Must Be Waged
An Interview with Albert Einstein
Robert Merrill Bartlett
SO you have come to talk about peace?" Albert
Einstein welcomed me with a firm handclasp into the living room
of his Princeton home.
He is a sturdy and impressive person with his
shaggy head of white hair and informal clotheshe had on
a wing collar but no tie, combined rough moccasins and a leather
jacket with striped trousers such as are worn with a frock coat.
There is nothing of the showman about him. His brown eyes are
kind, his quiet voice sympathetic. His hearty laugh would disarm
any listener, even those who would have kept this "dangerous pacifist"
from our shores.
war is on the way. I doubt if it will come this yearor the
next; the stage is not yet ready. But in two or three years it
is going to come. Germany is re-arming rapidly now and the contagion
of fear is sweeping Europe. England might have checked this disastrous
trend two years ago if she had stood firm against Germany's re-arming,
but she failed. In Nazi Germany there still are some who oppose
the military-nationalistic policiessome intellectualsbut
those who might have voiced such opposition have largely been
exiled or suppressed. Of course I have been out of Germany for
two years and cannot accurately sense public feeling there now.
Many who suffered from 1914-1918 are hostile to a return of war.
But there are many youths, who are restless, the victims of troubled
conditions; they are being exploited by the present regime. Germany
is still war-minded and conflict is inevitable. The nation has
been on the decline mentally and morally since 1870. Many of the
men I associated with in the Prussian Academy have not been of
the highest caliber in these nationalistic years since the World
It has been rumored that Dr. Einstein
has repudiated his policy of pacifism. "Do you still believe in
vigorous personal resistance to war?" I asked. "Do you still believe
that if two percent of the people in a nation refuse to fight
that war can be averted?"
"Yes, but intellectual resistance of this type
is not enough to face the circumstances of today. Pacifism defeats
itself under certain conditions, as it would in Germany today.
Anyone who resists the military program will be "done away with"
quickly and his influence brought to an end.
"We must educate, must
work with the people to create a public sentiment that will outlaw
war. I believe there are two features in this program of action:
first, create the idea of super-sovereignty. National loyalty
is limited; men must be taught to think in world terms. Every
country will have to surrender a portion of its sovereignty through
international cooperation. To avoid destruction aggression must
be sacrificed. Our need now is an international tribunal with
authority. The League and the World Court lack the power to enforce
their decisions. Though they may suffer unpopularity now, this
trend of progress is toward world organization, and institutions
of this type are inevitable. Lord Davies of London has written
some significant things on world cooperation; I like his ideas
on this subject better than any I know. His book Force gives some
suggestions which need to be interpreted here in America. Military
training and competition in armaments are never going to avert
war. They must be replaced by the wider concept of international
organization, the development of a world tribunal which is given
authority and an international police force which has power to
keep the peace of the world.
"Second, we must face
the economic causes of war. Fundamentally, our difficulty is the
selfish desire of people who put profit before humanity. Some
people refuse to adopt liberal ideas; they remain provincial and
self-satisfied, content with their money returns. We suffer from
the ills of economic nationalism and war because these people
will not control their passion for money gain. Perhaps Romain
Rolland may not be far wrong in turning to social revolution as
the only means of breaking the war system. I do not understand
just what his present position on communism is, nor do I say that
I agree with him. But he is right in attacking the individual
greed and national scramble for wealth that make war inevitable.
There is one economic change we must strive for, that is the control
of munition manufacture."
Dr. Einstein spoke
with fervor. This 56-year-old Swiss Jew is more than a savant
who has spent his life in the physics laboratories of Zurich and
Berlin, more than a gentle lover of the violin and nature; he
is a reformer who hates war with the fervor of an Old Testament
"Of course," he went on, "I do not try to
reduce life to economic forces as some do. There is a persistent
emotional element in all human relations that we must cope with.
As national groups we feel ourselves different from our fellowmen
and we so often permit our conduct to be controlled by prejudice.
We need to be educated until we understand our emotional conflicts
and learn to correct them."