REMOVE THE RICH FROM POWER LEGALLY?

Is it possible to remove the rich from power legally? If it were possible, then it would make sense to try to do it that way. But is it possible?

 

To address this question it is important to distinguish between 1) replacing one rich upper class with a different rich upper class, or replacing some rich people with different rich people (i.e., removing SOME rich people from power but not all rich people, and hence maintaining class inequality, as happened in India in 1947), versus 2) truly abolishing class inequality to have no rich and no poor. Egalitarians aim for the latter goal, not the former. So the question we're concerned with is whether class inequality can be abolished (to have no rich and no poor) legally.

What exactly would it mean for class inequality to be abolished legally? It would mean that the rich upper class would agree to give up its great wealth and power and privilege not because they were forced to do so by violent force or its credible threat but rather because of the outcome of some legal process that, by definition, did not entail the use of violent force or its credible threat.

There are many different kinds of legal processes that might be possible in a given society. One can imagine, for example, an election resulting in a legislative body that passes a law making class inequality illegal. Or one can imagine a judicial body, such as a Supreme Court, ruling that class inequality is illegal because it is unconstitutional.  Or one can imagine in a theocracy that the Supreme Leader rules that God demands the abolition of class inequality. Other kinds of legal processes can also be imagined that might result in abolishing class inequality and hence removing the rich from power--all the rich, not just some--without the use of violent force or its credible threat.

Let us suppose that some such legal process did indeed make class inequality illegal. In that case, all that is necessary is that the rich upper class accepts this legal result and voluntarily--without any need for violence or its credible threat--gives up its wealth and power and privilege so that its members have no more wealth and power than anybody else.

How likely is this?

What does history suggest about this likelihood?

I am not aware of any example in history when a rich upper class ever gave up its wealth and power voluntarily, in the absence of any violent force or its credible threat to make them give it up. If there is an example of this happening then it would mean that yes, it may very well be possible to remove the rich from power legally. But I don't think there is such an example.

Let us be clear that yes, there have been times when the rich fled from the vast tract of land they claimed to own, resulting in the transfer of their wealth to the poor people. This happened in 1936 in Spain at the outset of the revolution. And yes, the Czar of Russia did abdicate the throne in 1917. And yes, the Shah of Iran did flee from Iran and go into exile in 1979. But in all of these cases the reason these upper class people abandoned their wealth and power was because of the credible threat of violence to force them to do so.

 

In Spain the wealthy class relied on the military to enforce their claims of ownership and privilege, but that military force--led in 1936 by General Franco--suffered a huge defeat in Barcelona at the hands of the anarchists who then formed militia forces that forced General Franco to abandon (temporarily, alas) about half of Spain. The wealthy class of people in that half of Spain fled. They knew that if they did not flee they would be arrested by the people armed.

The Shah of Iran fled when he learned that his military force had decided to stop obeying his orders. The Shah knew that if he did not flee he would be arrested.

The Czar of Russia likewise abdicated only when he learned that his military force had gone over to the side of the workers who were demonstrating in the streets against him; he knew that if he did not flee he would be arrested.

The common fact in these examples is that rich upper class people fled when they realized that the military force they relied on no longer was present or no longer obeyed their orders. Does this mean that the rich can be removed from power legally by legally ordering the military to refuse to obey orders given by the rich upper class? Let's think about what that would look like.

For the military to refuse to obey orders given by the rich upper class to protect its wealth and power and privilege, the military (meaning a critical mass of the individuals in it) would have to decide (possibly as a result of some legal process that happened) to serve a different aim, an aim that entailed no more rich upper class, in other words the egalitarian aim of no rich and no poor.

One can imagine, say, an election resulting in a legislature that orders the military to follow only orders from people whose aim is no rich and no poor. And one can imagine the military obeying this legislature and the rich being removed from power this way. The real question, however, is this: Would  the rich ruling class, with its military and police forces that still obey it, ever allow the election of such a legislature (or any analogous legal process) to happen? I think it is very unlikely (I discuss why in my "Why Does the Ruling Plutocracy Hold Elections?"). Again, I don't know of any example in history where it ever happened.

When military forces have refused to obey the ruler they once obeyed it has always been as a result of mass movements that did not limit their actions to legal ones. This is why I wrote "How We CAN Remove the Rich from Power," which assumes that it will not be possible to remove the rich from power by only legal means.


 

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