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Einstein on Politics

by David E. Rowe Albert Einstein Robert Schulmann

The most famous scientist of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein was also one of the century's most outspoken political activists. Deeply engaged with the events of his tumultuous times, from the two world wars and the Holocaust, to the atomic bomb and the Cold War, to the effort to establish a Jewish homeland, Einstein was a remarkably prolific political writer, someone who took courageous and often unpopular stands against nationalism, militarism, anti-Semitism, racism, and McCarthyism. In Einstein on Politics, leading Einstein scholars David Rowe and Robert Schulmann gather Einstein's most important public and private political writings and put them into historical context. The book reveals a little-known Einstein--not the ineffectual and naïve idealist of popular imagination, but a principled, shrewd pragmatist whose stands on political issues reflected the depth of his humanity. Nothing encapsulates Einstein's profound involvement in twentieth-century politics like the atomic bomb. Here we read the former militant pacifist's 1939 letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning that Germany might try to develop an atomic bomb. But the book also documents how Einstein tried to explain this action to Japanese pacifists after the United States used atomic weapons to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, events that spurred Einstein to call for international control of nuclear technology. A vivid firsthand view of how one of the twentieth century's greatest minds responded to the greatest political challenges of his day, Einstein on Politics will forever change our picture of Einstein's public activism and private motivations. ON PACIFISM "When those who are bound together by pacifist ideals hold a meeting they are always consorting with their own kind only. They are like sheep huddled together while the wolves wait outside. I think pacifist speakers have this difficulty: they usually reach their own crowd, who are pacifists already. The sheep's voice does not get beyond this circle and therefore is ineffective. . . . Real pacifists, those who are not up in the clouds but who think and count realities, must fearlessly try to do things of practical value to the cause and not merely speak about pacifism. Deeds are needed. Mere words do not get pacifists anywhere."--Two Percent Speech, New York, 1930 ON HITLER "Hitler appeared, a man with limited intellectual abilities and unfit for any useful work, bursting with envy and bitterness against all whom circumstance and nature had favored over him. Springing from the lower middle class, he had just enough class conceit to hate even the working class which was struggling for greater equality in living standards. But it was the culture and education which had been denied him forever that he hated most of all. In his desperate ambition for power he discovered that his speeches, confused and pervaded with hate as they were, received wild acclaim by those whose situa-tion and orientation resembled his own. He picked up this human flotsam on the streets and in the taverns and organized them around himself. This is the way he launched his political career."--On Hitler, 1935 ON ZIONISM "Just one more personal word on the question of partition. I should much rath-er see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. Apart from practical consideration, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain--especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state."-- Our Debt to Zionism, 1938 ON MILITARISM "I must frankly confess that the foreign policy of the United State.(atom bombs, strategic bases, weapons of all sorts, the possession of raw materials, etc.) are held essential, while the human being, his desires and thought--in short, the psychological factors-...

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