The Atomic Bomb and World Government



IN THE November issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Professor Albert Einstein has given us his drastic and urgent recommendations as to the course we should follow in dealing with the problem of the atomic bomb.

Professor Einstein has played a notable part in the development of atomic energy. He figured prominently in the series of events which led to the manufacture of the atomic bomb. He is a citizen of the United States, and his fellow Americans are justly proud of his achievements. I regret the obligation under which I find myself of taking issue with many of the views and recommendations set forth in his article. Yet I must do so because I believe that many people who recognize the authority with which he speaks in the field of science will be readily persuaded that he is for that reason an equally competent guide in the field of international politics.

The unleashing of atomic power, which was first made known to the peoples of the earth when the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, and the assumption that the manufacturing secrets of this discovery are in the exclusive possession of three governments, have blanketed the world with a poisonous fog of suspicion and of fear.

The atomic bomb has touched all peoples with hysteria.

Within the United States it has had the effect of intensifying the convictions of those groups formerly known as “isolationist,” who can conceive of no proper policy for their government to follow other than a narrowly selfish policy of preponderant armaments and of imperialistic expansion.

It has moved the idealists to rush to the conclusion that all the great achievements represented by the agreement of fifty-one nations to establish the United Nations Organization must immediately be scrapped. They are convinced that a fresh start must be made without a moment’s delay. To the idealists a fresh start is always preferable to the hard grind.

Professor H. D. Smyth, head of the Physics Department in Princeton University, has truly said that the development of atomic energy “raises many questions that must be answered in the near future. . . . These questions are not technical questions; they are political and social questions and the answers given to them may affect all mankind for generations.”

What Professor Einstein proposes as his answer to these questions is to be found succinctly set forth in the following portion of his article: —

The secret of the bomb should be committed to a world government, and the United States should immediately announce its readiness to give it to a world government. This government should be founded by the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain — the only three powers with great military strength. All three of them should commit to this world government all of their military strength. the fact that there are only three nations with great military power should make it easier rather than harder to establish such a government.

Since the United States and Great Britain have the secret of the atomic bomb and the Soviet Union does not, they should invite the Soviet Union to prepare and present the first draft of a constitution for the proposed world government. . . .

After the three great powers have drafted a constitution and adopted it, the smaller nations should be invited to join the world government. They should be free to stay out; and though they would be perfectly secure in staying out, I am sure they would wish to join. . . . But the Big Three should go ahead and organize the world government whether the smaller nations join or not.

Professor Einstein later asserts: “It is not necessary, in establishing a world organization with a monopoly of military authority, to change the structure of the three great powers. It would be for the three individuals who draft the constitution to devise ways for the different structures to be fitted together for collaboration.”

In Professor Einstein’s view the solution is as simple as that. He is evidently confident that adoption of his proposal is not only imperative but feasible as well.

The question before us is whether his proposal is practicable and desirable.

I am convinced that the achievement of any such objective at this time is wholly impracticable. I must add that I also have grave questions as to the desirability of his proposal in the form in which he presents it.


PROFESSOR EINSTEIN’S concept is premised upon his assumption that the Soviet Government would agree to a world government with power “over all military matters” provided the Soviet Government may prepare the first draft of a constitution for such a world government.

It is interesting to speculate as to the nature of the draft constitution which the Soviet Government would now prepare.

I can conceive of the Soviet Union’s agreeing to enter a world government if a constitution is drafted, and is agreed upon by the United States and Great Britain, which provides for a World Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with the capital of that world government located in Moscow. I cannot imagine that the Soviet Union would participate in a world government upon any other basis.

No world government of the character envisaged by Professor Einstein could function unless it possessed the power to exercise complete control over the armaments of each constituent state, and unless every nation was willing to open up every inch of its territory and every one of its laboratories and factories to a continuing international inspection. Nor could it function unless the government of each participating country was equally willing to submit to the scrutiny of the authorities of the world government every one of its governmental processes, including its conduct of foreign and internal affairs and of finance.

It surely requires no demonstration that any such requisite as that would wholly destroy the present Soviet system. We have every right to believe, from our knowledge of Russian policy and from our understanding of the fundamental motives inherent in the Soviet form of Communism, that neither the present Soviet Government nor the rank and file of the members of the Communist Party in Russia would ever consent to the obliteration, from one day to another, of the system which, over a period of twenty-eight years, they have at so great a sacrifice finally, with a great measure of success, established. We have every reason to be confident that unless the Soviet Union could so dominate the proposed world government as to preclude the possibility of any weakening of its own control of Russian foreign and domestic policy, it would not participate in that government.

And what about the United States and Great Britain?

We may, for the sake of argument, grant the highly unlikely possibility that a majority of the people of the United States would be willing to consider participation in a United States of the World built upon a foundation similar to that provided in their own Federal Constitution. It is within the realm of possibility that the British people would be willing to throw overboard their own form of government, although it has served them well and proved responsive to their own peculiar requirements, and join in such a United States of the World. But it is to my mind fantastic to assume that either the American or the British people would be willing to join in a World Union of Soviet Socialist Republics when such a union would inevitably result in the dissolution of the individual form of government which they have gradually evolved to meet their national needs, and also abolish all those cherished principles of individual liberty which are sacred to the Anglo-Saxon peoples — and which, in the case of the United States, are comprised in the Bill of Rights.

I believe that the major fallacy in Professor Einstein’s proposal lies in his assertion that “it is not necessary, in establishing a world organization with a monopoly of military authority, to change the structure of the three great powers.” I regard it as wholly impossible that the three individuals who, he suggests, should draft the constitution for this world government could, for the purposes he envisages, ever succeed in devising “ways for the different structures to be fitted together for collaboration.”


THERE is another aspect of Professor Einstein’s proposal which fills me with amazement. He declares that, in addition to the other powers with which he would vest his world government, that government should have “the power to intervene in countries where a minority is oppressing a majority and creating the kind of instability that leads to war.” He admits that it is true that in the Soviet Union the minority rules, but he insists that, if he had been born a Russian, he could have “adjusted” himself to this condition.

If I understand his thesis correctly, and I think I do, minority rule should be regarded as iniquitous in every nation of the world except the Soviet Union. His proposed world government would, therefore, be granted the right to intervene in every country of the earth for the purpose of establishing there such form of government, or such internal regime, as the dominating powers within the world government considered desirable, with the exception of the Soviet Union.

This view, of course, approximates the classic thesis of the Third International that minorities are entitled to exercise control when they are of the Communist faith. Examples are not wanting that the logical outgrowth of this philosophy is the assertion of the right, of Communist minorities by liquidations and terror to dominate opposing majorities until those majorities have been forced into the Communist line.

The issue raises one of the gravest problems with which freedom-loving peoples are today faced. Will peoples such as the English-speaking peoples, determined upon the preservation at any cost of their individual liberty, accept any form of world order which grants to some alien and superior power the authority to intervene in their internal life in such a manner as to determine for them how they shall be governed, to what extent their individual liberty may be reduced, and whether the voice of dissenting minorities or of dissenting majorities may make itself heard?

I wholly agree that no peaceful world can be envisaged unless the nations which take part in a new international organization voluntarily fix certain standards of governmental conduct which they commit themselves severally to uphold. These standards must comprehend the assurance that religious and political freedom, and the chance to obtain economic security, will be guaranteed without discrimination to all their respective nationals. The international organization must see to it that the guaranties so fixed are carried out.

But any intervention, such as that which Professor Einstein proposes, upon the part of his world government, in the internal affairs of independent peoples, for the sole purpose of imposing upon them a standardized form of government or a particular brand of political philosophy, would subject the nations of the world to a dictatorship exercised by the Big Three, with all other peoples as abject serfs. No free world can be founded upon such a concept. It was precisely in order to prevent the establishment of such a world that the vast majority of the United Nations fought through to final victory over the Axis powers.

The Republic of Uruguay, often in the past one of the most enlightened and progressive of nations in its consideration of the problems of international organization, has recently made public a proposal with respect to the much debated problem of intervention. The proposal of the Government of Uruguay, because of special circumstances, is, in its application, limited to problems which may arise in the Western Hemisphere. The basic principles embodied in this proposal, however, are universally applicable.

The Uruguayan Government, which for many years has been in the forefront of those nations decrying the evils resulting from the unilateral interference of any state in the purely internal affairs of some other country, recognizes that the peace of the Western Hemisphere may be jeopardized if developments occur within any American republic as a result of which the individual liberties of the nationals of that republic are destroyed. It says: “Non-intervention must be used on the basis that it is not a shield behind which crimes may be perpetrated, law may be violated, agents and forces of the Axis may be sheltered, and binding obligations may be circumvented.”

It has therefore recommended that the American republics consider the possibility of joint action on the part of all of them when, by common agreement, any American government has abrogated the rights of its citizens to determine their own destinies and to en joy the individual freedoms to which they are entitled, and has thereby violated its treaty obligations and endangered the highest interests of all of the peoples of the New World.

There are twenty-one independent republics in the American family of nations. International democracy in the purest sense of the term exists in the interAmerican system. The smallest state has precisely the same right as that accorded the most powerful. It is therefore altogether improbable that, should the conditions foreseen by the Government of Uruguay exist in any one American republic, joint action on the part of all the remaining twenty nations could ever be undertaken in order to further the selfish interests of any one major power or to pave the way for aggression or unilateral domination.

If, therefore, in the United Nations Organization the power to correct any infringement of the liberty of individuals were to rest exclusively in the hands of the Assembly, where the smaller nations possess a great majority, and not in the Security Council, which is controlled by the major powers, the danger that such intervention might be exercised in the exclusive interest of the three major powers, or of any one of them, could be avoided.


THOSE who have had some part in preparing for the agreement upon the United Nations Charter recognize the modern miracle which the establishment of the United Nations Organization implies.

There were in play the idiosyncrasies, the prejudices, the hidden objectives, the selfish ambitions, and, not infrequently, the blind suspicions of some fifty peoples of the earth. All these conflicting points of view were finally reconciled. The experience derived from the League of Nations was taken into account. The machinery of international organization was at last constructed.

That machinery can work, whatever the new developments in the field of science may be, if the peoples of the world are determined that it shall not fail.

No government, and few individuals, will regard the Charter of the United Nations as satisfactory. The vast majority, however, possess the firm hope that if peace can be maintained during the first years of transition after the war, and in particular any major conflict can be prevented, the United Nations Charter can gradually be improved so that the United Nations Organization will become more nearly a federal government of the world and more truly an agency of international democracy.

I myself strongly believe that the objective towards which the nations must move is the ultimate establishment, through the United Nations, of a federal world government founded upon law and representative of the true principles of international democracy. But the way in which that objective can be most surely and most rapidly attained is to be found, not in the proposals of Professor Einstein, but rather in the counsel of Senator Hatch, when he said recently on the floor of the Senate, “We must use the machinery we now have, improving it as best we can, making every needed amendment and change, as we progress toward the ultimate goal of complete worldwide rule by law instead of rule by force.”

Professor Einstein says: “I appreciate that there are persons who favor a gradual approach to world government even though they approve of it as the ultimate objective. The trouble about taking little steps, one at a time, in the hope of reaching that ultimate goal is that while they are being taken, we continue to keep the bomb secret without making our reason convincing to those who do not have the secret. That of itself creates fear and suspicion with the consequence that the relations of rival sovereignties deteriorate dangerously. So, while persons who take only a step at a time may think they are approaching world peace, they actually are contributing, by their slow pace, to the coming of war.”

Whatever may be the weaknesses and the defects in the atomic bomb proposal recently made by the President of the United States and the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and of Canada, the proposal at least provides that the United Nations Organization as at present constituted shall assume jurisdiction over the problem. The Assembly, representing all the governments of the United Nations, meets in January. It can and it should exercise that jurisdiction. If the will is there — and I think it is — an effective solution can be found.

What Professor Einstein seems to me to overlook, in his insistence that moving slowly means war, is that from the standpoint of existing facts it is an utter impossibility to do anything else than move slowly until the mutual fears and suspicions existing between so many nations of the world have been ended. How can these fears and suspicions be ended until and unless all nations, and particularly the Big Three, work together within the United Nations Organization and thus little by little discover by actual proof that there exist no valid reasons and no basic causes for their mutual fears and suspicions?

It may well be that the release of atomic energy has shortened the time within which men will have the chance to reconstruct world order. But the one great certainty which they possess is that they can only reach that goal by marching together and by firmly consolidating each gain as they march forward.

From every standpoint, international relations since V-J Day have gravely deteriorated. The primary reason for the deterioration is the fact that no agency has existed, no organization has been functioning, through which the peoples and governments of the world could work together. Had the United Nations Organization actually been functioning before V-E Day, the present deterioration could unquestionably have been avoided. The one real hope which humanity now possesses rests in the United Nations Organization and in the willingness and capacity of governments to put it rapidly to work. As the war years showed, when governments have to work together or face annihilation, they can agree, even though they be sovereign governments and retain such attributes of sovereignty as need not be relinquished in order to make their alliance effective.

There is no question in my mind that if the United Nations Organization is now utilized to the fullest extent by all the participating countries, it can lay the foundations for world reconstruction, for human progress, and for peace among nations. If we abandon it without a trial, we deliberately reject the one instrument which today exists through which these objectives can be secured.

In the light of present conditions, it seems to me highly doubtful that, had the United Nations Charter not been adopted at San Francisco last June, and had the effort now to be made to secure the adoption of a Charter, any instrument nearly so effective as the present Charter could today secure the approval of the same number of governments. Yet Professor Einstein recommends that that great and significant achievement be discarded, and that the governments of the world attempt instead to obtain the consent of fifty-one nations to a form of world government upon which we may be quite certain the peoples of the United States, of Great Britain, and of the Soviet Union cannot agree.

If the peoples of the earth today abandon the United Nations Organization, they will get chaos without hope. For out of chaos fresh confidence does not arise.