ON HISTORICAL OPTIMISM
History is not the manifestation of any mastermind or masterwill; nor is it a story with an underlying purposeful design. Yet, amid all of history’s savage chaos and sanguinary waste, there is the unique record of man’s achievement: his biological rise above the “dark animal realm”, his social organisation and his stupendous productive and creative capacity, which has grown with particular intensity in these last few generations. This capacity enables modern man to perpetuate the basis for the further growth and enrichment of his civilisation. It enables him to make his culture as immune from decay as no earlier culture could be. All vanished civilisation of the past has been dependent for their existence on too small and feeble productive forces, which in slave societies, degenerated all too easily, until a single blow – natural calamity, social disaster, or foreign invasion – wiped them out. Thus, the lack of continuity in man’s cultural growth was due, in the main, to the underdevelopment of his productive power. Modern technology has at last created the preconditions of continuity; it has given man all the means for recording, fixing, and consolidating his achievements. Time and again it has enabled him to rebuild his social existence from ruins, and to reproduce his material and spiritual wealth on an expanding scale.
This was to Leon Trotsky, the co-leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution the major source of historical optimism.
(From an Introduction by eminent historian, Isaac Deutscher, to an Anthology of Leon Trotsky’s Writings)