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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25. No. 11. 1962

Lord Russell in Court

Lord Russell in Court

(Bertrand Russell, when arrested after a sitdown, had the following to say to, the Bow Street Magistrates Court. The statement was released by the Committee of 100).

If the Court permits, I should like to make a short statement as to the reasons for my present course. This is my personal statement, but I hope that those who are accused of the same so-called crime will be in sympathy with what I have to say.

It was only step by step and with great reluctance that we were driven to non-violent civil disobedience.

Ever since the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, I have been profoundly troubled by the danger of nuclear warfare. I began my attempt to warn people by entirely orthodox methods. I expressed my fears in a speech in the House of Lords three months after the bombs were dropped on Japan. I called together scientists of the highest eminence from all parts of the world and am now Chairman of their periodic meetings, They issue wise and reasoned reports concerning nuclear warfare, Its probable disastrous results, and ways of preventing its occurrence.

No newspaper notices these reports and they have no effect either on Governments or on public opinion. The popular Press minimises and ridicules the effort of those working against nuclear warfare, and television, with rare exceptions, is closed to us. In recent months one television company, and only one, offered me two minutes for general platitudes, but when I said I should wish to speak on Berlin the offer was withdrawn.

Human Slaughter

It has seemed to some of US that, in a country supposed to be a democracy, the public should know the probable consequences of present Great-Power policies in East and West. Patriotism and humanity alike urged us to seek some way of saving our country and the world. No one can desire the slaughter of our families, friends, our compatriots and a majority of the human race in a contest in which there will be only vanquished and no victors.

We feel it a profound and inescapable duty to make the facts known and thereby save at least a thousand million human lives. We cannot escape this duty by submitting to orders which, we are convinced, would not be issued if the likelihood and the horror of nuclear war were more generally understood.

Non-violent civil disobedience was forced upon us by the fact that it was more fully reported than other methods of making the facts known, and that caused people to ask what had induced us to adopt such a course of action. We who are accused are prepared to suffer Imprisonment because we believe that this is the most effective way of working for the salvation of our country and the world. If you condemn us you will be helping our cause, and therefore humanity.

While life remains to us we will not cease to do what lies in our power to avert the greatest calamity that has ever threatened mankind.