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The Russell-Einstein Manifesto
Issued in London, 9 July 1955
IN the tragic situation which confronts humanity,
we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to appraise
the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons
of mass destruction, and to discuss a resolution in the spirit of
the appended draft.
We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that
nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the
species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. The world is
full of conflicts; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic
struggle between Communism and anti-Communism.
Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings
about one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can,
to set aside such feelings and consider yourselves only as members
of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and
whose disappearance none of us can desire.
We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group
rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the
peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert
We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask
ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory
to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps;
the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken
to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous
to all parties?
The general public, and even many men in positions of authority,
have not realized what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs.
The general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of
cities. It is understood that the new bombs are more powerful than
the old, and that, while one A-bomb could obliterate Hiroshima,
one H-bomb could obliterate the largest cities, such as London,
New York, and Moscow.
No doubt in an H-bomb war great cities would be obliterated. But
this is one of the minor disasters that would have to be faced.
If everybody in London, New York, and Moscow were exterminated,
the world might, in the course of a few centuries, recover from
the blow. But we now know, especially since the Bikini test, that
nuclear bombs can gradually spread destruction over a very much
wider area than had been supposed.
It is stated on very good authority that a bomb can now be manufactured
which will be 2,500 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima.
Such a bomb, if exploded near the ground or under water, sends radio-active
particles into the upper air. They sink gradually and reach the
surface of the earth in the form of a deadly dust or rain. It was
this dust which infected the Japanese fishermen and their catch
of fish. No one knows how widely such lethal radio-active particles
might be diffused, but the best authorities are unanimous in saying
that a war with H-bombs might possibly put an end to the human race.
It is feared that if many H-bombs are used there will be universal
death, sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture
of disease and disintegration.
Many warnings have been uttered by eminent men of science and by
authorities in military strategy. None of them will say that the
worst results are certain. What they do say is that these results
are possible, and no one can be sure that they will not be realized.
We have not yet found that the views of experts on this question
depend in any degree upon their politics or prejudices. They depend
only, so far as our researches have revealed, upon the extent of
the particular expert's knowledge. We have found that the men who
know most are the most gloomy.
Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful
and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall
mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because
it is so difficult to abolish war.
The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national
sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation
more than anything else is that the term "mankind" feels
vague and abstract. People scarcely realize in imagination that
the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren,
and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely
bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom
they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly. And so
they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue provided modern
weapons are prohibited.
This hope is illusory. Whatever agreements not to use H-bombs had
been reached in time of peace, they would no longer be considered
binding in time of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture
H-bombs as soon as war broke out, for, if one side manufactured
the bombs and the other did not, the side that manufactured them
would inevitably be victorious.
Although an agreement to renounce nuclear weapons as part of a general
reduction of armaments would not afford an ultimate solution, it
would serve certain important purposes. First, any agreement between
East and West is to the good in so far as it tends to diminish tension.
Second, the abolition of thermo-nuclear weapons, if each side believed
that the other had carried it out sincerely, would lessen the fear
of a sudden attack in the style of Pearl Harbour, which at present
keeps both sides in a state of nervous apprehension. We should,
therefore, welcome such an agreement though only as a first step.
Most of us are not neutral in feeling, but, as human beings, we
have to remember that, if the issues between East and West are to
be decided in any manner that can give any possible satisfaction
to anybody, whether Communist or anti-Communist, whether Asian or
European or American, whether White or Black, then these issues
must not be decided by war. We should wish this to be understood,
both in the East and in the West.
There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness,
knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because
we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human
beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can
do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there
lies before you the risk of universal death.
WE invite this Congress, and through it the scientists
of the world and the general public, to subscribe to the following
"In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons
will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued
existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize,
and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered
by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful
means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them."
Perry W. Bridgman
Herman J. Muller
Cecil F. Powell