Libardo Gonzalez: A Revolutionary in Colombia

By RODRIGO O’FARREL

The following article was written by a veteran Colombian Trotskyist.

Comrade Libardo Gonzalez died in Bogota, Colombia, at the end of March of a heart attack. He was 58 years old.

The outstanding fact of his political life was that he was a first in Colombia to try to create an organization based on an idea that began to circulate among some left intellectuals in the early 1970s: Neither the Colombian Communist Party nor the armed struggle of the guerrilla organizations that existed at the time could offer a future for the working class or the revolutionary left.

The conclusions were that a revolutionary Marxist party had to be built as an alternative to local Stalinism and that such a party could only be built by following the orientation of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International.

To carry out this task, Libardo Gonzalez, along with a handful of activists, founded a study group that took the name “Spartacus.” In 1971, it launched a mimeographed journal called Prensa Obrera. Although this publication had a very narrow audience, it had the merit of offering a new kind of analysis of the political, economic, and social reality of Colombia.

Its articles were appreciated by a nucleus of radical students, especially at the National University of Bogota. After two years of work in consolidating an activist core, Spartacus was recognized as an official section of the Fourth International at the latter’s Tenth Congress in December 1973.

Libardo Gonzalez failed in his attempt to create a party. However, his efforts to build a section of the Fourth International in Colombia deserve considerable respect.

Like other activists attracted by the debate in the Fourth International provoked by the theses and the controversies that came out of the Ninth World Congress of the FI (April 1969) and the Tenth World Congress, Libardo lacked real organizational experience.

The groups that were formed never achieved any consistent growth. However, the political debate within the workers movement, the mass movement, and the trade unions in that period was enriched by the organizations that called themselves revolutionary Marxist and undoubtedly were that from a programmatic point of view.

Themes such as the crisis of Stalinism, the Transitional Program, the permanent revolution in semicolonial countries, democracy, and trade-union unity began to be taken up despite the efforts of the Communist Party to prevent this.

Unfortunately, the debate on the ineffectiveness of the armed struggle and its effect of disorganizing the masses’ real political struggle (which was the subject of intense discussion in the FI) was not won in Colombia.

Despite their political emptiness, the spectacular actions of Guevarist organizations such as M19 captured the minds of sections of the revolutionary intelligentsia. Accordingly, Spartacus, without real internal debate, aligned itself with the International Majority Tendency of the Fourth International [which supported rural guerrilla warfare as a long-term strategy].

The Grupo Marxista Internacionalista (GMI) was founded as an alternative to Spartacus. It supported the positions of the United Secretariat minority and the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency, the international tendency led by Joseph Hansen [of the American Socialist Workers Party], especially with respect to Latin America [rejection of guerrilla warfare as a strategy].

The GMI and Spartacus were the pioneers of Trotskyism in Colombia and of the Fourth International. The GMI, recognized as a sympathizing section by the Tenth Congress of the Fourth International, was the first group in Colombia to publish a Trotskyist monthly on a rotary press.

Spartacus was reorganized subsequently under the name of the “Revolutionary Communist League” (LCR). A part of the cadres of the LCR and the GMI participated in the founding of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (PSR) in 1979. The PSR was the result of entry work in a centrist current, the Bloque Socialista, given impetus both by the United Secretariat and the PST [Socialist Workers Party], led by the Argentine Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno.

In 1983, Libardo Gonzalez was wrongfully imprisoned for some days by the army, following the violent eruption on the scene of a group calling itself the Movement for Workers’ Self-Defense, which claimed to be Trotskyist, although it had no relation to any of the Trotskyist groups existing in Colombia. As a consequence of his imprisonment, Gonzalez developed a bone deformity in one leg from which he was never cured.

Libardo worked in university centers in Bogota. He was the editor of a collection of documents by Leon Trotsky called “Acerca de la revolucion socialista” [“On Socialist Revolution”] and authored studies entitled “El Estado de los partidos politicos en Colombia” (1975) and “Contribucion a la historia politica de Colombia” (1984).

Libardo wrote articles in the publications of his tendency and those of wider circulation. His death has saddened an entire generation of fighters in Colombia.