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Netflix doc ignores Einstein’s determined support for world federalism

By Alexander Fokeev and Max Miller


The recent Netflix documentary, “Einstein and the Bomb”, eloquently explores Einstein’s relationship with the development of the nuclear bomb. But it overlooks the major trajectory of Einstein’s politics spurred on by the development of nuclear weapons: Einstein’s unwavering support for world federalism.


What do we know about Albert Einstein? Albert Einstein is best known for the equation E=mc2, the development of the theory of relativity, and many other achievements in science. However, he was known not only for his revolutionary discoveries but also for his progressive political views. The philosophical foundations of Einstein's physical theories were also evident in his scientific writing style. He relied more often on reflection than on the laboratory, which has always been a symbol of precise research. The image of Einstein that we know is more reminiscent of a “classical philosopher” with pencil and paper, tenacity, and a clear mind than a physicist. One of his most ambitious ideas was to support the creation of a world government.


From a rational point of view, Einstein recognized the need to unite the intentions of all nations to solve serious problems. He understood that global problems such as the nuclear threat, global warming, hunger, and poverty could not be effectively solved by individual countries alone. Einstein emphasized that modern problems require joint decision-making and cooperation, rather than constant competition between different states. He wrote, “A world government with powers adequate to guarantee security is not a remote ideal for the distant future. It is an urgent necessity if our civilization is to survive." He believed that world government could provide a strong and unified framework for solving common problems and equitably distributing resources.


However, Einstein also felt the ethical need to create a system of global governance. Einstein noted that the growth of nationalist sentiments brings suffering and destruction. His experience of witnessing the tragic events of World War I and the threat of World War II deeply ingrained his views on global federalism. Einstein firmly believed that the only way to ensure lasting peace was through the creation of a world government.


During World War I, Einstein lived in Berlin, Germany. It was in this country that he spent many years of his life. Einstein, like many others, was horrified by the cruelty and senselessness of war. It can be assumed that at this time Einstein's pacifist beliefs began to strengthen. He saw the disastrous consequences of nationalism and the narrow pursuit of national interests, not only for Germany but for the entire world.


Einstein was acutely aware of the dangers posed by growing militarism and the development of destructive weapons. When World War II broke out, Einstein was already an active supporter of global federalism. Einstein understood that the current system, in which independent countries put their own problems first, was flawed and could not survive in the long term. Later, after the disasters in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein again began to look for a way out and a way to ensure peace. He envisioned it as a supranational organization. The creation of this organization was also prompted by the tragic goal of science at the time: the development of new types of weapons.


Einstein's advocacy of world federalism was not just an abstract ideal but a practical response to the reality of a world on the brink of self-destruction. “I advocate world government because I am convinced that there is no other possible way of eliminating the most terrible danger in which man has ever found himself. The objective of avoiding total destruction must have priority over any other objective,” he wrote. Einstein believed that only a world government could create a structure capable of preventing conflicts, reconciling peoples and protecting the rights of every person.


However, although Einstein was an ardent proponent of such a government, he was well aware of the complexities and difficulties associated with its implementation. He understood that there were political differences between cultures that could hinder cooperation and conflict resolution. However, he also believed in the power of dialogue, understanding, and cooperation to solve these problems.


For Einstein, the defence of world federalism was not just a theoretical concept. He believed in practical means to achieve this goal. In a 1935 essay entitled “Pacifism Revisited,” he wrote: “I stand firmly by the principle that a real solution to the problem of pacifism can be achieved only by the organization of a super-national court of arbitration, which, differing from the present League of Nations in Geneva, would have at its disposal the means of enforcing its decisions.”


An important concept for him was “world government.” It must be created legally and be responsible for the destinies of all peoples. It is necessary that its constitution be voluntarily approved by all national governments. A world government must be able to resolve conflicts between nations. Therefore, the world government should be powerful. Even the most efficient strategies will lose all meaning if there is no way to ensure their implementation. Moral authority can no longer be a means of maintaining peace. What is required is a military force that can mobilize, act, and prevent any state from plunging into war through rapid intervention. Einstein believed that for this, the participating states must be prepared to create a unified security system and abandon their armed forces.


Einstein looked with concern at the work of the United Nations (UN). It would seem that the UN corresponded to his ideas, but in practice, it did not live up to his expectations. In his opinion, it is still at the limit of moral authority, although she should have exceeded it long ago. Einstein was realistic enough to understand that the power of any international organization cannot exceed the powers specified in its charter or ceded to it by individual member states. Einstein tried to suggest ways to make the UN more powerful and discussed measures that could help turn it into a true world government.


Even after Einstein's death, his ideas and arguments for the creation of a world government remain relevant today. Times have changed, and the problems facing humanity have become more complex. Issues such as global conflicts, environmental crises, inequality, and ethical issues require international cooperation and coordination.


Einstein allowed us to think about the need for a world government. He showed that we can only create a better future for our planet and all the people on it by working together. We hope that his ideas will continue to influence us and help us strive for harmony and peace in the world.


Although Einstein was a firm believer in world federalism, the Netflix documentary “Einstein and the Bomb” barely mentioned his views. At the end of the film, there are only a few cryptic sentences on this topic. They make the film more problematic, but a more in-depth and detailed discussion of the scientist's views on the need for a world government could shed light on his views and contribute to a better understanding of his position. He wrote hundreds of letters and speeches, gave interviews, and directly advocated the idea of internationalism in various forms.


The documentary contains so much information about Einstein and his life that it is clear why his ideas about the world federation were mostly dismissed. But to understand Einstein, we have to understand his relationship with world federalism and how it shaped him.

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