Philip Isely – In Remembrance

Glen T. Martin

July 2012

The passing of Philip Isely from this world symbolizes the end of an era. Philip was one of the last of the great visionaries who came out of the powerful transformative world federalist movement that emerged from the Second World War. With his first wife Margaret, he devoted his life energies to creating a Constitution for the Federation of Earth and promoting its ratification by the peoples and nations of Earth. It is not likely that the Constitution would exist today if it were not for the dedication and vision of the Iselys and the many people they organized over a period of some four decades through the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA).

      I first learned of and joined the work of WCPA in 1995, flying to World Headquarters in Denver, CO, where the Iselys lived and maintained the two storey building with six employees that was then WCPA World Headquarters.  Philip was known for his strong temper and his unwillingness to work with other world federalist organizations that had a more evolutionary view of the movement toward democratic world government.  In one of these 1995 meetings of the WCPA Executive Council, I saw very clearly one of the reasons behind his intransigence.  I participated with some ten other people from around the world in a brainstorming session in the WCPA offices in Denver. Our task, assigned by Philip Isely, was to come up with how and when we could organize a founding ratification convention for the Earth Constitution.

      After lengthy deliberation, we went around the table giving our thoughts on the subject. One person after another spoke of educating the public, contacting interested countries, soliciting major sponsors, creating media events, influencing promising politicians, speaking with UN representatives, raising funds, etc.  Isely was the last to speak.  He blew up. He yelled at us in obvious anger:  “We are revolutionaries!” he said.  “We are not here to pussy foot and dance around within the present world system that is threatening the world with destruction. We are about changing that system. We need to push the transformation of the system to completion now, not put off what is truly needed by endless compromises with the system.  We all need to think again and think better. Not how can we endlessly postpone what is needed.  But how can we ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth here and now, in the near future.”

      With this outburst, I knew I had come to the right place. Isely had a critical understanding of the global economic and nation-state system that few in the worldwide federalist movement possess. He saw that the present global economic system could not be evolved into something useful for human welfare, that neoliberal capitalism as we know it was a toxic poison for humanity.  He saw that the nation-state system could not be evolved through slow evolutionary change or through reform of the United Nations into something beneficial to human welfare. The nation-state system is toxic in its very foundations and is leading, in collaboration with poisonous corporate capitalism, to the destruction of our planet and the human project.

      Philip Isely saw that it was absolutely imperative to establish world government as soon as possible thereby founding an economic and political system for the planet that served human welfare rather than destroyed human welfare.  He was about doing it, and his great energy and intelligence were dedicated to making it happen. It was these insights that were at the heart of his hostility toward many other World Federalist Organizations that were more evolutionary and less revolutionary in spirit.

       In my 2011 book The Earth Federation Movement, I sketch out some of the background to the WCPA led by Isely with the goal of writing a Constitution for the Federation of Earth:

Our foremost visionary leader who led the effort to create a world constitution was Henry Philip Isely. Isely had been confined to a U.S. Federal Prison during the Second World War as a war resister who believed that both world wars had been caused at the deepest level by the lawless rivalry of sovereign imperial nations, and not, as war propaganda would have it, simply from a struggle of freedom against fascism. After the war, Isely took over the magazine Across Frontiers from World Federalist Gerry Krause and proceeded to set in motion systematic, step by step plans for creating a world constitution. In 1950, he wrote a pamphlet entitled “The People Must Write the Peace” stating that the situation in the world was so dire that the people cannot wait for the moribund national governments to take the lead.

In the early 1950s, Isely and others joined the Campaign for World Government at its Chicago offices, at that time under the direction of Mary Georgia Lloyd. By 1958 the basic concept of WCPA was founded. Key activists understood that the foremost need was to create a quality constitution for the Earth. Along with Thane Read, Guy Marchand, Marie Philips Scot, Margaret Isely, and others, a “World Committee for a World Constitutional Convention” was formed which, by 1961, established its headquarters in Denver, Colorado. The public call for a World Constitutional Convention was issued by the committee that same year with committed delegates from 50 countries and endorsements from several Heads of State.

By 1966 the decision was made to change the name of the World Committee for a World Constitutional Convention to the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA). Margaret and Philip Isely had been using the profits from their successful Denver-based business to travel widely, recruiting prominent persons to sponsor the development of a world constitution and prepare the call for a World Constitutional Convention. Among the recipients of Philip Isely’s immense correspondence were Dr. T. P. Amerasinghe of Sri Lanka and Dr. Reinhart Ruge of Mexico, both leading world federalists who had independently arrived at similar conclusions. These activists eventually became Co-Presidents of WCPA and worked together for more than 40 years in this capacity, with Philip Isely as Secretary-General and Margaret Isely as Treasurer.

Two elements in this account stand out as reflective of Philip Isely’s character.  The first is the fact that he chose to go to prison during the Second World War rather than collaborate with the imperialist powers in that insane struggle among murderous sovereign nation-states.  He saw the lie of a “just war” of some imaginary good against evil and was willing to face prison rather than compromise his integrity. He understood that the system of sovereign nations was the root cause of the war and of all wars, and he lived his life ethically from this insight, refusing to compromise even to the point of going to prison.

 The second element is represented by Philip’s early pamphlet “The People Must Write the Peace” reflecting his lifelong understanding that we cannot and should not wait for the nations of the world to wake up and create a decent world system. The system of sovereign nation-states is intrinsically a war system and a global disorder destructive of human welfare.  If it is going to be done, the people must start the new world system themselves, here and now. This understanding that we cannot wait for the powers within the present world system to evolve toward a world of peace, justice, and environmental sustainability would later be at the heart of the WCPA and the movement behind the Earth Constitution.

I first learned of the existence of WCPA in 1995 when I read a full page ad that Philip Isely had purchased in the progressive publication In These Times. It contained excerpts from a document called the “Manifesto” of the Provisional World Parliament. (The document was passed the following year at the 4th session of the Parliament in Barcelona, Spain, which I attended.)  Among other stipulations directed toward establishing a new world system, the Manifesto prohibited all military ships from sailing on the oceans of the world beyond territorial boundaries.  When I read it I immediately called WCPA and told them I wanted to join them. I understood, what Philip Isely also clearly understood, that the present world order is illegitimate. We do not have to wait for the illegitimate order to make decisions on behalf of humanity (which is impossible), but we must take the initiative and do it ourselves.  The oceans of the world belong to the people of Earth, and the murderous tools of warring sovereign nations, whether the US Navy, the Chinese Navy, or the Russian Navy, have no right and no business putting their evil engines of destruction onto our global commons. The people of Earth must take back possession of our planet and its global commons before the present system has laid waste to our entire planet and all of human life.

Philip was not only the central force behind the writing of the Earth Constitution (and one of the five primary authors of the Constitution), he was also the central force behind starting provisional world government under the authority of Article 19 of the Constitution. He understood that ideals are not worth much unless they are actualized and that the people of Earth must begin world government here and now before it is too late.  Provisional world government primarily took the form of organizing sessions of the Provisional World Parliament and building through this a worldwide network of citizens committed to living and acting under the Earth Constitution and governing themselves independently of the illegitimate nation-states in which they happen to live. 

Sessions of the Parliament took place under his direction in 1982 in Brighton, England, 1985 in New Delhi, India, 1987 in Miami Beach, Florida, 1996 in Barcelona, Spain, and 2000 on the island of Malta.  The resolutions and world legislative acts passed by the sessions of Parliament since 1982 have built a legacy of sane and redeeming documents that lay the foundations for an alternative world system in its living reality.  A number of these early documents, like the Manifesto mentioned above, were written and introduced by Philip Isely.

In my view, Philip Isely’s enduring and substantial legacy is at least three fold.  His legacy is bequeathed to us first and foremost in the form of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, the creation of which required four decades and involved an immense sacrifice of time, energy, money on the part of Philip and Margaret Isely.  Secondly, Philip’s great legacy comes down to us through the actual initiation of world government under the Constitution giving the people of Earth the right to act in the form of the Provisional World Parliament and to immediately create all other aspects of provisional world government. People from around the world gathered at these early sessions of Parliament and ratified the transformative documents that Philip authored and introduced, many of which were also published in the journal Across Frontiers.

Third, Philip Isely bequeaths us the WCPA as a worldwide organization which, since 1958, has established the global foundations of the Earth Federation Movement. People everywhere, through WCPA and the Earth Federation Movement, are demanding immediate, nonviolent revolutionary change in the illegitimate world system. They are no longer patiently waiting for the slow death of so-called evolutionary change. “The world,” as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe proclaimed, “only goes forward because of those who oppose it.”  I believe that someday historians will recognize Philip Isely as one of the truly great figures of 20th century history.  His revolutionary opposition to the world has moved it forward to the creation of the most important document produced within that century—the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.