The Nuclear Age IIThe Nuclear Age II

"The feeling for what ought and ought not to be grows and dies like a tree, and no fertilizer of any kind will do much good. What the individual can do is give a fine example, and have the courage to firmly uphold ethical convictions in a society of cynics. I have for a long time tried to conduct myself this way, with varying success."

After the Japanese surrendered under nuclear bombardment, Einstein was often in the public eye. In May 1946 he became chairman of the newly formed Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, joining their drive for international and civilian control of nuclear energy. He recorded fund-raising radio messages for the group, and wrote a widely read article on their work. Einstein's appeals for nuclear disarmament had an influence among both scientists and the general public. He also spoke out in opposition to German rearmament, defended conscientious objectors against military service, and criticized the Cold War policies of the United States. An early and firm supporter of the United Nations, he was convinced that the solution to international conflict was world law, world government, and a strong world police force. "I am opposed to the use of force under any circumstances, except when confronted by an enemy who pursues the destruction of life as an end in itself."

Einstein was suspected of disloyalty and publicly opposed McCarthyism Want to buy
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FBI's files on Einstein
Like many in the 1950s who supported liberal causes, Einstein was suspected of disloyalty. He publicly opposed such McCarthyism. Asked how intellectuals should respond, he declared, "I can only see the revolutionary way of non-cooperation."
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"Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war."

Although his activity was limited by advancing age and ill health, Einstein made clear his commitment to civil liberties. He attacked racial prejudice and supported the black civil rights movement. He called for a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people, in which the rights of Arabs would also be respected. Meanwhile, he supported the creation of a Jewish university in the United States (the future Brandeis University). When the House Committee on Un-American Activities maligned teachers and other intellectuals, Einstein publicly advised the people under attack not to cooperate, but to follow the principle of civil disobedience. He was equally uncompromising when he refused any association with Germany. He even rejected honors from his native land -- he could not forgive the murder of Jews by Germans.

In 1952 Einstein was offered the position of President of Israel, a chiefly honorific post. Old and sick, but at peace in his Princeton home and office, he turned down the invitation. His interest in public affairs, however, continued. In 1955 he joined Bertrand Russell in urging scientists toward mediation between East and West and limitation of nuclear armament. Meanwhile he was writing a speech for the anniversary of Israel's independence. An incomplete draft of the speech was found at his bedside after he died.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell

"The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations to national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term mankind feels vague and abstract. People... can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly. And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue... this hope is illusory."

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