we were talking, there came a phone message from the line ahead saying that a stray shell had hit one of the tanks, which had gone up in flames. The commanding officer said quietly, "That's too bad ... I wonder which it was. Can you get the number?" Five minutes later they phoned again to say it was number seventeen, which was the one I had ridden in, and that they were sending back the bodies because there was not much firing, just an occasional shell or so. So I saw them and felt sick ... black and incredibly shriveled, like three little faceless nigger boys.

(15) Walter Duranty, New York Times (25th December, 1919)

A great Bolshevist conspiracy has just been discovered here, and the leaders with the principal subordinates have been arrested to the number of 100. The object was to overthrow the Government and establish Bolshevist rule.

Last, but not least, a Russian sailor was taken bearing large sums of money and jewels of great value concealed in the soles of his boots and a letter from one of Lenin's closest satellites to comrades in America... It is said to contain minute directions for the conduct of the Bolshevist campaign in America, for the organization of various centres, and the methods to be followed subsequently.

(16) Sally J. Taylor, Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990)

It was an elitist philosophy that would make its appearance again and again in Duranty's writing. In a way, Duranty took Bolitho's idea to heart in ways Bolitho himself never anticipated. By following the credo in reporting Russia, Duranty thought he had found an inside track on the truth. Somehow, he believed, merely by taking the minority view, he would be able to see through the outward hypocrisy of men's actions and into their innermost motivations.

Duranty also came up with another hypothesis of his own: that if he put himself in another man's shoes and asked himself what he would do if he were in that man's situation, he would somehow be able to see further and deeper into the man than others, and in many cases be able to predict the future.

(17) Walter Duranty, New York Times (13th August, 1921)

Lenin has thrown communism overboard. His signature appears in the official press of Moscow in August 9, abandoning State ownership, with the exception of a definite number of great industries of national importance - such as were controlled by the State in France, England and Germany during the war - and re-establishing payment by individuals for railroads, postal and other public services.

(18) Walter Duranty, New York Times (24th September, 1921)

Loads of'white flour sacks, some on big motor trucks, stirred the Tartar population from its usual Oriental calm. Slant-eved women wearing round skull caps, colored scarfs, short skirts and high embroidered leather boots, paused in their bargaining at the market stalls, pointing in surprise. The children ran eagerly forward. The wild little Tartar horses plunged in terror. A gleam even came to the lustreless eyes of a dying boy on the sidewalk, long past help, and the gaunt old crone beside him raised her skinny fingers to shade her eyes that she might see better. One figure only paid no attention to the approach of relief - that of a dead man lying with his feet in the gutter.

(19) Walter Duranty, New York Times (13th September, 1923)

Honesty compels me to add that from a newspaper point of view I mishandled the whole trial. To begin with I underestimated its news value at home, which is an unpardonable sin for a reporter to commit; secondly, I was convinced that it was a more or less formal affair which would end quietly with an exchange of prisoners. At the outset I may have been right in this opinion but I held on to it too long and played down a story that I should have written up. My New York office dealt with my shortcomings more in sorrow than in anger, but I realized that I had failed them and asked myself why.

(20) Walter Duranty, New York Times (13th September, 1923)

Trotsky is a great executive, but his brain cannot compare with Lenin's in analytical power. Djerjinsky goes straight to his appointed goal without fear or favor and gets there somehow, no matter what are the obstacles, but he is also inferior to Lenin in analytical capacity. Rykoff and Kameneff are first-class administrators, and hardly more.

But during the last year Stalin has shown judgment and analytical power not unworthy of Lenin. It is to him that the greatest part of the credit is clue for bringing about the new Russian Union, which history may regard as one of the most remarkable Constitutions in human history. Trotsky helped him in drawing it up, but Stalin's brain guided the pen.

(21) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

The Treaty of Rapallo confirmed my impression that the Red Star was destined to rise high and shine bright in the international heavens.

When my friend Knickerbocker read this line in my manuscript he commented quickly, "And then you decided to hitch your wagon to that star." "Yes, in a sense," I replied. "Of course I didn't go Bolshevik or think Bolshevism would work in Western countries or be good for them. I don't believe I even cared in those days whether it would be good for Russia, or work there in practice. But I did think that the Bolsheviks would win in their own country and that the Soviet Union would become a great force in world affairs. If you want to know, Stalin himself expressed my attitude rather neatly the last time I saw him, on Christmas Day 1933. He said, "You have done a good job in your reporting of the U.S.S.R. although you are not a Marxist, because you tried to tell the truth about our country and to understand it and explain it to your readers. I might say that you bet on our horse to win when others thought it had no chance, and I am sure you have not lost by it."

"Did Stalin say that?" Knick asked in surprise. "Then there must be more humanity than I thought in that steel skull of his." "Of course he's human," I said, "but the trouble with you and so many other people is that they won't admit that the Bolsheviks regard themselves as fighting a war in which it is their duty to be just as ruthless and dispassionate in gaining their objectives as any leaders in any war. As far as I'm concerned, I don't see that I have been any less accurate about Russia because I failed to stress casualties so hard as some of my colleagues, than I was in reporting battles on the French Front when I said more about the importance of the victory than the lives it cost. I saw too much useless slaughter in the World War - for that matter I think the War itself was useless, unless you believe that Hitler in the Kaiser's place is a benefit to humanity - to allow my judgement of results to be biased by the losses or suffering involved.

(22) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

None of the things I have been afraid of before, complaints by my boss or the loss of my job or the opinion of my friends or any danger, are as bad as the thing I am facing now, which is death by slow torture. Than that there is nothing worse; if I escape it I can say to myself that I at least can no longer be frightened by anyone or anything. Now, facing death, I regret few of the things I have done, but I regret not doing a great many things I might have done and not saying or writing things I might have said or written. "Henceforth," I thought to myself, "If I do get back I shall do as I please and think as I please and write as I please, without fear or favor." I was half delirious, but that was a good thought, which stayed with me and strengthened me. Of course it was impossible, as I found out later.

(23) Walter Duranty, New York Times (23rd January, 1924)

At 11.20 o'clock this morning President Kalinin briefly opened the session of the All-Russian Soviet Congress and requested everyone to stand. He had not slept all night and tears were streaming down his haggard face....

"I bring you terrible news about our dear comrade, Vladimir Ilyich." High up in the gallery a woman uttered a low, wailing cry that was followed by a burst of sobs.

"Yesterday," faltered Kalinin, "yesterday, he suffered a further stroke of paralysis and-" There was a long pause as if the speaker were unable to nerve himself to pronounce the fatal word: then, with an effort which shook his whole body, it came - "died."

The emotional Slav temperament reacted immediately. From all over the huge opera house came sobs and wailing, not loud or shrill, but pitifully mournful, spreading and increasing.

(24) Walter Duranty, New York Times (23rd January, 1924)

First, Lenin lying in state - such simple state amid such grandeur - in the columned hall of the former Nobles' Club; second, the face and shoulders of Kalinin helping to bear Lenin's coffin from the station, when two steps down from the platform its weight was suddenly thrown on him in front. Kalinin was a typical Russian peasant driven by misery like millions of his fellows to work whole or part time in a city factory. During these moments of strain he symbolised the struggle of Russia's 140.000,000 peasants against the blind enmity of nature and human oppression. For two nights he had not slept and, as the level ground relieved part of the burden, he staggered from sheer exhaustion. But on he went like an old peasant ploughing the stubborn earth, with sweat pouring down his cheeks in an icy snow-flecked gale, until he reached a gun caisson with six white horses waiting in the station yard to carry the coffin to the Nobles' Club...

In the center of tile room Lenin lay on a high couch with four columns that gave the effect of a sort of old-fashioned four-poster bed without curtains. Over his feet was a grey rug with something stencilled on it, over his body a dark red blanket; and his head rested bare on a white pillow. The face was a yellow-white, like wax, without the slightest wrinkle and utterly calm. The eyes were closed, yet the expression was one of looking forward seeking something beyond his vision.

(25) Edgar Ansel Mowrer, Triumph and Turmoil: A Personal History of Our Time (1968)

Berlin in the nineteen twenties was a kind of stopping off place not only for Russians heading west, but for Americans entering or leaving the Soviet Union, including those who lived there and needed occasionally to come up for air. Among these were newsmen like H. R. Knickerbocker, Frederick Kuh, Walter Duranty, Eugene Lyons, William Henry Chamberlin, and the author, Maurice Hindus. In addition, Samuel Harper, the Russian specialist of the University of Chicago, never went in or out of the Soviet Fatherland without pausing in Berlin to report and enjoy a few good arguments.

These men had varying views of communism. Chamberlin, Kuh, Hindus, Lyons, and Harper were for some years hopeful about the revolution. Duranty always got along well with the Kremlin. He argued that the Russians deserved nothing better.

Knickerbocker, on the other hand, recognized from the first that the U.S.S.R. was at war with the world and prophesied that no good would come of it. I trusted Knick's judgment.

Junius Wood of the Chicago Daily News looked on the Soviet Union with such disdain that the Bolsheviks, unable to believe that anyone would dare treat them as he did, let him get away with it. Arriving in Russia for the first time, he immediately wrote a highly critical piece. Promptly the censor called him in and said: "Mr. Wood, you are new here, but I must warn you that if you write any more dispatches like the last, which I have stopped, you will wake up some morning to find yourself in Riga."

To which, Junius said: "Is that a threat or a promise?" "I don't understand you, Mr. Wood."

"Do you believe I came to your God-forsaken country because I wanted to? The greatest favor you can do me is to expel me and get me sent somewhere else."

At another time, when foreign correspondents were called to the Foreign Office in the middle of night only to be handed an "important news announcement" at the door, Junius went home and wrote:

"According to the doorman at the Soviet Foreign Office," etc. etc. Again the censor intervened, but Junius remained in Russia as long as the paper wanted to keep him there.

And gradually, one by one, several of the original enthusiasts, Chamberlin, Lyons, and, in 1939, even Sam Harper, turned thumbs down on the "great experiment."

Thanks to the comings and goings of these and other Soviet experts, Berlin was probably better informed about events in Russia than other Western capitals.

(26) Walter Duranty, New York Times (18rd January, 1931)

Stalin has created a great Frankenstein monster, of which... he has become an integral part, made of comparatively insignificant and mediocre individuals, but whose mass desires, aims, and appetites have an enormous and irresistible power. I hope it is not true, and I devoutly hope so, but it haunts me unpleasantly. And perhaps haunts Stalin.

(27) Walter Duranty, speech reported in the New York Times (3rd May, 1932)

I went to the Baltic states viciously anti-Bolshevik. From the French standpoint the Bolsheviks had betrayed the allies to Germany, repudiated the debts, nationalized women and were enemies of the human race. I discovered that the Bolsheviks were sincere enthusiasts, trying to regenerate a people that had been shockingly misgoverned, and I decided to try to give them their fair break. I still believe they are doing the best for the Russian masses and I believe in Bolshevism - for Russia - but more and more I am convinced it is unsuitable for the United States and Western Europe. It won't spread westward unless a new war wrecks the established system.

(28) Report of the Pultizer Prize jury (11th March, 1932)

Mr. Duranty's dispatches show profundity and intimate comprehension of conditions in Russia and of the causes of those conditions. They are marked by scholarship, profundity, impartiality, sound judgment and exceptional clarity and are excellent examples of the best type of foreign correspondence.

(29) James William Crowl, Angels in Stalin's Paradise (1982)

What is so remarkable about Duranty's selection for the Pulitzer is that, for a decade, his reports had been slanted and distorted in a way that made a mockery of the award citation. Probably without parallel in the history of these prestigious prizes, the 1932 award went to a man whose reports concealed or disguised the conditions they claimed to reveal, and who may even have been paid by the Soviets for his deceptions.

(30) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

I am convinced that the trend of Soviet developments is steadily and rapidly forward. In emphasizing this trend, therefore, I create a correct impression. Those prejudiced observers who harp on difficulties and mistakes distort the picture. The art of reporting is selection. Many correspondents select true facts to tell untruths

(31) Walter Duranty, New York Times (30th March, 1933)

In the middle of the diplomatic duel between Great Britain and the Soviet Union over the accused British engineers there appears from a British source a big scare story in the American press about famine in the Soviet Union, with "thousands already dead and millions menaced by death and starvation."

Its author is Gareth Jones, who is a former secretary to David Lloyd George and who recently spent three weeks in the Soviet Union and reached the conclusion that the country was "on the verge of a terrific smash," as he told the writer.

Mr. Jones is a man of a keen and active mind, and he has taken the trouble to learn Russian, which he speaks with considerable fluency, but the writer thought Mr. Jones's judgment was somewhat hasty and asked him on what it was based. It appeared that he had made a forty-mile walk through villages in the neighborhood of Kharkov and had found conditions sad.

I suggested that that was a rather inadequate cross-section of a big country but nothing could shake his conviction of impending doom....

Jones told me there was virtually no bread in the villages he had visited and that the adults were haggard, guant and discouraged, but that he had seen no dead or dying animals or human beings.

I believed him because I knew it to be correct not only of some parts of the Ukraine but of sections of the North Caucasus and lower Volga regions and, for that matter, Kazakstan, where the attempt to change the stock-raising nomads of the type and the period of Abraham and Isaac into 1933 collective grain farmers has produced the most deplorable results.

It is all too true that the novelty and mismanagement of collective farming, plus the quite efficient conspiracy of Feodor M. Konar and his associates in agricultural commissariats, have made a mess of Soviet food production. (Konar was executed for sabotage.)

But - to put it brutally - you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and the Bolshevist leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that may be involved in their drive toward socializaton as any General during the World War who ordered a costly attack in order to show his superiors that he and his division possessed the proper soldierly spirit. In fact, the Bolsheviki are more indifferent because they are animated by fanatical conviction.

Since I talked to Mr. Jones I have made exhaustive inquiries about this alleged famine situation. I have inquired in Soviet commissariats and in foreign embassies with their network of consuls, and I have tabulated information from Britons working as specialists and from my personal connections, Russian and foreign.

All of this seems to me to be more trustworthy information than I could get by a brief trip through any one area. The Soviet Union is too big to permit a hasty study, and it is the foreign correspondent's job to present a whole picture, not a part of it. And here are the facts:

There is a serious shortage food shortage throughout the country, with occasional cases of well-managed State or collective farms. The big cities and the army are adequately supplied with food. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.

In short, conditions are definitely bad in certain sections - the Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga. The rest of the country is on short rations but nothing worse. These conditions are bad, but there is no famine.

The critical months in this country are February and March, after which a supply of eggs, milk and vegetables comes to supplement the shortage of bread - if, as now, there is a shortage of bread. In every Russian village food conditions will improve henceforth, but that will not answer one really vital question - What about the coming grain crop?

Upon that depends not the future of the Soviet power, which cannot and will not be smashed, but the future policy of the Kremlin. If through climatic conditions, as in 1921, the crop fails, then, indeed, Russia will be menaced by famine. If not, the present difficulties will be speedily forgotten.

(32) Gareth Jones, New York Times (13th May, 1933)

On my return from Russia at the end of March, I stated in an interview in Berlin that everywhere I went in the Russian villages I heard the cry; “There is no bread, we are dying,” and that there was famine in the Soviet Union, menacing the lives of millions of people.

Walter Duranty, whom I must thank for his continued kindness and helpfulness to hundreds of American and British visitors to Moscow, immediately cabled a denial of the famine. He suggested that my judgment was only based on a forty-mile tramp through villages. He stated that he had inquired in Soviet commissariats and in the foreign embassies and had come to the conclusion that there was no famine, but that there was a “serious food shortage throughout the country... No actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”

While partially agreeing with my statement, he implied that my report was a “scare story” and compared it with certain fantastic prophecies of Soviet downfall. He also made the strange suggestion that I was forecasting the doom of the Soviet régime, a forecast I have never ventured.

I stand by my statement that Soviet Russia is suffering from a severe famine. It would be foolish to draw this conclusion from my tramp through a small part of vast Russia, although I must remind Mr. Duranty that it was my third visit to Russia, that I devoted four years of university life to the study of the Russian language and history and that on this occasion alone I visited in all twenty villages, not only in the Ukraine, but also in the black earth district, and in the Moscow region, and that I slept in peasants’ cottages, and did not immediately leave for the next village.

My first evidence was gathered from foreign observers. Since Mr. Duranty introduces consuls into the discussion, a thing I am loath to do, for they are official representatives of their countries and should not be quoted, may I say that I discussed the Russian situation with between twenty and thirty consuls and diplomatic representatives of various nations and that their evidence supported my point of view. But they are not allowed to express their views in the press, and therefore remain silent.

Journalists, on the other hand, are allowed to write, but the censorship has turned them into masters of euphemism and understatement. Hence they give “famine” the polite name of “food shortage” and “starving to death” is softened down to read as “widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.” Consuls are not so reticent in private conversation.

My second evidence was based on conversations with peasants who had migrated into the towns from various parts of Russia. Peasants from the richest parts of Russia coming into the towns for bread. Their story of the deaths in their villages from starvation and of the death of the greater part of their cattle and horses was tragic, and each conversation corroborated the previous one.

Third, my evidence was based upon letters written by German colonists in Russia, appealing for help to their compatriots in Germany. “My brother’s four children have died of hunger.” “We have had no bread for six months.” “If we do not get help from abroad, there is nothing left but to die of hunger.” Those are typical passages from these letters.

Fourth, I gathered evidence from journalists and technical experts who had been in the countryside. In The Manchester Guardian, which has been exceedingly sympathetic toward the Soviet régime, there appeared on March 25, 27 and 28 an excellent series of articles on “The Soviet and the Peasantry” (which had not been submitted to the censor). The correspondent, who had visited North Caucasus and the Ukraine, states: “To say that there is famine in some of the’ most fertile parts of Russia is to say much less than the truth: there is not only famine, but - in the case of the North Caucasus at least - a state of war, a military occupation.” Of the Ukraine, he writes: “The population is starving.”

My final evidence is based on my talks with hundreds of peasants. They were not the “kulaks”- those mythical scapegoats for the hunger in Russia-but ordinary peasants. I talked with them alone in Russian and jotted down their conversations, which are an unanswerable indictment of Soviet agricultural policy. The peasants said emphatically that the famine was worse than in 1921 and that fellow-villagers had died or were dying.

Mr. Duranty says that I saw in the villages no dead human beings nor animals. That is true, but one does not need a particularly nimble brain to grasp that even in the Russian famine districts the dead are buried and that there the dead animals are devoured.

May I in conclusion congratulate the Soviet Foreign Office on its skill in concealing the true situation in the U.S.S.R.? Moscow is not Russia, and the sight of well fed people there tends to hide the real Russia.

(33) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

One may think one believes in a life after death, but it is generally a vague sort of belief, rather a hope than a belief, and death is the End. If you come very near to death and get familiar so to speak with death, you begin to feel that you have reached ultimate issues and that you don't give a damn....

None of the things I have been afraid of before, complaints by my boss or the loss of my job or the opinion of my friends or any danger, are as bad as the thing I am facing now, which is death by slow torture. Than that there is nothing worse; if I escape it I can say to myself that I at least can no longer be frightened by anyone or anything. Now, facing death, I regret few of the things I have done, but I regret not doing a great many things I might have done and not saying or writing things I might have said or written. "Henceforth," I thought to myself, "If I do get back I shall do as I please and think as I please and write as I please, without fear or favor." I was half delirious, but that was a good thought, which stayed with me and strengthened me. Of course it was impossible, as I found out later.

(34) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

I did not particularly ask myself whether (a course of action) was a right path or a wrong path; for some reason I have never been deeply concerned with that phase of the question. Right and wrong are evasive terms at best and I have never felt that it was my problem - or that of any other reporter - to sit in moral judgment. What I want to know is whether a policy or a political line or a regime will work or not, and I refuse to let myself be side-tracked by moral issues or by abstract questions as to whether the said policy or line or regime would be suited to a different country and different circumstances...

I saw too much useless slaughter in the World War - for that matter I think the War itself was useless, unless you believe that Hitler in the Kaiser's place is a benefit to humanity - to allow my judgment of results to be biased by the losses or suffering involved. I'm a reporter, not a humanitarian, and if a reporter can't see the wood for trees he can't describe the wood. You may call that special pleading or call me callous, and perhaps it is true, but you can't blame me for it: you must blame the War, because that was where my mental skin got thickened.

(35) James William Crowl, Angels in Stalin's Paradise (1982)

Duranty wrote about the purges in parts of two books that were published in the early 1940's. In The Kremlin and the People, appearing in 1941, he insisted again that the Great Purge had eliminated a "Fifth Column" of Trotskyite and fascist agents. Scoffing at claims that the accused may not have been guilty of the charges against them, he argued "it is unthinkable that Stalin and Voroshilov and Budonny... could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proofs of guilt were overwhelming." Yet Duranty showed no interest in examining the evidence, and he appears to have accepted the charges solely on his faith in the Soviet leadership. Thus, he claimed that "Piatakov's execution and the execution of Muralov are to me the strongest proof that they were guilty." In the case of the secret trial of Marshal Tukhachevsky and other Red Army commanders in June 1937, Duranty explained that they had been caught plotting with enemy agents. The accused had "all confessed guilt," he noted, and he took the suicide of General Gamarnik as proof that they "had engaged in some deal with the Germans.

Three years later, in his book U.S.S.R., Duranty's position seemed less dogmatic, but only because he could no longer find a publisher willing to print his earlier views. His first version of the book apparently expressed such strong support for Stalin's actions during the purge era that it was rejected by the major publishers. In its rewritten form he offered a sympathetic explanation for Stalin's actions, rather than a justification for them. Indeed, he seemed willing to concede that Stalin might have overreacted to what had appeared to him to be a terrorist threat.

Duranty argued that on the eve of the purge the Soviet Union had been menaced by Germany and Japan, and Stalin had been expecting a wave of terrorism designed to weaken the Soviets in preparation for a fascist military attack. Kirov's assassination seemed to indicate that the assault had begun, Duranty claimed, especially since Louis Barthou, the French foreign minister sympathetic to Russia, had been murdered two months earlier. Stalin may have panicked by arresting anyone with a reason for cooperating with enemy agents, Duranty admitted, but he claimed that under the circumstances the arrests had been reasonable and necessary. He argued, as he had earlier, that the arrests had crushed the terrorist conspiracy and kept Russia From being invaded in the mid-1930's.

(36) Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time (1973)

I had the feeling...that in thus justifying Soviet brutality and ruthlessness, Duranty was getting his own back for being small, and losing a leg... This is probably, in the end, the only real basis of the appeal of such regimes as Stalin's, and later Hitler's; they compensate for weakness and inadequacy... Duranty was a little browbeaten boy looking up admiringly at a big bully.

(37) Walter Duranty, I Write As I Please (1935)

The Bolsheviks have a modern and sensible view about murder. They regard it as the most serious crime one individual can commit upon another, but their criminal code is intended primarily for the protection of society rather than of the individual. Therefore, there is no death penalty for murder in the U.S.S.R., only the maximum prison sentence of ten years, that is for a single murder or at most two murders. If any citizen makes a habit of murder, then he becomes a menace to society and is shot as such. On the other hand, the Bolsheviks are ruthless in regard to crimes against the State - high treason or the murder of officials in pursuance of their duty, or a murder actuated by political motives, and, since I932, even the theft of State property may be punished by what is called "the highest measure of social protection, namely shooting" - that is the formula in which death sentences are worded. This makes it all the more surprising that they do not consider an insane murderer to be a public menace, and shoot him without compunction.

I remember one case where this question was raised in a Soviet court and hotly debated by Press and public. Several years ago a gang of footpads haunted the outlying villages in the woods around Moscow, where many people spend the summer months. This gang committed many murders and its victims were always killed in the same way, strangled with a cord or wire twisted tight round their throats by a small piece of wood at the back of the neck. When at last they were caught and brought to trial it was found that their leader was a boy of thirteen, who they declared planned all their operations but took no part in the attacks until the victim lay helpless with the cord around his neck. Then this engaging child twisted the cord or wire until the end had come. The boy made no attempt to deny the testimony of his accomplices, but the reports of the cases declared that he eyed them so terribly that they faltered in their confessions. The adults were shot at once as a danger to society but the boy was remanded for psychopathic examination. He appeared perfectly normal, indeed of unusual intelligence and strength of character, as one might well imagine. He said calmly that all the evidence was true; he had been the leader of the gang and had ordered all its doings. "But why," they asked him, "did these hulking men obey you?" "I told them to," he said simply, "and they did what they were told." Asked why he finished the victims off himself, he replied, "Because I liked to see their eyes pop out." This was too much for the psychopaths, or for the police authorities, I don't know which. In any case the boy was shot.

(38) Cass Canfield, Up and Down and Around (1971)

War was approaching for the United States; the country was tense, anticipating the worst. The experts, and they were many. reported the truth as they saw it; sometimes they were right. sometimes not. There was much confusion.

Like most people I became increasingly restless, wanting something meaningful to do and not knowing what. When Mayor La Guardia called for air-raid wardens in 1939, I volunteered and was put in charge of operations in southeastern Manhattan an arduous assignment for it meant patrolling nights, in addition to working full time at the office during the day. However, I got to know the city community from housewives to undertakers, and this was a compensation. Another satisfaction was working closely with the New York police, for whom I developed considerable admiration. Most of the policemen were Irish, and were lively additions to the parties put on every couple of weeks to boost morale. Patrolman Mike Murphy, who was smart and full of initiative, could be counted on to bring gaiety to any social gathering, and it was not surprising that he rose quickly in the ranks to become New York Police Commissioner not many years later.

Across the oceans things were going from bad to worse as the Germans and Japanese advanced. Returning from a business trip the spring the Nazis were taking Paris, I crossed the Atlantic with Dorothy Thompson, the gifted newspaper commentator and wife of Sinclair Lewis. In the smoking saloon of the ship she was the center of attention, not only because she was a brilliant observer of the political scene and had just completed a survey of Swiss military power, but because she was a vivid character with a vitality which she confirmed by the proud assertion: "When I make love, the house shakes." On the ship's radio we heard, one evening, the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt informing, and attempting to reassure, the American people about the state of American preparedness. When he'd finished, Dorothy observed that the President's figures showed that our Army and Air Force strength was about equal to that of the Swiss, a situation which we found alarming.

During this period of stress Jane and I attended a dinner dance on Long Island at the home of the John Parkinsons at which Walter Duranty, the expert on Russia and an indisputable authority on world affairs, was also a guest. As the men were having coffee and brandy, Duranty expatiated on the developing Soviet-Nazi crisis of the late spring of 1941, which he minimized. In fact, he argued convincingly that the idea of Hitler's attacking Russia was absurd. This assurance lifted our spirits and the dance went on merrily.

Later in the evening I noticed Duranty sitting at a table enjoying his champagne. In the interval since dinner a pretty young blonde with whom I was dancing had told me some interesting news and, on a wicked impulse, I beckoned to Walter and advised him to cut in on the lady. She imparted to him the report she had heard earlier on the radio that the Nazi divisions had just invaded Soviet territory. Duranty's reaction would have done justice to a George Price cartoon; he rushed from the dance floor and was off in a flash to the Times office in New York.

In such ways the experts managed to keep people shuttling between confidence and despair.

As time passed, it became apparent that the Nazis could not bomb New York; accordingly, air-raid protection became superfluous. I turned to propaganda, to promoting United States participation in the war-a worthy effort but one that, in turn, became unnecessary when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

(39) Eugene Lyons, Assignment in Utopia (1937)

Among the newspapermen, Walter Duranty, a little Englishman who had been in the New York Times service since the war, reigned supreme. Urbane, clever to a fault, a scintillating talker, he remained, after all his years in Russia, detached from its life and fate, curiously contemptuous of Russians. He spoke of Soviet triumphs and travail much as he might of a murder mystery he had read, but with not half the passion or sense of personal involvement. His spoken views of the Russian scene, when the mood was upon him, would have shocked New York radicals who mistook him for a Soviet enthusiast, even as they shocked me.

(40) James William Crowl, Angels in Stalin's Paradise (1982)

In Moscow the great purge trials were held in August 1936, January 1937, and March 1938. Although Fischer reserved judgment on the trials, Duranty vigorously defended them. According to him, Trotsky had created a spy network at the very time that Germany and Japan were spreading their own spy organizations in Russia. He explained that the two groups shared a hatred for Stalin, and fascist agents had cooperated with the Trotskyites in Kirov's assassination.

The show-trials, Duranty insisted, had revealed the Trotskyite-fascist link beyond question. The trials showed just as clearly, he argued (on 14th July, 1937), that Stalin's arrest of thousands of these agents had spared the country from a wave of assassinations. Duranty charged that those who worried about the rights of the defendants or claimed that their confessions had been gained by drugs or torture, only served the interests of Germany and Japan.

(41) Walter Duranty, USSR: The Story of Soviet Russia (1944)

In a bare quarter-century the USSR has accomplished ages of growth. The most ignorant and backward of all the white nations has moved into the forefront of social, economic, and political consciousness. Its obsolete agricultural system has been modernized and mechanized; its small and artificial industry has become gigantic and self-supporting; its illiterate masses have been educated and disciplined to appreciate and enjoy the benefits of collective effort.

(42) Walter Duranty, letter to John Gunther (6th February, 1950)

Of all the successful people I've come across, you, my dear John, are the most utterly and sincerely modest, and I suppose that even now at the height of your career you haven't a tenth of the idea how much people really admire you....

For me, John, you stand so high above anyone I have known, you yourself as a person, not in relation to me, that I brought my troubles to you with complete confidence that henceforth it would be all right, that I could rely upon you. And of course you didn't disappoint me. You helped me not only with money but with encouragement that I needed equally, and I felt safe in your friendship. Perhaps I felt too safe, too sheltered and secure in the knowledge that I could count on you always. That's what worries me now, that you might think I would presume on that feeling of safety and take things for granted, almost as a matter of convenience. Perhaps in a way I did, but never in that way.