October 10, 2023 - 11:00am

Stefanos Kasselakis, 35, caused a stir recently when he was elected as leader of Syriza, becoming Greece’s first openly gay political leader. He has since caused further shockwaves, telling Alpha TV in recent days that he and his American partner, Tyler McBeth, plan to have sons via surrogacy. 

“As a society,” Kasselakis said, “we need to provide complete equality.”  This encapsulates, in one sentence, the whole post-industrial transformation of the Left. Once a movement that sought to redress a critical imbalance of power between social classes — labour and capital — it has become a movement led by capital, to extend the reach of markets ever further into human bodies and relationships in the name of “equality”. 

Kasselakis’s phrasing reveals the bait-and-switch. The real obstacle to his having children with McBeth is not “society” but biology: they are both men. Two men can’t have babies. But Kasselakis implies that this irreducible feature of his and McBeth’s biology is in the gift of “society” to solve — and, by extension, that the fact “society” is not doing so demonstrates the continued existence of prejudices that must be combatted. With this sleight-of-language, normal physiology becomes a social justice issue, and something to which the Left may legitimately demand policy remedies. 

But what, in practice, is the policy remedy to wanting a baby but not having access to a uterus? In this context, “provide complete equality” implies “provide a third-party uterus”. No doubt “equality” isn’t envisaged as some dystopian “Universal Basic Uterus” scenario that would make gestational services available regardless of income. Kasselakis is a shipowner and former Goldman Sachs financier, so we can assume he’s not short of a bob or two and simply expects to pay. He likely only seeks to level the legislative playing field for would-be parents who subcontract gestation to a third party. 

But while we are some way off “Universal Basic Uterus”, we shouldn’t lose sight of the living human women, whose participation is both implied and erased, in calls for “society” to “provide complete equality” in reproduction. And we should treat the moral colouration of this erasure as a social justice matter with deep suspicion. For once we accept in principle that “progress” is conditional on women’s compliance in the instrumentalisation of their own internal organs, the incentives are in place for profoundly disturbing extensions of money and power into our very flesh. 

For even if (as we must hope) such “social justice” were to stop short of legislating for a supply of uteruses, such “equality” still relies on an ecosystem of high-tech medical interventions, plus all the legal and brokerage services needed to ensure a steady supply of “gestational carriers”. As such, the pursuit of “equality” in matters of such basic biology is less a topic for the pursuit of justice in any sense the old Left would have understood. Instead, it is a delivery mechanism for exactly the kind of marketisation that the former version of the Left might once have set out to challenge.

I’m old enough to remember Syriza standing alone, during the 2015 bailout referendum, as a force challenging German-imposed austerity and defending the political interests of ordinary Greeks. It is dizzying, then, to see them now, less than a decade later, led by a former scion of the Goldman Sachs “vampire squid” against which Syriza once battled: a man for whom “complete equality” means the legal right to procure gestational services on the open market and have the law on his side. 

Kasselakis may have been hailed as a new hope for the Greek Left. But his election more accurately represents the complete transformation of the Left into a delivery mechanism for the marketisation of life itself. 

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.