By Alex Ho Cheung Wong
“The future is at stake so please read carefully between the lines.” – George Orwell in “Mr Jones”
For those of us here at the Institute, the protagonist in this film might be all-too relatable. A fresh graduate with a third culture background and a passion for international affairs, Gareth Jones had experience in “Model League of Nations” (Model UN for his time), joined the government as a young foreign affairs adviser and later lost his job due to the volatile nature of this line of work. Instead of cramming for internship or postgraduate applications, Gareth became a journalist to pursue a topic of great interest to him – whether communism under Joseph Stalin’s leadership was as good as it was publicised to be.
Leveraging his connections to former British prime minister David Lloyd George, Gareth managed to manoeuvre his way into Soviet permission to investigate the origins of the Soviet Union’s allegedly successful 5-year development plan. As folks in 2021 might easily realise, one would be gravely naive to believe that a totalitarian regime’s promise to open its doors for international inspection would be anything other than a mere formality, or that it would lead to any accurate “fact-finding”. Gareth soon realised that his visit was only a public relations stunt and decided to leave the group to go on a fact-finding mission of his own in Ukraine, where he would find out whether the region was really “Stalin’s gold” as depicted by Soviet propagandas.
Jumping from a luxurious Soviet Union official train coach to a regular peasantry train, Gareth finally arrived in Ukraine and learnt the truth – a pandemic-like famine was being fueled and implemented by intentionally murderous communist policies and cover-ups. The communist regime carefully orchestrated and inflicted upon Ukraine the policy of “Collective Farming” that led to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians – the precision of which some may say coincided with laboratory standards.
Working against the natural law of climate and market economy principles, an almost weaponized social policy caused widespread starvation and cannibalism, effectively wiping out any dissidents that might push for reforms or a separationist movement. All of this happened right under the noses of international officials, who were too busy indulging themselves and enriching their own status to notice. Did the diplomats believe the obvious lies of a totalitarian regime? Is it because they believed there was still space for cooperation on a limited basis with a strategic rival? Funnily enough, there was yet to be a serious global challenge like global warming in the 1930s that required such strategic patience.
Perhaps the old adage in diplomacy is always valid – thousands, if not millions of lowly peasants who are oppressed and murdered by authoritarian regimes are at best bargaining chips for policymakers negotiating investment agreements. Maintaining money for the caviar and champagne in their different offices separated by hundreds of kilometres is far more important.
“If I tell the story of monsters through talking farm animals, maybe then you will listen and you will understand.” – George Orwell in “Mr Jones”
Gareth Jones’ personal story inspired George Orwell’s renowned novel “Animal Farm”. Apart from mostly Polish and Ukrainian awards, “Mr. Jones”, directed by critically acclaimed Polish director Agnieszka Holland, arguably deserved more recognition and awards in other Western countries. Judging from Hollywood at least, mainstream media is usually more interested in stories about gender, racial or climate-based “systemic” oppression in developed countries than they do about methodical communists’ genocide in the East (even though this form of oppression is much more befitting of the term “systemic”). This may be a careless oversight or an intentional one. After all, many ‘woke’ social justice advocates in the US like to fly the banner of a communist clenched fist as they fight for gender, racial or climate justice, not considering that countless people have died under and fled from this symbol (and many still do). As for the ones lucky who survive for now, they are struggling to tell this story between the lines without getting into some serious trouble.
In case you are curious and you have never watched Mr Jones”, its trailer is available here.
About the author: Alex Ho Cheung Wong is a Master’s student at the Graduate Institute. He has also published a Podcast version of this article on Spotify, you can check it here or at the player below.
Featured Image: Film Poster “Mr. Jones” is from wikimedia and it is under the Common Creative License.