The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore’s Notes: Why the Greek No is a great moment for socialism

Plus: Garsington, Rupert Murdoch, and a plea for even more equal marriage

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

Even if everything goes wronger still, the Greek No vote is a great victory for the left. Until now, the left has not mounted a serious challenge to the claims of the EU. It is extraordinary how it has been cowed. The single currency, especially a single currency without a ‘social dimension’ and political union, is the classic ‘bankers’ ramp’ against which the left always used to inveigh. It is a huge collective device to put banks before workers, if necessary reducing the latter to poverty. Greece is an almost perfect example of this, with the rescue designed to save European banks, not Greek people. More than a quarter of a century ago, however — influenced, perhaps, because Jacques Delors was on one side of the argument and Margaret Thatcher on the other — the mainstream left decided that Europeanism was an essential badge of respectability, and gave up thinking about the matter from that day to this. Its unquestioned assumption is that the EU is the only modern engine which can guarantee the combination of prosperity and expensive social programmes. In the case of Greece — and, less dramatically, Portugal, Spain and Italy — this is now blatantly untrue. Anti-‘austerity’ candidates like François Hollande in France have won from time to time, but they have never dared point out the EU authorship of the austerity, and so they have quickly buckled. Yet the eurozone has become a scene of class war, and only Syriza has been bold enough to fight it almost full on. Even if Mr Tsipras and his comrades are thrown out this week, 5 July will be one of those great moments in socialist history, celebrated in song and story, and used to inspire future generations. It might give birth to some latterday Keynes — Yanis Varoufakis, perhaps, now that he has no job — composing ‘The Economic Consequences of the Euro’. Most Euroscepticism in recent years has been dominated by the right. Rather galling that a government of the left has been the first to throw down the gauntlet.

The excellently named Euclid Tsakalotas has become the Greek finance minister after the sacking (tsaking?) of Varoufakis. He was educated at St Paul’s in the 1970s, and went on to Oxford. This atrocious suffering made him, even at the time, a supporter of Irish republicanism. In March this year, he popped up at a Sinn Fein conference and began his speech by apologising for his English accent, adding that ‘in mitigating circumstances, I am married to a Celt’. Euclid’s theorem is that the Irish are ‘honorary southerners’, now forming an arc of leftist insurrection which runs from Dublin, through Podemos in Spain, to Athens. Given the horrors inflicted on these countries by the eurozone, one almost wishes it well.

One of the best arguments for the EU is the way that it can help countries with a dark past emerge into the light of democracy — look at Spain, Poland, Greece itself. It has done this partly by offering skills in ‘capacity-building’. But if, as happened from the first with Greece, the weaknesses of the member state’s economy, debt/GDP ratio, tax system and so on have simply been concealed rather than remedied, then the Union institutionalises lies and becomes a machine for incapacity-building.

Why is the Murdoch organisation so down on the Greek No? The Times and the Wall Street Journal have got really angry on the subject. In my hotel room in Palo Alto, from where I am writing, Fox News is caustic about Greece’s shortcomings and expresses no sympathy for its people. Is this just a bone-headed, Pavlovian response to any government known to be of the left, or has Mr Murdoch got some big EU fish to fry?

Virginia Utley, my secretary when I edited this paper, has written to Prime Minister and Chancellor, jointly. She asks, ‘Please could you tell me what a family is?’ Nowadays, she goes on, you teach us that a family can be made up of men who love men or women who love women, who must therefore be equally entitled to marry one another. ‘Now,’ she continues, her sister and she ‘both think boys are very nice but neither of us met one we quite liked enough to marry… So my sister and I have bought a house together and have lived happily there for years and years and years.’ So, ‘Please can my sister and I get married?’ If not, the sisters themselves, and Virginia’s sister’s daughter, will not get the benefits which accrue to married people. ‘I am sure,’ she entreats Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, that ‘you will not say “No” to us when you said “Yes” to all the others… Because that wouldn’t be fair, would it?’

On Sunday night, which was beautiful after rain, we went to Garsington Opera. It is a miraculous place because the estate starts only a few yards from the M40, and is about half an hour from London, and yet bears no trace of either. The opera was Intermezzo by Richard Strauss, which I had never seen or heard before. It is a little tease by Strauss of his hyper-critical wife who found being married to a famous composer trying. But it has the ability — beautifully brought out by Mary Dunleavy as Christine the wife — suddenly to move from light comedy to true feeling and great pathos. Opera can do this so much better than plays. It must be because the mixture of music and words creates a blessed lack of realism, which makes anything possible.

The other day, I asked four thoughtful, indeed brilliant people — one a Fellow of All Souls — what mathematics was. I realised I could describe what you might call its symptoms — algebra, geometry, arithmetic — but I could not identify its nature. Nor, really, could my companions. One said it was ‘a sort of logic’, another that it was ‘a form of language’. But both conceded that these were not adequate answers. Since one must presume that mathematics is central to the nature of the universe, I feel ashamed that I consider myself an educated person and yet do not know the answer.


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  • WFB56

    Good luck to Virginia Utley and her sister in their efforts to confront Cameron and Osborne with the logical extension of their absurd arguments.

    • MacGuffin

      How is it a logical extension? Do the Misses Utley love one another romantically?

      • WFB56

        As Cameron has erased all the “rules” of male / female marriage and anything goes, why shouldn’t it follow that any “couple” – now that there is no limitation on what constitutes a couple other than 2 people who choose to be together – is however they define it?

        Cameron opened this pandora’s box and now we all have to live with it.

      • Sean L

        You’ve answered your own question: if marriage is merely a matter of romantic love then it’s a transient and unstable affair by definition. There’s certainly no reason why two siblings shouldn’t ‘love’ each other any less than two men. Ms Utley’s question is entirely reasonable given Cameron’s redefinition. Ditto if she wished to marry her father, brother, even her dog. Such a ‘marriage’ can no more be consummated than any same sex union. If ‘love’ is the sole criterion, anything goes. Traditional marriage was as much an economic commitment as a question of individual love. It still is in many cultures where dowry must be paid. Twelve cows is the bride price in my wife’s culture, or the cash equivalent. A very serious matter. Another part of the marriage ritual was the joyous display of the bridal bed’s bloodied bedsheets the following morning as proof of love, or at least its enactment. Though I understand that’s not always observed these days, at least in towns. Which all goes to show that marriage as traditionally conceived was a communal affair not merely a legal contract between individuals, and certainly not chiefly a matter of individual love, however that might assist the process.

      • licjjs

        Is romantic ‘love’ the criterion of marriage? This is where it has all gone wrong re marrgayge. I noted that the ‘ethics committee’ (whoever they are and whatever that means) in Germany has been arguing for incest so I can’t see why these women would have to answer any questions about their relationship.

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  • Damaris Tighe

    Re Virginia Utley’s letter: When a tradition is dead or dying it moves from being an unquestioned assumption to a self-conscious mantra. You could tell that the family was dead by the early 1990s when soaps & TV dramas put these words into the mouths of cobbled together, transient agglomerations around the breakfast table: ‘we’re a family ….’ or ‘I want us to be a family …’. We only started this sad quest for the family when it was long gone. When the family existed there was no need to make the point. It was un-self conscious.

  • AJ Brown

    Aristotle came up with the simplest and best definition of mathematics: “The science of quantity”.

  • CaediteEos

    “Even if everything goes wronger still, the Greek No vote is a great victory for the left” Isn’t it extraordinary how the left is trying to spin the Greek situation as a victory, after spending years howling racist, xenophobe etc. at the right whenever criticisms of the EU were made?

    The fact remains that the EU is the left’s baby, forcing its Marxist cultural, educational and environmental policies on European peoples who have had no power to vote against them. If it all falls apart, it will be the right cheering, along with most of the population of Europe.

  • Shadeburst

    Charles Moore what you say sounds great but it doesn’t match with reality.

    Greece per capita income US$:
    2010=$26,863 2011=$25,962 2012=$22,494 2013 =$21,966 2014=$21,682.
    Debt = $350 billion
    Population = 11 million or roughly $31,800 debt per capita

    That sounds like a massive success story to me. Greek socialism is an obsolete model. Capitalism can coexist quite happily with socialism and private ownership is still the most productive.

  • AndyB

    Dear Charles, I suspect you should consider yourself an educated person because you know you do not know the answer, but thought to ask the question. Your associates difficulties would seem to bear the point out. Toodle pip.

  • John Hawkins Totnes

    Miss Utley has made a significant point. Mr Cameron and his crew have no idea what family or marriage is. They have been seduced by the hedonistic shallow world view dominating our country nowadays. Society only got involved in human sexual activity in order to establish a secure framework for bringing up children. We no longer care about the kids. We seem to be obsessed with our genitals.

    • MacGuffin

      Oh what codswallop.

      Marriage is based on romantic love, and commitment. At least, it should be.Two women can love one another, as can two men, or a woman and a man. Why is this such a big deal for you? How does it affect you, or hurt you?

      And as for caring about the kids, the lesbian mums and gay dads of my acquaintance would disagree, as would anyone else with eyes to see.

      Give up!

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  • licjjs

    Tsakalotos speaks the language of PPE and is not called the aristocrat of the left for nothing. His background is also pure George Osborne. No wonder the compromise – also known as ‘caving in’ – has begun

    “The couple maintain two homes in Kifisia, along with an office in Athens and a vacation home in Preveza. In 2013, this proved detrimental to Tsakalotos and his party when his critics began calling him «αριστερός αριστοκράτης» (aristeros aristokratis, “aristocrat of the left”), while newspapers opposed to the Syriza party seized on his property holdings as a chance to accuse the couple of hypocrisy for enjoying a generous lifestyle in private while criticizing the “ethic of austerity” in public. One opposition newspaper published on the front page criticism reasoning that Tsakalotos own family wealth came from the same sort ofinvestments in companies as made by financial institutions JP Morgan and BlackRock.” (Wikipedia is the source for this quotation)

  • mikewaller

    Dear old CH has spent too long in the Greek sun. Indeed, I find myself in the amazing position of having to recommend Rod Liddle’s piece to those seeking something nearer the truth. Where Germany in particular was at fault was in letting Greece into the Eurozone in the first place. This having been done – and Greece having made a complete bish of it – the only honourable thing the Greeks can do now is to ignore all CH’s legalistic crap of last week and remove themselves from the Eurozone, reach such accommodations they may with their creditors and then – for once in their history – run their own economy in a sensible way. As for CH “almost” wishing well a new leftist arc which includes IRA/Sinn Fein, he should hang his head in shame. Sinn Fein are a totally self-obsessed pack of murderous bastards, way beyond any kind of joking. If the new Greek finance minister has chosen to throw his lot with them, any sympathy one might have had with the Greek left-wing ought immediately to evaporate.

    As for Moore’s erstwhile secretary, she seems about as daft as her former boss. Marriage being a sexual union, the laws of incest would quite sensibly preclude her marrying her sister. As for the “benefits of marriage” to which she refers, the only sensible justification that can be offered for these is that they should in some way assist in the proper rearing of children e.g. by allowing the transfer of tax allowances in respect of a stay at home parent. Everybody else, married or not, should be treated exactly the same.

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  • Stevie Mac

    I felt like I was reading an article about Greece/the eurozone/socialism that was about to explore Murdoch’s attitude to the eu, and then followed a series of unrelated paragraphs abut random things- a letter about gay marriage, the opera, mathematics. Confused.

    edit: at least make separate sections if its a column.

  • Augustus

    Speaking of emerging into the light of democracy, the absurd situation has now arisen in which Tsipras has had to steer his new deal, which his own party is against, through parliament. Apparently he has succeeded in this and they’ve agreed to it, but all this does is to delay the inevitable further emergency package down the line. Nothing has been solved. The social, cultural and historical differences are too diverse for the Euro to have any lasting chance of success. The EU needs to revert back to a basic co-operative of sovereign states without a common currency.

  • Sean Grainger

    “I asked four thoughtful, indeed brilliant people — one a Fellow of All Souls — what mathematics was.”
    There is a sort of revisionist Marxist thing going round asking “What is money?”

    Gross equals net as we used to say in the leasing business.