Einstein the humanitarian

Time's "Person of the Century" is a perfect choice

by Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski

January 7, 2000

Albert Einstein has been named Time Magazine's "Person of the Century." I cannot evaluate Einstein's scientific work on the Theory of Relativity, but certainly he has always been placed head and shoulders above any other 20th-century scientist. His name has become synonymous with super-genius. However, Einstein has always had a favorable press because his leftist social views meshed with the dominant thinking of the intellectual establishment. Thus, he is popularly portrayed as a great humanitarian, man of peace, and defender of human liberty. In short, Einstein has the status of a veritable secular saint.

Dec. 31, 1999 cover of Time Magazine featuring Albert Einstein

From about 1920 onward, Einstein's great scientific prestige provided him with a public forum to enunciate his social, political, economic, and religious views. He was a prolific and skilled writer and polemicist. A very influential individual, he is probably deserving of his current honors. It is questionable, however, whether his nonscientific views were in any sense "correct" or "humanitarian," or that Einstein was in any sense an independent thinker. Examining his views, one detects a number of logical inconsistencies. Instead of revealing him as a detached, objective, analytical thinker, Einstein's nonscientific views tended to reflect the dominant views of the left-wing intelligentsia. Moreover, his views lend credence to the arguments of Kevin MacDonald, Israel Shahak, and Norman F. Cantor that much Jewish writing reflects the vested interests of Jews as a group.

In religion, Einstein was not a follower of traditional Judaism. He rejected the personal, transcendent God of Judaism and Christianity, whom he saw as contrary to science and empirical evidence. In Einstein's thinking, the regularity of events perceived by science left no room for a God outside of natural events. Einstein thus rejected the idea of a God who judged human actions, was involved in the world, and provided people with an afterlife. While Einstein rejected traditional transcendent religion, he styled himself a religious individual and held that people needed religion. His religion was of a pantheistic variety, with the universe itself being in some way "divine." Einstein believed that traditional religion could not survive in a modern, scientific society and, moreover, was deleterious to human happiness and progress. Einstein wanted religious leaders to move people away from traditional religious beliefs to his pantheistic persuasion. (See "Weaning Humankind From the Personal God.")

In the social and economic realm, Einstein declared himself a socialist. And his socialism was not of the Swedish welfare-state variety. Rather, to Einstein, socialism entailed the state ownership of all the means of production. Einstein's definition of socialism was the Marxist one; Communists, of course, referred to the Soviet Union as "socialist." (Einstein, however, did not join the Communist Party.) He presented his views on socialism in "Why Socialism" in the May 1949 issue of the Monthly Review, the leading American Marxist journal. In his article, Einstein condemns the "predatory" nature of capitalist competition, as not only leading to unemployment, monopoly, poverty, and frequent economic depressions but also poisoning the entire spirit of society and causing the alienation of the individual. He writes that he is "convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion."

In this conventional socialist polemic, Einstein brushes aside all possible criticism of socialism on the grounds that it is impossible to judge the socialist future in the context of the current capitalist reality; presumably that would dispose of Mises's arguments that socialism cannot function without markets to determine prices. Einstein writes that the "observable economic facts" belong to the "predatory" capitalist phase of history and "such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future."

Obviously, Einstein is presenting socialism as a non-falsifiable "truth," a procedure that runs counter to science. How do we know that socialism will be good if it is immune to empirical evidence and economic analysis? Einstein just assumes that everyone should accept his "lofty ethical idea." Notice that Einstein uses a standard to evaluate socialism that is totally different from the one he uses to evaluate traditional religion. He uses science to refute traditional religion; he doesn't allow science to refute socialism. But if Einstein is permitted to put socialism beyond the realm of science, it seems that believers must be allowed to do the same for God and traditional religion.

Einstein described himself a pacifist, but he was not so pacifistic that he didn't support certain wars and military actions. Einstein did evince pacifism in World War I, being totally against German military action. He expressed a great hatred of German militarism, which he seemed to assume was innate in the German personality, and some of his wartime letters imply that he actually wanted Germany defeated. When Hitler came to power, Einstein left Germany and advocated militant opposition to Hitler's Germany even before Hitler had engaged in any type of military aggression. Einstein, of course, hated Hitler for his anti-Semitism. In a 1934 article (collected in his book Out of My Later Years), Einstein supports military conscription because "refusal to do military service means weakening the power of resistance of the remaining sane portions of the civilized world." (p. 210) Einstein proposes that the countries that supported "peaceful progress" — which to him included the United States, Britain, France, and Stalinist Russia — should join together to oppose aggression by warlike countries such as Nazi Germany. Einstein proposes an "international court of justice with a permanent military establishment, or better, police force." (p. 209) Einstein here presents a position similar to Stalin's emphasis on "collective security." (I think he beats Stalin to the punch on this one.)

In August 1939, Einstein wrote his famous letter to President Roosevelt, encouraging him to develop the atomic bomb on the grounds that Germany was working on one. Note that the letter was written one month prior to the onset of World War II in Europe. Einstein later exhibited reservations about the atomic bomb, but he never said he would have withheld his support if he had known that the German nuclear program was going nowhere. During World War II, the less-than-pacifist Einstein did consultant work on weapons development for the U.S. Navy. With the end of the war, Einstein advocated a harsh peace — the Morgenthau Plan — for Germany, holding that the German people were collectively guilty for Hitler's crimes. He supported the Society for the Prevention of World War III, which called for a harder line to be taken against the prostrate Germans — including opposition to the rehabilitation of the German economy. According to historian James Bacque, the Allied policies that were actually implemented caused the deaths of 10 million Germans; but the "humanitarian" Einstein wanted an even harsher line. When an advocate of a more lenient peace complained that the existing harsh treatment harmed the innocent as well as the guilty, Einstein responded that he opposed any move toward leniency because that would reward the guilty as well as the innocent.

With the beginning of the Cold War, Einstein advocated a very soft line toward the Soviet Union, holding that the United States was at least as culpable for the Cold War as the Soviet Union. The difference between Einstein's approach to Stalinist Russia in the postwar era and Nazi Germany in the 1930s is remarkable. Einstein advocated international opposition to Germany in 1934 even before Hitler had engaged in any external aggression. That the Soviet Union had taken over Eastern and much of Central Europe did not make Einstein similarly concerned.

Einstein not only opposed American foreign policy actions toward the Soviet Union but also defended Stalin's domestic policies. He comes across not as a naïf but as a skilled defender of Stalin's policies in his exchanges with anti-Communist Sidney Hook. (See Sidney Hook, "My Running Debate with Einstein," Commentary, July 1982.) Hook pointed out the apparent inconsistencies in Einstein's philosophy. Einstein always presented freedom of expression as an absolute right in the United States, encompassing the right of pro-Communists to hold important government jobs in the United States without being questioned about their affiliations. (He advised pro-Communists not to respond to government questioning.) Einstein styled himself a civil libertarian, but he seems to have concerned himself primarily with the civil liberties of Communists and fellow travelers. Hook pointed out that Einstein never showed much concern about the total lack of freedom in the Soviet Union. (Nor, I might add, did Einstein evince concern over the violation of civil liberties of alleged pro-fascists and Japanese-Americans in the United States.)

Einstein responded that freedom had to be temporarily suspended in the Soviet Union in order to build up the country. It seems that in Einstein's view socialism was such a great undertaking that its establishment justified the killing of millions. In contrast, for the American republic or Nazi Germany, which were not engaged in great endeavors as the Soviet Union was, violations of civil liberties could not be allowed, at least when applied to certain groups. Note that the millions of people killed by Stalinist Russia far exceeded the few thousands of people Hitler killed in the 1930s, outraging Einstein. Note too how today's Establishment morally condemns individuals and groups for not sufficiently opposing Hitler (e.g., the American "isolationists" and Pope Pius XII) or even questioning the extent of Hitler's crimes or the threat he posed to the world (e.g., Pat Buchanan), while finding nothing morally wrong with Einstein's apologies for Stalin's mass murders. At most, Einstein is gently chided as naïve, but he still qualifies in Establishment eyes as a humanitarian.

Although not a member of the Communist Party, Einstein associated closely with Communists. In 1949 he attended the Communist-run Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace in New York that was vehemently opposed by many anti-Communist liberals. Einstein maintained close relations with the leftist journalist I.F. Stone, who, according to recently released Soviet archives, received financial support from Moscow. Einstein had also been close to atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who, according to Soviet archival material, aided the Soviets. Moreover, Einstein carried on a romantic relationship with a woman, Margarita Konenkova, who was identified as a Soviet agent by Soviet spymaster Pavel Sudoplatov in his memoirs, Special Tasks, published in 1995. Konenkova's task in the United States was to encourage Einstein to speak favorably about her country.

In fact, Einstein did not completely follow the Soviet line. He offered some criticism of Stalin and actually was more internationalist than the Soviet tyrant. In 1945, Einstein advocated a world government, which the Soviets considered to be an American ruse. Einstein said the world government should use force to establish free societies in such right-wing dictatorships as Spain and Argentina: "The power of this world government would be over all military matters, and there need be only one further power. That is to interfere in countries where a minority is oppressing a majority, and so is creating the kind of instability that leads to war. Conditions such as exist in Argentina and Spain should be dealt with. There must be an end to the concept of nonintervention, for to end it is part of keeping the peace." (Out of My Later Years, p. 186)

Einstein admitted that the Soviet Union was run by a minority, but he "did not consider that internal conditions there are of themselves a threat to world peace." (p. 187) The fact that Spain and Argentina had not engaged in any external aggression, while the Soviet Union had grabbed a large part of Eastern and Central Europe, apparently did not enter into Einstein's thinking in determining which were the more dangerous countries. In fact, Einstein envisioned the Soviet Union as a major player in the new world government that would police the world.

His advocacy of world government also did not preclude his longtime support for Zionism. Although Einstein spoke against nationalism, he supported Jewish separatism, presenting a secularized version of the "Chosen People" belief, whereby Jews are morally superior to gentiles. According to Einstein, the bond that united Jews "for thousands of years and unites them today is, above all, the democratic ideal of social justice, coupled with the ideal of mutual aid and tolerance among all men.... Personalities such as Moses, Spinoza and Karl Marx ... all lived and sacrificed themselves for the ideal of social justice." (Later Years, p. 249) This argument that Jews are animated by tolerance and love for gentiles is often employed by Jews; at the same time, commentators such as Shahak and MacDonald argue that it runs almost completely contrary to Jews' real attitude of hostility toward gentiles, and they insist that such hostility is clearly expressed in the Talmud and in modern Zionism.

The second unifying trait represented by Jews, according to Einstein, is their intellectual striving to increase the "progress of knowledge." Anti-Semitism results from the hostility of those who oppose the popular enlightenment that Jews foster. Progressive, independent-minded Jews are not willing to be bound by the dogmas put forth by gentile ruling classes to control their populations. In this way only do Jews threaten gentile establishments, for in Einstein's portrayal, Jews are totally powerless.

That is totally contrary to the accounts of MacDonald and Benjamin Ginsberg, who point out that it is the very existence of Jewish power that has led to anti-Semitism. To say that Jews have been "powerless" overlooks the fact that Jews have been very influential at numerous times and places: e.g., in the early Soviet Union, the Weimar Republic, and Spain in the late Middle Ages. MacDonald sees the Jews establishing their own dogmas to replace those of the gentiles. The existence of the current Holocaust orthodoxy, maintained by criminal sanctions in numerous "democracies," would seem to support MacDonald and undercut Einstein's argument that Jews naturally oppose dogmas.

Einstein wrote that because Jews had suffered more than other groups in World War II, they "should be given special consideration in the organization of the peace." (Later Years, p. 259) Although he supported a Jewish national homeland, Einstein claimed to be opposed to a Jewish state almost until the creation of Israel in 1948. However, he admitted as early as 1938 that "if external necessity should after all compel us to assume this burden [a Jewish state], let us bear it with tact and patience." (p. 264) He denied Palestinian contentions that the Jews intended to dispossess them. But he spoke of the danger of "fanatical Arab outlaws" who threatened the Jewish settlers and forced the peace-loving Jews to take counter-measures.

Einstein was elated when Israel declared her independence in 1948, and he showed little concern that Israel slaughtered Palestinians, expelled them from Israel, and seized their property. (70 percent to 90 percent of the land that would become Israel had been in the hands of private Palestinian individuals.) He blamed the failure to establish Jewish/Arab friendship on the machinations of British imperialism (pp. 274-275), although how the British forced the Jews to set up an exclusively Jewish state is difficult to discern. Israel ignored resolutions from the United Nations for more-just treatment of the Palestinians, including a reimbursement for stolen property and permission for Palestinians to return to their country. Those international resolutions seem not to have impressed the "internationalist" Einstein. When it came to Israel, he placed ethnic nationalism above any type of internationalism.

The views Einstein expressed on social and political matters hardly reflected anything approximating objective analysis or logical consistency. Instead of being an original thinker, Einstein parroted views that were dominant among left-wing intellectuals and Jews; he was an intellectual conformist rather than an independent thinker. His acclaimed "humanitarianism" was of a very selective variety, focusing largely on the specific interests of Jews and Communists. His displayed little or no concern for the opponents of Jews and Communists: the suffering of the millions of gentiles slaughtered by Soviet Communism; postwar Germans who suffered from Allied policies of starvation and territorial expulsion; or the murdered, expelled, and expropriated Palestinians. Einstein is the very archetype of the 20th-century Establishment intellectual, epitomizing the double standards and doublethink described by George Orwell in 1984.

It is just that type of mindset that helped to make the 20th century what it was. As a result, one must conclude that Einstein certainly deserves the title of "Person of the Century." He would have deserved it even if he had never made a single scientific discovery.

[This article was originally published by WTM Enterprises of Roanoke, Indiana, and is reproduced from The Last Ditch.]


Posted March 12, 2012.

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