NOT only did I abstain in the European Union referendum, but I told several hundred thousand people about it on BBC Question Time last Thursday night. Of course, these are not ideal circumstances in which to talk about the complexities of the EU referendum, nor to present the politics of positive abstention. But I defend my position as a valid outcome of my engagement in politics, and whether you agree with that or not, it’s not a sign of "indifference".

Some have responded to my position with inarticulate personal, sexist remarks, which says more about them than it does about me. But some more thoughtful people accused me of complicity in the rise of the racist radical right. Their criticism was similar to the reaction that Susan Sarandon got when she called for a Green vote in America, or that Corbyn supporters got for opposing “electable Owen Smith” and the same reaction French leftists will get if they fail to back Francois Fillon against Le Pen.

We really have to find a way of escaping this “lesser evil” blackmail. We can’t keep backing a failed neoliberal economic experiment just because the obnoxious right are attacking it. At some point, we’ve got to get out of the downward spiral of “enemy of my enemy” and define our own alternative.

But it’s complicated and difficult, and anyone who thinks the answer is simple doesn’t have their facts straight. Right now, these debates are spreading because the radical right are leading the march away from the free market, and the liberal left are desperately clinging to the remains of globalisation.

I witnessed the reality of the Leave campaign. They were uninterested in talking about what the EU actually does. Instead, they harped on about borders and immigration and – to an even greater extent – Islam. They harped on about giving money to the NHS, whilst in truth their own parties back its privatisation. Turns out, we weren’t really having a debate about Europe. We were settling a clash of values between free markets and national chauvinism that’s been running for decades in the upper echelons of the British establishment. I couldn’t vote for this.

However, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for the European Union either. It isn’t the solution to the rise of the radical right: quite the opposite. The EU is itself actively racist and, more importantly, it’s because the EU’s influence over national economies is building a culture of disenchantment that the radical right has fertile ground to grow.

Britain’s more zealous commentators like to portray Brussels as a bunch of cultural Marxists. But actually, the European Union could teach the Brexit mob a thing or two about how to run a racist borders policy.

The EU has been forcing refugees into camps that Greece’s interior minister has called “a modern-day Dachau”. Brussels used Greece’s bankruptcy to force the government to install a border regime that’s widely compared to the Nazi occupation. On another occasion, the European Commission struck an – illegal – deal with Turkey which forced Greece to deport hundreds of thousands of refugees. So the division between racist tabloids in Britain and the European Commission is, in truth, a cultural misunderstanding. Broadly, they want the same thing: a Fortress Britain or a Fortress Europe walled off from the world’s problems.

On economic matters, the EU has been more committed to austerity than any institution on the planet. Britain’s no better, some say, and it’s true the Tories would inflict equally horrific policies if they could get away with it. But EU policies in many areas make George Osborne look like Santa Claus.

When I first visited Athens in 2012, I saw Europe’s greatest historical civilisation in despair.

Almost everyone seemed to know a friend, relative or neighbour who had committed suicide, and some students spoke darkly about sitting on regular suicide watch for friends who had abandoned hope. Rates of depression had trebled, and the country’s mental health services were inundated. Those who still had hope often didn’t have jobs, and youth unemployment then sat at nearly 60 percent. If they had jobs, they often hadn’t been paid in months, and when they got paid they took pay cuts that started at 20 percent. So they had become regular protesters and, given the style of policing in Athens, rioters.

Austerity was enforced by PASOK, the Greek equivalent of Labour. PASOK proved seven stone weaklings in standing up for Greece. However, only the ignorant would blame the politicians, whether left-wing or right-wing, for Greece’s misfortune.

Even the International Monetary Fund wanted early debt relief for Greece, but couldn’t offer it because a write-down was “not acceptable to Euro partners”. So Greece went through years of turbulence, falsifying data to satisfy the unworkable demands of the EU while living standards slumped and despair set in.

Greece was the most extreme case, but the EU applied this horrific social experiment across much of southern Europe. When elected governments reached the end of their tether, the EU installed unelected officials to take their place, as with Italy in 2011, or else simply ignored the popular will, as with Greece’s referendum of 2015. They did this because any country that was allowed to escape the neoliberal straight-jacket would set a “bad example” for others.

Back in Blighty, the Leave campaign had a regular stall at the bottom of Buchanan Street. I approached them one day, saying I was tempted to vote Leave but I was appalled by the racism. What I heard wasn’t reassuring. Within two minutes, the Leave man was telling me about “Sub-Saharan Africans” coming over here “thanks to the EU”. Maybe he was off message, but I doubt it. And thus, I abstained.

On a real vote about the EU, I’d have voted to leave. Brussels is corrupt, undemocratic and unreformable, and it probably won’t survive another decade: we can’t leave it to the right-wing to make these points. But this debate wasn’t about the EU, as I said on Thursday night. And that’s why I refused to take part. It was about a long-running split in British Toryism between free markets and closed borders, sprinkled with lies and xenophobia. Neither campaign showed any sign of reaching out intellectually, so essentially we had a choice between neoliberal Tory and racist Tory.

I’ve taken a lot of grief for abstaining. But, honestly, I’d do the same tomorrow. I feel the disgust that made people vote Remain, but I can’t reconcile that act with what I know about the EU. Of course, I’ll campaign for Scottish independence inside the EU, or outside the EU. I’ll campaign for Scottish independence inside Mordor if I have to. But the EU will crack apart, and when it does, I’ll argue for a socialist alternative for Europe. Our problems are too big to be solved by nation states alone, but the EU can’t solve anything: it’s part of the problem.