Portal Site for Russellian in Japan
Do Governments Desire War?
[From: Mortals and Others, v.1, 1975.］
In every civilised country, all persons capable of apprehending plain facts are agreed that the next great war will, in all likelihood, bring the end of civilisation. This is in no sense a party question ; it has nothing to do with economics or theology or any of the other issues that divide man. It has to do solely with the perfection of war technique, especially of the technique of attack. Aeroplanes and poison gas have made the attack much stronger than the defence and have made it easy to attack civilian populations behind the lines. If there should be a war (say) between England and France, it is to be expected that, within a few hours of its outbreak, practically all the inhabitants of London and Paris would be dead. Within a few days, all the main centres of industry would be destroyed and most of the railways would be paralysed. The population, maddened with terror, would fight with each other for stores of food, and those who were most successful would retire into lonely places, where they would shoot all who approached them. Probably within a week, the population of both countries would be halved, and the institutions which are the vehicles of their culture would be destroyed for ever.
All this is well known, and yet, incredible as it may seem, the governments show a rooted opposition to all serious attempts to prevent war. The Disarmament Conference, after long deliberation, decided merely to renew certain futile agreements which, as every one admits, will be broken on the day that war breaks out. The assembled governments decided to flout the intelligence of the civilised world and to make it clear that they would do nothing whatever to make war less likely or less horrible.
Einstein, who is universally recognised as the greatest man of our age, went to Geneva during the conference to find out whether there was hope of anything being done. The conference having proved futile, Einstein and various other friends of peace, many of them eminent and highly respectable, attempted to hold a congress that should consider what intelligent people could do to save Europe from suicide. The Swiss Government refused them permission to meet in Switzerland, on the pretext that friends of peace must be Communists. The French Government proved equally unfriendly. The British Prime Minister, personally appealed to, did not even reply ; apparently he is now ashamed of his honourable record in the Great War.
The conclusion to be drawn from such facts is that the governments of the world, while not positively desiring war, are just as determined as they were before 1914 to obstruct every measure that is likely to prevent war. It is to be hoped that ordinary citizens will, before it is too late, acquire the common sense required to save themselves and their children from a horrible and futile death. The first step should be universal compulsory and complete disarmament, the second the creation of an international government. Armies and navies do not make for safety. The only way to be safe in the modern world is not to have the means of fighting.
Men like Einstein proclaim obvious truths about war but are not listened to. So long as Einstein is unintelligible, he is thought wise, but as soon as he says anything that people can understand, it is thought that his wisdom has departed from him. In this folly, governments take a leading part. It seems that politicians would rather lead their countries to destruction than not be in the government. A greater depth of wickedness than this it is not easy to imagine.