14 December

On 14 December 1930, Albert Einstein urged a meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York to support 'uncompromising war resistance and refusal to do military service under any circumstances'. He changed his mind when Hitler came to power.

December 14, 2009 · 2 min read

At the New York meeting Einstein made his famous statement that, ‘If only two percent of those assigned to perform military service should announce their refusal to fight, as well as urge means other than war of settling international disputes, governments would be powerless – they would not dare send such a large number of people to jail.’ But although he was to describe himself as a pacifist for the rest of his life, his commitment to total nonviolence did not survive the rise of the Nazis.

Einstein explained his change of heart in a letter to Professor C C Heringa of the University of Amsterdam written on 11 September 1933:

‘The root of all evil lies in the fact that there is no powerful international police force, nor is there a really effective international court of arbitration whose judgments could be enforced. All the same, antimilitarists were justified in refusing military service as long as the majority of the nations of Europe were intent upon peace. This no longer holds true. I am convinced that developments in Germany tend toward belligerent acts similar to those in France after the Revolution. Should this trend meet with success, you may be sure that the last remnants of personal freedom on the continent of Europe will be destroyed.

‘While it is quite true that the deterioration of conditions in Germany is partially attributable to the policies of neighbouring countries, there seems little purpose at this juncture in blaming them for these policies. The plain fact is that the gospel of force and repression, currently prevailing in Germany, poses grave threats to the continent of Europe and the independence of its inhabitants. This threat cannot be combated by moral means; it can be met only by organised might. To prevent the greater evil, it is necessary that the lesser evil – the hated military – be accepted for the time being. Should German armed might prevail, life will not be worth living anywhere in Europe.’


Greenwash

Alethea Warrington describes how the fossil fuels industry hopes to change its image but not its practice

Frontline workers and Covid-19: a carer’s account

Ndella Diouf Paye writes about her experiences working as a carer for a private company

The state of things to come

Politicians, the state, and the market have failed to come to terms with Covid-19. Can 'people power' navigate a way out of the crisis? K Biswas introduces the TNI Covid Capitalism Report


Pints, patriotism and precarity

Oli Carter-Esdale explores the weaponisation of the pint and asks: where next for the hospitality sector?

UK, hun?

Materially, the UK is not a nation – with fewer common experiences than ever before, from schools and policing to borders and governance – argue Medb MacDaibheid and Brian Christopher

What key work really means

While economic activity slowed down during the Covid-19 crisis, accumulation of wealth continues for capitalists at the cost of key workers’ health and wellbeing, writes Notes From Below

Only fearless, independent journalism
can hold power to account

Your support keeps Red Pepper alive