Readers will have noticed from the title that I am a little more optimistic than that "great thinker" and vicious political squabbler, V. I. Lenin was in 1904 when he dipped his pen into vitriol and wrote his famous attack on his colleagues in the Russian Social-Democratic Party, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.
Needless to say, Lenin was never so vehement in his attacks on the Tsarist government or the right-wing parties, once these developed in Russia, as he was when fighting for power and supremacy in his own party.
This is not, however, a posting about Lenin or the Bolsheviks, so everyone can relax, assuming they have got this far.
My sorrowful and, to some extent, angry complaint is about our own so-called Eurosceptic movement, which is, despite many things, both in British and in European politics, being in our favour, in a parlous state.
For once, I am going to keep off the subject of UKIP (mostly) and its spectacular ability to set the debate back by a couple of decades just as we were beginning to make headway with more people than ever before saying that they did not think leaving the EU would be a catastrophe for any part of the country or its economy. At which point, along came UKIP and produced its latest version of "Euroscepticism" as a protectionist, statist and, yes, I am sorry to say xenophobic idea. (I hope nobody bothers to tell me that UKIP's policy is controlled immigration as they have neither explained what they mean by that nor bothered to voice it in their election pamphlets in May.)
After that extensive throat clearing let me get on to the main theme of this posting, which was brought to my mind by a conversation I had with an intelligent, politically astute and well-meaning friend who entered the Eurosceptic political scene considerably later than I did for reasons of age. Said friend explained to me that she (doesn't narrow it very much) had not yet reached the position of being a withdrawalist from the EU despite having worked with people who are for the last few years. First, she wanted to explore all the possibilities of reform and other long-term plans.
I did not groan but pointed out soberly that I have learnt very clearly in the years I have been involved that the idea of an adequate reform of the EU in the direction we (and, supposedly, the Conservative Party) would like to see it is moonshine while long-term planning is pointless as long as we remain part of the European project.
Ah yes, came the reply but we have to arrive at that conclusion in our own way not simply rely on what people tell us. My response continued to be sober and firm: the country cannot afford to wait while each new generation goes through the process of learning from its mistakes of expecting some kind of a reform and being disappointed over and over again.
The conversation moved on to other subjects but it stayed with me. That is really the problem: for some reason the notion that people should learn from previous mistakes and build on previous achievements is not popular with Eurosceptics who, like particularly inept teachers in primary schools (and I have seen a few), assume that everyone must re-invent the wheel over and over again. Then they (and the parents of the children unlucky enough to be in those schools) wonder why there is no progress.
Actually, I am wrong. The teachers do not care about lack of progress but, more importantly from our point of view, the constantly new generation of Eurosceptics who keep re-inventing the wheel and insist that it is right and proper that they should do so, believe that each time there is progress being made. Unfortunately that progress is only to the same point we had reached before or just a little bit beyond it instead of the sort of large steps forward that we ought to be making by this time and in this particular atmosphere.
Given that the new generation of wheel re-inventers are those who populate the various Eurosceptic organizations and, above all, the well funded campaigns for a referendum, which, let me repeat for the umpteenth time, we shall lose unless we move forward in our arguments a little faster, my unhappy summary stands: two steps forward, one step back. That's true for the time being but it may all get worse.