War Does Not Determine Who Is Right — Only Who Is Left

Bertrand Russell? Frank P. Hobgood? Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre? Reader’s Digest? Montreal Star? Andrew Carnegie? Winston Churchill? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A piquant slogan has been used by pacifists and peace activists for decades. Here are two variants:

  • War does not determine who is right — only who is left.
  • The atom bomb will never determine who is right — only who is left.

The first saying is often attributed to the philosopher and social thinker Bertrand Russell, but I have never seen a precise reference to support this connection. Would you please examine this expression?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Bertrand Russell wrote or spoke this adage.

The earliest citation located by QI appeared without attribution in “The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix” of Saskatchewan, Canada in August 1931 within an article containing miscellaneous expressions under the title “The Daily Starbeams”. Emphasis added to excepts by QI: 1

“War does not determine who is right.” It only determines who is left.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading War Does Not Determine Who Is Right — Only Who Is Left

Notes:

  1. 1931 August 22, The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, The Daily Starbeams, Quote Page 11, Column 3, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. (Newspapers_com)