Leon Trotsky

Political Profiles

The Scoundrel

(October 1916)

“The Scoundrel, the ruler of modern minds” – Saltykov.
“I am busy informing” – Proud words of a deputy.

THERE was something of the scoundrel in this deputy by nature. People seeing and hearing him for the first time involuntarily recalled the words of the Bible: “and he shall sting you in the heel”. The eagerness to sting and precisely in the heel at that forms the mainspring of his psyche. In his public life he gravitated fatally towards the extreme wings so that he had greater scope for stinging: it was really irrelevant to him whether it was a question of “left” or of “right” ideas. If Purishkevich was sitting on the right and he on the left then this was a matter of chance. He can introduce a modification into this game and sit on the extreme right: like an innate reptile he has to have one side covered up so that he can the more surely sting all those on the other side. We mentioned Purishkevich but he does possess a great deal of self-sufficient buffoonery which while in no way excludes malice, couples with it an element of what you could call aesthetic impartiality and although this is the aesthetic of a nobleman’s lackey – i.e. an indescribable abomination, it nevertheless introduces a mitigating note into the general music composed out of pinpricks and gnashing. But the Scoundrel has none of this “redeeming” quality; buffoonery is not alien to him, quite the contrary; but for him it does not form an independent aesthetic need but the product of the imbalance between the strained will of a venomous reptile and his inadequate resources. He can go right to the ultimate limits of a stupidity but this stupidity is always “aimed” and tipped with venom; and it will not for a moment compromise with him in the same way as there is nothing compromising about a picture of a scorpion which stings itself in the tail through having a surplus of malice.

When with the lefts the Scoundrel is further to the left than any of them; and seen from a distance in this halo of “leftism” he might appear other than what he actually is. But that environment within which he is constrained by the capricious whim of Russian history cannot but prove an obstacle to him. There is no need to idealize the environment of the “left”, but it does live by an idea and in the final count its passions whether big, small or even petty are subordinate to this idea and are disciplined and fertilized by it.

But the Scoundrel has no control over his poisonous malice and when he stings it justifies in his own eyes his existence and he does not wish nor is able to know of any restraint.

People have a lot of good nature and naïveté and tend to think: “No, he still cannot be capable of this” ... But they are wrong: for he is capable of anything. he does not need to receive money or promotion (these come of themselves) in order to commit any foul deed: he has sufficient inner motives for this. Just because of this he does not know in his lies, slander and denunciations even the limits which caution dictate. Tomorrow will tell us what today many still do not wish to believe ...

Naïve people, beware of the Scoundrel

Nachalo, No.20, October 22, 1916

return return return return return

Last updated on: 10.4.2007