Fezziwig’s Christmas Reading 1: Thank a socialist for voting rights.

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They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river. Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it.

`These are but shadows of the things that have been,’ said the Ghost. `They have no consciousness of us.’

History is a fascinating thing.

Like Voting Rights? Thank a Socialist, by Adam J. Sacks (Jacobin)

As voting rights increasingly come under attack, we shouldn’t forget the crucial role that early socialists played in fighting for universal suffrage.

Stolen elections, decrepit voting infrastructure, draconian ID laws. The recent attacks on voting rights in the US might seem like an outgrowth of pure partisanship — the desperation of a minoritarian party using any means necessary to hold onto political power. But the GOP’s brazen attempts to restrict voting access (particularly for African Americans) should also be viewed as symptoms of a disease that has long afflicted elites: recalcitrant opposition to democracy, including the right to vote.

Since the advent of the modern state, ruling classes have tried to restrain the voting power of workers and those not “well born.” Contrary to the mainstream story that capitalism naturally gave rise to democracy, establishment powers in nineteenth-century Europe restricted the vote for as long as they possibly could. Only when faced with mass mobilization — or when continent-wide war wiped out working-class males en masse — was it clear that the franchise could no longer be withheld.

The particulars of individual European countries varied. In some nations, following intense struggles, workers won limited forms of universal male suffrage before World War I. More commonly, broad suffrage rights appeared only after the war.

But what was consistent were the actors pushing for universal suffrage: trade unions and, crucially, socialist parties. In fact, what has been called the “democratic breakthrough” of the nineteenth century could easily be called the “socialist breakthrough” …

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