Michael KreponThe Russell-Einstein Manifesto

Quote of the week:

“Only lack of mutual trust, and not lack of desire for agreement, can stand in the path of an efficient agreement for the prevention of nuclear warfare.” –The Franck Report, June 11, 1945

The “Magna Carta” of the Pugwash movement is the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. Bertrand Russell was a polymath who led anti-nuclear campaigns in Britain. Spencer Weart describes him in The Rise of Nuclear Fear as a philosopher preacher, looking the part at the end of his life with a “shock of white hair and the grim look of a schoolmaster.” For a great movie on Albert Einstein I recommend “Einstein and Eddington,” with the amazing Andy Serkis, thankfully shorn of computer graphic cover, playing a young Einstein at the peak of his intellectual power and confusion.

In July 1955, Russell, Einstein and several distinguished colleagues issued a manifesto to rally spirits against an accelerating nuclear arms race and to prevent conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The times were bleak, and about to become bleaker with Einstein’s death.

Other pleadings of this kind have received greater renown, such as the Franck Report and the Acheson-Lilienthal Report. James Franck and colleagues at the Met Lab in Chicago failed to persuade the Truman administration not to use the Bomb in combat. The ambitious plans to control atomic energy so as to prevent bomb making, largely conceptualized by Robert Oppenheimer and I.I. Rabi, and signed off on by Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman David Lilienthal, was run up the flag pole and then quickly brought down.

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto appeared in the throes of a competition to design and produce “hydrogen” bombs that could be 1,000 or more times powerful that those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It gave propulsion to the Pugwash movement that proceeded to convene important gatherings of eminent U.S. and Soviet scientists. Here are some excerpts:

We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.

We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?

The general public, and even many men in positions of authority, have not realized what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs. The general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of cities… No doubt in an H-bomb war great cities would be obliterated. But this is one of the minor disasters that would have to be faced. If everybody in London, New York, and Moscow were exterminated, the world might, in the course of a few centuries, recover from the blow. But we now know, especially since the Bikini test, that nuclear bombs can gradually spread destruction over a very much wider area than had been supposed…

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.

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