Albert Einstein and pacifism


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Albert Einstein and pacifism
Albert Einstein was a pacifist. 'My pacifism is an instinctive feeling, a feeling that possesses me
because the murder of men is abhorrent. My attitude is not derived from intellectual theory but is
based on my deepest antipathy to every kind of cruelty and hatred. 'Albert Einstein had two public
passions. One was his work: he was a dedicated and ground-breaking scientist. The other was peace,
to which he was committed all his life. Both passions involved journeys of discovery. When the two
paths met, one of the great modern problems was exposed: how responsible are scientists for the
consequences of their discoveries? Throughout the First World War Einstein supported anti-war
movements in whatever ways he could, quietly campaigned for democratic government in Germany,
wrote letters, and asked awkward questions. When the war was over he was able to speak in public
in favour of democracy. Einstein's view was straightforward, non-political and non-sectarian: what
intellectuals could and should do was promote international reconciliation through their scientific
work and artistic achievements. In 1922 a German pacifist handbook was published. It contained an
article by Einstein. 'Whoever cherishes the values of culture cannot fail to be a pacifist....The natural
scientist responds to pacifist aims because of the universal nature of his subject and his dependence
on international co-operation. The development of technology has made the economies of the world
interdependent, so every war has world-wide effects.' An international movement for individual
resistance to war had grown steadily since 1914. In 1928 Einstein began to make public his own
support for 'absolute refusal of military service'. With other international pacifists, he signed a
manifesto against military conscription. He was elected to the board running the pacifist German
League for Human Rights, and wrote a special statement for their journal commemorating the 10th
anniversary of the Armistice. In it he said, 'The political apathy of people in time of peace indicates
that they will readily let themselves be led to slaughter later. Because today they lack even the
courage to sign their names in support of disarmament, they will be compelled to shed their blood


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