EINSTEIN: "For the creation of this public opinion in favor of
disarmament every person living shares the responsibility, through every
deed and every word."
The 1932 Disarmament Conference
by Albert Einstein
Berlin, September 4, 1931
What the inventive genius of mankind has bestowed upon us in the last
hundred years could have made human life care free and happy if the
development of the organizing power of man had been able to keep step with
his technical advances. As it is, the hardly bought achievements of the
machine age in the hands of our generation are as dangerous as a razor in
the hands of a 3-year-old child. The possession of wonderful means of
production has not brought freedom--only care and hunger.
Worst of all is the technical development which produces the means for the
destruction of human life, and the dearly created products of labor. We
older people lived through that shudderingly in the World War. But even more
terrible than this destruction seems to me the unworthy servitude into which
the individual is swept by war. Is it not terrible to be forced by the
community to deeds which every individual feels to be most despicable
crimes? Only a few have had the moral greatness to resist; they are in my
eyes the true heroes of the World War.
There is one ray of hope. It seems to me that today the responsible leaders
of the several peoples have, in the main, the honest will to abolish war.
The opposition to this unquestionably necessary advance lies in the unhappy
traditions of the people which are passed on like an inherited disease from
generation to generation because of our faulty educational machines. Of
course the main supports of this tradition are military training and the
larger industries. Without disarmament there can be no lasting peace. On the
contrary, the continuation of military armaments in their present extent
will with certainty lead to new catastrophes.
Hence the Disarmament Conference in Geneva in February, 1932, will be
decisive for the fate of the present generation and the one to come. If one
thinks back to the pitiful results achieved by the international conferences
thus far held, it must be clear that all thoughtful and responsible human
beings must exercise all their powers again and again to inform public
opinion of the vital importance of the conference of 1932. Only if the
statesmen have, to urge them forward, the will to peace of a decisive
majority in their respective countries, can they arrive at their important
goal. For the creation of this public opinion in favor of disarmament every
person living shares the responsibility, through every deed and every word.
The failure of the conference would be assured if the delegates were to
arrive in Geneva with fixed instructions and aims, the achievement of which
would at once become a matter of national prestige. This seems to be
universally recognized, for the meetings of the statesmen of any two states,
of which we have seen a number of late, have been utilized for discussions
of the problem of disarmament in order to clear the ground for the
conference. This procedure seems to me a very happy one, for two persons, or
two groups, ordinarily conduct themselves most sensibly, most honorably, and
with the greatest freedom from passion if no third person listens in, whom
the others believe they must consider or conciliate in their speeches. We
can only hope for a favorable outcome in this most vital conference if the
meeting is prepared for exhaustively in this way by advance discussions in
order that surprises shall be made impossible, and if, through honest good
will, an atmosphere of mutual confidence and trust can be effectively
created in advance.
Success in such great affairs is not a matter of cleverness, or even
shrewdness, but instead a matter of honorable conduct and mutual confidence.
You cannot substitute intellect for moral conduct in this matter--I should
like to say, thank God that you cannot!
It is not the task of the individual who lives in this critical time merely
to await results and to criticize. He must serve this great cause as well as
he can. For the fate of all humanity will be that fate which it honestly
earns and deserves.