On Optimism and Pessimism

Dum spiro spero! . . . If I were one of the celestial bodies, I would look with complete detachment upon this miserable ball of dust and dirt. . . . I would shine upon the good and the evil alike. . . . But I am a man. World history which to you, dispassionate gobbler of science, to you, book-keeper of eternity, seems only a negligible moment in the balance of time, is to me every­thing! As long as I breathe, I shall fight for the future, that radiant future in which man, strong and beautiful, will become master of the drifting stream of his history and will direct it towards the boundless horizon of beauty, joy, and happiness! . . .


—Death to Utopia! Death to faith! Death to love! Death to hope! thunders the twentieth century in salvoes of fire and in the rumbling of guns.

—Surrender, you pathetic dreamer. Here I am, your long awaited twentieth century, your ‘future’.

—No, replies the unhumbled optimist: You—you are only the present.

—Leon Trotsky, ‘On Optimism and Pessimism, on the Twentieth Century, and on Many Other Things’, 1901, in Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed, (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), 54-55.

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