For the first time in a generation Britain will vote on its membership of the European Union, probably in the autumn of 2016. How to vote in that referendum is a difficult choice for anyone on the left. Since the 1990s the anti-EU camp has been dominated by the chauvinist and racist right, initially on the Thatcherite wing of the Tory party, but now enjoying separate and increasingly powerful representation in the shape of the UK Independence Party. But anyone who contemplates therefore voting Yes in the referendum is confronted with the reality of the EU as a neoliberal club currently busy nailing the people of Greece to the cross of austerity. Viewing the standoff between the Europhobes and the oligarchs of Brussels and Frankfurt one is reminded of Oscar Wilde’s description of fox-hunting as the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable. This article seeks to address this dilemma, arguing that there is a powerful internationalist case against the EU. 
The left against Europe last time
The underlying assumption of those on the left supporting a Yes vote is that the EU represents, however imperfectly, the transcendence of nationalism and so internationalists and antiracists should vote for Britain to remain in the EU. John Palmer, who writes in support of a Yes vote elsewhere in this journal, has over the years put an eloquent and sophisticated argument for understanding the EU as fundamentally a progressive response to economic globalisation and the decline of the nation state.
A similar view was expressed very strongly by one of the most influential contemporary Marxist thinkers, Toni Negri, at the time of the May 2005 referendum in France on the European Constitutional Treaty:
The Constitution is a means of fighting Empire, this new globalised capitalist society. Europe has the chance to be a guardrail against the single thinking [pensée unique] of economic unilateralism: capitalist, conservative and reactionary. Europe can also erect a counter-power against American unilateralism, its crusade against Iraq for petrol. The United States have understood this very well, and since the 1950s fought like madmen against European construction. They see in it a lock against the extension of their power … the real question is who is going to regulate the world market. National resistance is no longer a bulwark. Only the pursuit of European construction can allow global alternatives to be built for what I call the multitudes, the movements of resistance to Empires. Changes that set up a new political space in which this shit of the national state will disappear. 
This kind of thinking has exerted a powerful influence on the radical left – thus, Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left) in Greece can trace its ultimate origins to the Communist Party of the Interior, which broke away from the strongly nationalist Communist Party of Greece on a Eurocommunist basis. But for a long time this was a minority position on the left, with the many of the most powerful forces in the reformist camp opposing the European Economic Community (EEC) on a left-nationalist basis. COMMENT