TALENT borrows, genius steals, so they say. I hope there’s some truth in it, because blatant intellectual theft is a hallmark of all the best campaigns I’ve been involved in. Take, for example, “Another Scotland is Possible”, the motto of the Radical Independence Campaign. We stole that, quite specifically, from the World Social Forum, a conference that once attracted much of the intellectual and campaigning talent of the global radical left and briefly threatened to unite “world public opinion” against American imperialism and corporate dominance.

Cheekily, we hoped to replicate that spirit in our little corner of the world, bringing all the fringe social movements together to challenge nuclear weapons, NATO and the corporate control of Scotland. And briefly, the people who control the British economy were running scared of the Scottish independence movement, and, as the radical fringe, we were enormously proud of our role in panicking the markets and the Royal Family.

READ MORE: People Make Yes in bold new Scottish independence campaign

After 2014 had died down, I ended up meeting and chatting to some activists from London. They were people I liked and respected. They wanted to talk about the EU. They were the activists that were forming a campaign to argue against Brexit, and they would go on to borrow (or should that be steal?) the famous Radical Independence slogan.

I thought they were welcome to it; I had to admit that the slogan wasn’t really ours anyway. However, I did remind some of them of its true origins, and questioned whether a pro-EU campaign could ever claim any sort of continuity with the anti-globalisation movement.

RIC was designed to win a pro-independence movement to a radical left agenda. We didn’t always succeed, but we held to it consistently, even when it counted against us. By contrast, what I always detected in Another Europe is Possible was the opposite: a campaign to pull socialist-leaning activists, the people who worried about Greece, towards the EU.

READ MORE: SNP: Prime time TV leaders' debate on Brexit must include Sturgeon

I could only see dangers in such a campaign. I understood why people wanted to vote Remain, since the Leave campaign was ugly, racist, at times bordering on evil. On that negative level, I got it. But the slogan “Another Europe is Possible” implies a positive vision, that the people united can take on the masters of the universe and transform the world. That grassroots ambition has never formed any part of the Remain campaign. It certainly can’t form part of a defence of the EU in anything like its present form: Brussels is a byword for the shady corporate lobbying and deal-making that the World Social Forum was set up to expose.

The National:

Members of Another Europe Is Possible protesting

While Yanis Varoufakis (pictured below), as a one-man band, has continued to combine merciless criticism of Brussels with a vision of a Europe transformed, no organised force in Britain represents this point of view. The slogan “Another Europe is Possible”, if taken seriously, would mean forming parallel institutions to destroy everything that Brussels has come to represent. It would be about everything that has gone wrong in Europe, and how the people’s collective resistance can fix it.

The National:

But, in practice, the campaign seems earnestly committed to proving that criticisms of Brussels are unfounded and irrational, that rail nationalisation is “legally possible”, that the Stability and Growth Pact isn’t ever really enforced, that Greece was merely a tragic accident, and so on. I’m unconvinced, but, more importantly, I don’t believe this should be the role of a “radical” campaign.

Last week, I openly expressed my fears about the People’s Vote campaign, particularly the way it has led good people to become apologists for failed institutions. In our current context, the column achieved the best I could hope for: it generated a healthy debate.

READ MORE: The People's Vote campaign's supporters prove it's not about the people

But one question kept cropping up. Why hasn’t anyone made these arguments before? If there’s a leftist case for leaving the EU, why has it been so invisible, or, at best, so backward-looking, so tinged with nostalgia for a long-lost post-war Britishness? And why does leaving the EU, even when couched in socialist phrases, come across as so intensely white and male?

I share those worries. The “Lexit” campaign was deeply flawed and quickly died a natural death. What Another Europe is Possible got right was image (they even stole, or “borrowed”, the Radical Independence font!). An image makeover should have been doubly important for Lexit, because it represented a point of view that was always hamstrung by a blokeish, 1970s reputation. Lexit never really broke with an image of “left unity” as a roll call of small leftist groups. But then again, they were indeed the only ones who made an attempt to put forward the Left case for Leave.

The problems of the European Union are as visibly 21st century as iPhones and avocados. And the Left's case for Leave needed a 21st century campaign. Look at the millions of continental youths thrown on the scrapheap by the Eurozone crisis. Look at the swivel-eyed madness of the austerity measures insisted on by the European Commission. Look at the youth-led protests in Syntagma Square, in Madrid and Barcelona, against untouchable technocrats who override democracy and the weakling politicians who look on at poverty and injustice and plead that their hands are bound by law.

Another Europe is Possible should have been harder on the evils of technocracy. By contrast, Lexit could have led the criticisms of the Leave campaign’s racism. They seemed trapped between virtuous socialist slogans of internationalism that never cut through, and trade unionist anxieties about the impact of immigration on wages. Faced with that inevitable dilemma, they would have needed to go all out to shake off the “whiteness” that inevitably acted as its chief barrier to reaching the broad, societal left. Despite wholly good intentions, that didn’t happen.

The Left Labour nostalgia of Lexit was also a barrier to reaching voters outside of England. It’s a myth that voters in Scotland are “instinctively pro-European” in some automatic sense. In the 1970s, we were significantly more sceptical than voters in England. But Scottish people are unlikely to listen to a one-size-fits-all message that doesn’t take account of our autonomy.

Many people voted Remain in Scotland simply because nobody else spoke in their language, and, I must admit, I’m part of that failure, because I’ve spent the last decade educating myself on the failure of the EU, but I still couldn’t bring myself to vote Leave, far less campaign for it.

Too often, lacking conviction, lacking a campaign, we’ve failed to challenge the language of propaganda. For example, I don’t believe in “leaving Europe”, because that’s impossible. But “Europe” and the EU aren’t necessarily synonymous, and I do believe that the European Union is corrupt, undemocratic and beyond reform, and that states and movements will have more luck democratising “Europe” by breaking free from the listless and amoral institutions that claim to represent a continent.

May’s deal, of course, fails on that count. It keeps Britain bound in even tighter, with the added humiliation of having no say on the rules that control us. A living, breathing left-wing campaign against the EU, if it existed, would rip May’s deal to shreds. I’m just as culpable as everyone else, but that doesn’t change the facts: the radical Left could have led the critique of the EU, and we’ll regret that failure unless we change tact now.