Although credited to Morrissey and producer Stephen Street, The Durutti Column guitarist Vini Reilly, who had been drafted into the sessions by Street, later claimed every song on the album bar "Suedehead" was composed by Morrissey and Reilly. Street has denied this. In an interview in 2014 Vini Reilly said "I want to talk about Stephen Street about whom I've said wrong things in the past; this is not an excuse, this is fact, I have suffered from what they call 'displaced anger' and this is where you're very angry with yourself and you don't understand, you just shout at people you really care about." EMI Australia considered Viva Hate too harsh a title and renamed the album Education in Reverse for LP release in Australia and New Zealand, the same title appearing as an etching on the vinyl. The album was recorded between October and December 1987.
Viva Hate was released on 14 March 1988 by record label HMV.
The American release included the track "Hairdresser on Fire", which had been released in the UK as a B-side to "Suedehead", as track 9. This same track was released on a 7" single that was sold with the album in Japan.
It was certified Gold by the RIAA on 16 November 1993.