Brief History of the World Federalist Movement

Glen T. Martin

  1. Before the Earth Constitution

Many within the world federalist movement that began nearly a century ago during the First World War understood the need for this paradigm shift almost from the very beginning. They understood the fundamental cause of that “war to end all wars” not as the defense of peaceful nations against the aggression of expansive nations but as a product of the fragmented system of “sovereign” nations, each claiming absolute independence in its foreign affairs and autonomy over its internal affairs. This system had been formally recognized at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.  The result was the development of a world of autonomous nation-states, each militarized to the teeth, in economic and political rivalry with one another.  In other words: “a war system.”

The roots of their understanding go back to the history of modern philosophy. In the 17th century Baruch Spinoza and Thomas Hobbes both pointed out that the world system beyond the borders of sovereign nations was a war system.  In the 18th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant called the condition of sovereign nations one of “war,” and in the 19th century G.W.F. Hegel wrote in his Philosophy of Right (1821) that “if no agreement can be reached between particular wills, conflict between states can only be settled by war.” In his 1795 essay on Perpetual Peace, Kant calls this war system “savage and barbaric” and states that “one would expect that civilized people, the sooner the better, would hasten to escape from such a depraved situation.”

The horrendous tragedy of the First World War drove this lesson home to peace activists like Rosika Schwimmer who helped found the Women’s Peace Party in 1915 and was later Vice-President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.  By the 1930s she was working with Lola Maverick Lloyd in an international campaign for world government with offices in Chicago and New York. These pioneers developed the vision of a united Earth that became a major international movement after yet another world war graphically demonstrated the failures of the system of sovereign nation-states.

During and after the (equally horrendous) tragedy of the Second World War and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the movement for world federalism reached its zenith with a number of widely selling books and many world federalist groups spontaneously developing, especially within the United States and Europe.  Emery Reves 1945 book The Anatomy of Peace was an instant success and translated into some 20 languages.  Reves declared that sovereignty belongs to the people of Earth alone and that territorial nation-states were illegitimate in their claims to national sovereignty. Mahatma Gandhi in India affirmed similar sentiments. Albert Camus wrote that we faced an absolute choice between being “murderers or accomplices of murderers” or entering into authentic dialogue within an effective world parliament.

British MP Henry Usborne and Harold S. Bidmead worked to unite the many world federalist movements that had begun during the decade in the form of the World Movement for World Federal Government.  The World Federalist Movement (WFM), as it came to be called, held its first Congress in Montreux, Switzerland in 1947 and produced the famous “Montreux Declaration” that has become a classic in world federalist literature. It stated that:

We world federalists are convinced that the establishment of a world federal government is the crucial problem of our time. Until it is solved, all other issues, whether national or international, will remain unsettled. It is not between free enterprise and planned economy, nor between capitalism and communism that the choice lies, but between federalism and power politics. Federalism alone can assure the survival of man. (

Usborne and others developed a movement called “Parliamentarians for World Federation” that included many legislators from Europe, England, and the United States. Albert Einstein and many other eminent personalities supported the movement for democratic world government. By 1948, the World Movement for World Government boasted more than 50 affiliated organizations and about 150,000 members. In cooperation with the parliamentarians, a Peoples’ World Assembly movement was founded about this same time that organized a “Peoples’ World Convention” that took place in Geneva in 1950.  The idea behind this convention was to set up a process that would lead to drafting a constitution for a federation of Earth.

500 delegates from 47 countries met in Geneva late in 1950. The convention passed a number of resolutions but never formulated an effective program of creating an Earth constitution. The vision of a united world flowing from our most fundamental moral and existential truth began to fade in the face of practical politics within the older paradigm. A number of these delegates soon became adamant about reforming the United Nations by adding an elected people’s assembly to the General Assembly. Others became enthusiastic about developing a European Union. The insight of the Montreux Declaration that “federalism alone can ensure the survival of man” soon gave way to the power of fragmentation.

The Cold War so clearly repudiated by the Montreaux Declaration intervened with great force, making a democratic government for humanity seem impossible to many in the face of the apparent absolute ideological split between communism and capitalism.  In Britain and the U.S. many federalist groups turned toward reforming the U.N. through efforts to limit the veto, enlarge the Security Council, strengthen international law, create a people’s assembly, promote treaties limiting strategic weapons, etc.  To this day, their failure has been palpable. You cannot evolve an inherently fragmented paradigm into genuine holism. One must establish the new paradigm, integrating and drawing together all the valuable and holistic elements that the fragmented paradigm inhibits and discourages.

2.  The Origins of the Earth Constitution

One person of vision and energy who had not been deceived by post-war politics or the quick-sand of the United Nations was Henry Philip Isely. Isely understood that both world wars had been the result of the lawless system of sovereign nation-states. He had gone to Federal Prison in the U.S. during the Second World War as a war resister who stood for a united world order, refusing to take sides in that madness, while seeing through the emerging propaganda campaigns of communism versus capitalism, behind which festered the fragmented system of sovereign nation-states and their global power politics. 

        After the war, Isely acquired a world federalist magazine called Across Frontiers and in 1958 founded, with his wife Margaret Isely, the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA). Their profitable Denver, Colorado, business allowed them to travel widely. They met with many prominent people around the world, gathering support for developing a genuine constitution for the Earth.

Isely issued the call for a world constitutional convention in 1961. He had recruited several heads of state and many prominent world citizens to sponsor the announcement. In the mid-1960s, the WCPA held three preparatory congresses for this world constitutional convention. While the world tottered on the brink of global nuclear holocaust, one organization understood the root of the madness and worked to establish a new holistic paradigm for the Earth. The convention itself finally took place in Interlaken, Switzerland, and Wolfach, Germany, in 1968. Participating were 200 delegates from 27 countries and five continents. 

        The Convention articulated the basic requirements for a world constitution by producing a 19 page “Outline for the Debate and Drafting of a World Constitution.” The charge was given to WCPA to develop a constitution based on these guidelines. From this charge there emerged a core drafting commission of twenty-five persons, Chaired by Dr. Reinhart Ruge. However, it is widely recognized that of the twenty-five, five contributed almost all of the initial drafting work. Their charge was to complete a draft according to the guidelines provided by the assembly, to circulate the document worldwide for comment, and to revise the draft in accordance with this input in a continuous process until an original, very high quality Constitution for the Federation of Earth was created. They understood that the process of involving as many world citizens and nations as possible would take a great deal of time and patience. As it turned out, the process of creating a brilliant Earth Constitution would not be completed until 1991.

        After many discussions and interactions concerning the Constitution, core members of the drafting commission met for two continuous months in Denver, Colorado (January and February 1972). The four persons were Philip Isely, WCPA Secretary-General, from the U.S., Dr. T. P. Amerasinghe (barrister at law to the Supreme Court, Sri Lanka), Hon. S. M. Husain (Judge of the Supreme Court, Bangladesh), and D. M. Spenser (constitutional lawyer and professor, India).  During their drafting of the Constitution they were in constant contact by phone with international lawyer, Dr. Max Habicht of Switzerland.  Their first draft, completed and printed in 1974, was circulated worldwide for comments during the following three years. In 1975, comments were themselves collected and circulated worldwide, and a second draft of the Constitution was prepared by the commission during 1976.

        Again, this new draft was circulated worldwide. Finally, with this new draft in hand, the Second Constituent Assembly met in Innsbruck, Austria in June 1977. This final draft was debated paragraph by paragraph by the delegates and a number of changes were made by the assembly. In triumph, it was then adopted with 138 signatories from 25 nations and six continents.  Many delegates wept tears of joy, for it seemed that civilization with a genuine peace-system was about to triumph on our endangered planet Earth.

        During the next few years, the WCPA sent the Earth Constitution to all heads of state, all U.N ambassadors, and promoted the Constitution widely around the world.  Translations of the Constitution (today totaling 23 languages) began immediately and have continued to the present. However, many in the world, bewitched by the evil spell of sovereign militarized nation-states, asserted that the Earth Constitution lacked legitimacy because no national governments had participated at Innsbruck (even though they had been invited). It was deemed necessary to call a Third Constituent Assembly that met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1979. The meetings were hosted at the Hotel Ranmuthu by Dr. Terence Amerasinghe, Co-President (with Dr. Reinhart Ruge) of WCPA and one of the drafters of the Constitution. Among other documents, the Assembly issued a “Declaration of the Rights of People” to assemble, draft a constitution, and obtain ratification. A similar declaration was later reissued by the eighth session of the Provisional World Parliament in Lucknow, India, 2004, and is found as Appendix D below.

        A central issue among world federalists arises here. Is the future of the world entirely in the hands of illegitimate sovereign national entities militarizing the world, operating according to the brutal standards of power politics, and creating ever more weapons of mass destruction?  Or do the people of Earth have the duty to rapidly create a legitimate democratic order for the world irrespective of the obstacles raised by nation-state power politics? Many world federalists remain hypnotized by the power of the nation-states and fail to recognize their illegitimacy under the current lawless world system. 

        They spend immense quantities of time and energy trying to reform this system through the United Nations, which represents these lawless nation-states. As world citizen Harold Bidmead puts it, “The enemies of a peaceful international order are the worshippers of the false god of national sovereignty, the idol with feet of clay” (2005:123). As philosopher Errol E. Harris declares, “the nation-state is no longer the legitimate bearer of sovereign authority” (2008: 132). My Ascent to Freedom (2008) traces the history of this mythology in some detail.   The legitimacy of the nations can only be restored if they unite in a democratic world federal system.

        Under the authority of Article 19 of the Earth Constitution, as recognized by the 1977 assembly in Innsbruck, the World Constitution and Parliament Association began holding sessions of the Provisional World Parliament. Article 19 recognizes the citizens’ right to begin provisional world government independently of the illegitimate system of sovereign national governments. The first meeting of the Parliament took place in the famous Royal Pavilion at Brighton, England, in 1982, the second session at both the renowned Vigyan Bhawan and the “Constitution Club” in Delhi, India, in 1985, (where the Constitution of India had been signed) and the third at the immense Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida, 1987. 

        During this period criticisms of details in wording of the Constitution continued to trickle in to WCPA World Headquarters in Denver, Colorado. It was deemed appropriate to hold a fourth Constituent Assembly to examine these criticisms.  This meeting took place in Troia, Portugal, in 1991, the delegates adopting some 59 changes in wording within the Constitution.  Today, all editions of the Constitution follow the amendments made at the Fourth Constituent Assembly.

        In Troia, it was decided to send the amended Constitution for the Federation of Earth into the world as a completed document to be democratically ratified by the people and nations of the Earth according to the criteria set forth in Article 17.  The future of humankind and our natural environment could wait no longer upon endless quibbling and tinkering over wording for a constitution. It was now to be a finished Constitution presented to the people and nations of Earth for ratification. Within the Constitution there is ample provision for amendment and review under the authority of the World Parliament. Our primary task must be first to get the Constitution ratified according to the democratic provisions set forth in Article 17 and unite humanity to address the many lethal problems that threaten our very existence on this planet.

Funded by significant donations from the Japanese World Federalists, the growing wealth of Philip and Margaret Isely, and some other friends of WCPA, the first sessions of Parliament and the campaign for ratification were quite successful. For example, the 1985 second session of the Parliament was inaugurated before a full house by the then President of India and chaired by the then Speaker of the Lok Sabha (the lower house in India’s Parliament). WCPA created the Global Ratification and Elections Network (GREN) and hundreds of organizations joined representing millions of people. (Under the new WCPA, this movement is now known as the Earth Federation Movement (EFM).)

Philip Isely, Dr. Terence Amerasinghe, and other WCPA leaders claimed that there were repeated instances of Superpower manipulation behind the scenes to prevent further success of the movement to ratify the Constitution. This only makes sense since the world’s imperial Superpower clearly has the most to lose from a just and democratic world order. WCPA leaders stated that Presidents or Prime Ministers of small countries would express interest in the Earth Constitution and then suddenly and inexplicably reverse themselves and throw WCPA leaders out of their countries. Sometimes receptions were arranged for Parliament delegates by host nations, only to have nations suddenly deny all visas for Parliament delegates and become hostile to the proceedings.

This happened during the 1980s and 1990s right through the fifth session of the Provisional World Parliament on the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean in November 2001.  Margaret Isely had died in 1996.  Subversion of the fifth session of Parliament again seemed clear. Over 400 delegates had registered and two huge hotels reserved for their proceedings, but the government of Malta stalled on its promise of granting visas until the very last minute, until it was too late to change the venue, and then granted only about 40 visas out of the more than 400 applicants.

 Philip Isely expressed great discouragement to those present in Malta (including the editor of this volume who was also present). At that point, close to 85 years old, he soon remarried a younger woman who happened to be a delegate in Malta from Macedonia.  Within the next two years, Isely lost interest in the struggle, and the funding that came from his wealth dried up for WCPA.  All paid WCPA employees were discharged one by one, and world headquarters in Denver was closed down. Across Frontiers ceased publication.

At an Executive Cabinet meeting coinciding with the sixth session of the Parliament in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2003, the quorum of members present officially removed Isely from office.  Isely had been invited to the meeting according to WCPA by-law rules but did not respond.  Present were Co-Presidents Dr. Reinhart Ruge and Dr. Terence Amerasinghe, Vice-President Dr. Dauji Gupta, Executive Cabinet members Dr. Glen T. Martin and Dr. Eugenia Almand, and several others. Dr. Ruge asked to retire as Co-President and be designated as Honorary President for Life.  Dr. Amerasinghe was made President of WCPA.  Dr. Glen T. Martin was made Secretary-General, and Dr. Eugenia Almand, Deputy Secretary-General. The results were announced to the assembled parliament delegates who acclaimed these decisions. The revitalized WCPA rededicated itself to the task of ratifying the Earth Constitution and developing the Provisional World Parliament.

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth remains the great achievement and contribution to human civilization led until 2003 by Philip Isely and developed by WCPA and many world citizens.  Of the 150 or so constitutions that have been written for the Earth, it alone has undergone this several decade development through participations of citizens from all over the planet. It alone has been translated into many languages and distributed worldwide. It alone has a worldwide organization and campaign for ratification behind it.

The Constitution’s brilliance and wisdom shine through these mere 30 or so pages, and its principle of unity in diversity stands as a beacon of the new holistic paradigm on which the Constitution is based. Contained herein is the most important document produced by the 20th century. Treasure it; read it with care; sign the pledge, and promote its ratification.  On this document depends the future of our children and the precious planet on which we live.