2021 Verso Radical Diary – Review
By Charlotte Oliver
Verso (meaning the left-hand page) is the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world. Its catalogue includes works by the likes of Karl Marx, Fidel Castro and Noam Chomsky as well as many of the very best modern thinkers.
After a year in which I personally felt that a bit of revolution may have been just the ticket, I decided to go for the Verso 2021 Radical Diary for my new year’s organisational needs. Perhaps twelve months of exposure to its quotations, prose and images will set me aflame to make the world a better place? Or maybe I will at least support those who are capable of such things. Or, and I would settle for this, I will just arrive at appointments on time, having learned a bit of something along the way.
The diary itself is neat and slim with an attractive yet tough cover (which is coincidentally very much how I imagine my radical alter-ego self to look) and has a week-to-view layout which I always find makes planning easier. There is ample space to write notes/plan uprisings on each day, and running down the centre of each double page is a column detailing significant radical dates from that particular week throughout history. Alongside are images relating to these events – photos, drawings, wanted posters and even calls to arms.
Take a week in late February, for example, starting on February 21st, 1848 with the publication of The Communist Manifesto by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win”. It then moves on to detail Malcolm X’s assassination on 21st February 1965: “Uncle Sam’s hands are dropping with blood, dripping with the blood of the black man in his country”.
The week also includes the expulsion of George Padmore from the Comintern which marked the shift in his focus to African independence struggles (1934), the publication of an exposé on the meat packing industry (1906), the verdict of the trial of French Revolutionary Auguste Blanqui (1832) and the start of the occupation of Wounded Knee by Oglala Lakota and American Indian Movement members (1973). And that is just one week out of the 52 in the book! I will deservedly hang my head in shame to write alongside such monumental events reminders of my own shallow existence like ‘Get roots done’ and ‘Gin!!’.
The diary also includes longer passages of prose which are themselves extracts from Verso-published books covering topics such as feminism, asylum and crises, so if you did happen to be, say, in a hairdressers waiting to get your roots done, you can still be feeding your revolutionary brain. Whether or not I will be inspired to action by the end of twelve months of this truly brilliant catalogue of human dynamism I cannot yet say, but it will certainly work wonderfully for me as my diary for the year. And if you hear of any uprisings in small Northern seaside towns, well, maybe it worked.
2021 Verso Radical Diary is published by Verso, £15.59