Start planning now for Socialism

April 5, 2017

Eric Ruder looks at what's in store at the Socialism conference in Chicago this July.

THE UNPRECEDENTED outpouring of resistance to the presidency of Donald Trump has set the stage for what is likely to be the largest and most important Socialism conference yet.

The annual Socialism conference has a well-deserved reputation for bringing together leading left-wing figures with activists from the front lines of today's struggles for social justice to participate in a weekend of discussion and debate--about contemporary events, hidden chapters in radical history, and the tradition of socialism from below.

This year's conference, which will take place July 6-9 in downtown Chicago, comes at an especially critical moment. Trump's attacks on immigrants, escalation of U.S. military operations and embrace of law-and-order politics--not to mention his cabinet stuffed with billionaires and arch reactionaries--has provoked a massive response from ordinary people horrified by his agenda.

The call for a Women's March on Washington the day after Trump's inauguration led to the largest single day of protest in American history, and since then, there have been repeated mobilizations in opposition to Trump's anti-Muslim travel ban and his attacks on undocumented workers.

Activists from around the country at an evening plenary of the annual Socialism conference
Activists from around the country at an evening plenary of the annual Socialism conference

A new generation of activists is thus being forged--in the crucible of street protest and political radicalization. Some of these people are also looking around for ways to get involved, get educated and find others with whom they can seriously engage in the project of fighting for social change.

Socialism 2017 will feature scores of talks, panels and discussions, as well as entertainment, art and culture.

This year's featured speakers include #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza; historian and indigenous rights activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz; feminist playwright Eve Ensler; African American historian Karen Fields; labor journalist Sarah Jaffe; Scottish socialist Neil Davidson; Subterranean Fire author Sharon Smith; Socialist Worker editor Alan Maass; and many, many more.

As in years past, the radical independent book publisher Haymarket Books is curating a huge selection of the best progressive, socialist and Marxist books--covering every topic under the sun from an unapologetically left-wing point of view.

Haymarket authors will be on hand to sign books, including Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation; Jewish Voice for Peace executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson, a contributor to On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice in Palestine; Donna Murch, author of Assata Taught Me: State Violence, Mass Incarceration, and the Movement for Black Lives; and Paul D'Amato, author of The Meaning of Marxism and the editor of the International Socialist Review.

THIS YEAR'S conference will also include a series of talks organized by Jacobin magazine. Jacobin founding editor Bhaskar Sunkara and contributor Paul Heideman will be just a few of the speakers featured in this track of meetings.

A list of some of the more than 150 talks is now available on the conference website--and audio recordings of prior Socialism conference talks have been posted at, if you're interested in getting a taste of what the conference is like.

To mention just a few of this year's scheduled talks: "Trump, Economic Nationalism and Imperialism Today," "Race, class, and Marxism," "Is It Too Late to Save the Environment?" "Bread and Roses: Women in the U.S. Labor Movement" and "Ways of Seeing: The Art and Politics of John Berger."

And because this year is the centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917, there will be a half-dozen talks on various aspects of the revolution and its continued relevance today, including the role played by Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, factory councils and workers' power, and the rise of Stalinism.

If you're interested in meeting up with others now who will be at the conference, check out the website of the International Socialist Organization to find out about branches in your area.

Depending on your location, you may find people with whom you can coordinate travel and collaborate with to publicize the conference--and find out about important meetings and events you can get involved with in your city or region today.

Downloadable flyers (large 11x17 posters and smaller handbills) are now available on the Socialism 2017 website. They can be posted in cafes, on campuses and on street corners, and handed out at protests, on the street, at activist meetings and events, and in classes to let people know about the conference.

Print some out, hand them out and post them around your workplace or school today!

Finally, take a moment right now to get registered for the conference. The early-bird registration rate, which is available through May 15, is just $85 (the regular rate is $100). In order to make the conference as easy to attend as possible for a new generation of student radicals, the Socialism conference is this year offering a special discount rate of $50 to students with a valid student ID.

See you in Chicago on July 6!

Further Reading

From the archives