Ah for the glory days of the Left in the Spanish Civil War! There was something mad but splendid about being a left-winger 70 years ago. Ah for the Red harridan La Pasionaria and her rants against the “heartless barbarians that would hurl our democratic Spain back down into an abyss of terror and death… ¡No Pasarán! they shall not pass!” Ah for the anarchist hero Durruti and his path to a glorious future: "the only church that illuminates is a burning church."

Whatever else you may say, those guys had ambition, ambition to liberate Spain from oppression. They had vision, bloodthirsty and half insane, to be sure, but it was a vision of a better world for the downtrodden.

How the mighty have slithered! The latest project of the Spanish Left is animal liberation. With the support of the ruling Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE), Spain will become the first country in the world to extend some human rights to apes. From now on, the great apes – gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans – will enjoy the right to life, the right to the protection of individual liberty, and the right to prohibition of torture. “This is a historic moment in the struggle for animal rights,” Pedro Pozas, the Spanish director of the Great Apes Project, told the London Times. “It will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades.”

What would La Pasionaria say?

"Bugger evolutionary comrades”! that’s what. "What about the workers?" As the Madrid daily El Mundo noted in an editorial: “With the problems that Spanish farmers and fishermen are experiencing, it is surprising that members of Congress should dedicate their efforts to trying to turn the country of bullfighting into the principal defender of the apes.”

Men like Durriti fought and died to right exaggerated wrongs. The resolution of the Spanish Parliament rights nearly non-existent wrongs. There are no apes native to Spain – apart from Gibraltar. (Perhaps this is all a Machiavellian plot to excuse an invasion to free the Barbary Apes from Britain.) There is no medical experimentation on apes in Spain. In fact, there are only estimated to be 350 apes in Spanish zoos. Activists say that 70 percent of them live in sub-human conditions. What would Durruti say? "Why not – they’re sub-human, aren’t they? How about African illegal immigrants who are alleged to live on Spanish soil in sub-human conditions?"

Most insulting of all to the memory of the true Spanish Left is the treason of abandoning its ideological roots. Nowadays Peter Singer seems to be warming the chair vacated by Marx. Singer is perhaps the world’s leading theorist of animal liberation and it is a declaration inspired by his book The Great Ape Project, co-written with an Italian, Paola Cavalieri, which has been adopted by the Spanish Parliament almost word for word. Singer is the intellectual heir of the first utilitarian Jeremy Bentham. Karl Marx had no time for Bentham’s theories, calling him "the insipid, pedantic, leather-lipped oracle of the commonplace bourgeois intelligence of the nineteenth century".

Why are the colours of the Spanish Left pink and green nowadays, instead of deep Red? Like many other radicals rendered dizzy and disoriented by the overnight disappearance of Marxism, they seem to have lost all sense of what it means to be human. Marxism was root and branch either deranged or evil, but its splinter of good was at least humanist. But adopting a utilitarian philosophy means kissing humanism goodbye forever. Peter Singer believes that: “There is no sound moral reason why possession of basic rights should be limited to members of a particular species… At a minimum, we should recognise basic rights in all beings who show intelligence and awareness (including some level of self-awareness) and who have emotional and social needs.”

The immediate consequence of this is that the more intelligent and aware an animal is, the more deserving of basic rights it is. Unborn and infant humans, comatose humans, retarded humans and senile humans will all be lower in the hierarchy than a healthy chimpanzee, or guinea pig, for that matter. It will be Animal Farm come to life. Replacing Marx’s dream of a classless communist society will be classes of animals of ascending IQs. George Orwell’s slogan, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, will be prophetic in more ways than one. The Communist Manifesto railed against the “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation” fostered by the cash nexus, but the Declaration on Great Apes, which has been endorsed by the Spanish Parliament, creates a IQ nexus in which people will be valued by their consciousness.

Red-blooded heroes of Spanish socialism like Largo Carballero and Prieto must be turning in their grave. They fought to the death to free the proletariat from chains – not chimpanzees. Who are the heartless barbarians now?

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.