Birthday verse

The Verso Book of Dissent: From Spartacus to the Shoe Thrower of Baghdad, edited by Andrew Hsiao and Audrea Lim, reviewed by Jennie Bailey

March 6, 2011 · 2 min read

From the Greek riots to students demonstrating against tuition fees in the UK, from global activism against the Canadian tar sands to Irish protesters opposing the IMF bailout, 2010 was a good year for dissent. What better to celebrate the unashamedly leftist publisher Verso’s 40th birthday, then, than a book that attempts to chronicle nearly 4,000 years of fighting for what one believes in?

In an ambitious attempt to chronicle the people and movements that have significantly influenced the activists and left thinkers of today, the editors have laid out dissenters and dissenting organisations in clear sections that one can dip in and out of. However, while the structure of the book is sound, the 20th century accounts for the majority of entries and I found earlier eras lacking in detail. The inclusion of nearly four pages of The Communist Manifesto was also unnecessary, as the reader could have been sign-posted to this text.

There are controversial inclusions (Lenin and Valerie Solanas) and glaring omissions (Mary Wollstonecraft, Vandana Shiva and Milan Rai among others), although the authors do acknowledge the latter in the introduction to the book. The excerpts covering anonymous organisations such as the Weather Underground and the Acme Collective are enlightening, but it would be nice to see some environmental movements represented, such as the Landless Peasants Movement, and a nod to the mid-2000s anti-capitalist Dissent! activists.

This book should be read alongside similar texts, including The Vintage Book of Dissent edited by Michael Rosen and David Widgery – an essential introduction and a wonderful book – and We Are Everywhere by Notes from Nowhere. The Verso Book of Dissent is a more than welcome addition to the radical history canon and future editions should be anticipated enthusiastically. Dissent is not static; neither is history. Now, dear reader, out of your armchair and onto the streets!


Review – Regicide or Revolution? What petitioners wanted, September 1648 – February 1649 by Nora Carlin

Norah Carlin's analysis of the Levellers' petitions reaffirms the radical nature of the English revolution, argues John Rees.

Review – I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and apocalypse communism by A M Gittlitz

Despite its outlandish reputation, A M Gittlitz's analysis of Posadism shows there is value in occasionally indulging in fanciful thinking, writes Dawn Foster.

Review – Terraformed: Young Black Lives in the Inner City by Joy White

White's book is both deeply personal and political, examining the other side of violence often left out of the mainstream conversation writes Angelica Udueni


Review – Skint Estate by Cash Carraway

Cash Carraway's memoir is a powerful recollection of working class struggle. Her story is a quiet call to arms, writes Jessica Andrews

Review – No Platform by Evan Smith

Smith's book demonstrates that the far-right has always played the victim card when it comes to free-speech, writes Houman Barekat

Review – Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction.

Roy's latest book helps us imagine the pandemic as a portal to another world, writes Sophie Hemery