Vicente Lombardo Toledano (1894-1968) was a Mexican university professor, Marxist intellectual, and politician. He was a leader in national and international labor movements, the founder and head of the Popular party, and the author of numerous books and articles.
Vicente Lombardo Toledano was born in Tezlutlán, Puebla, on July 16, 1894, the son of middle-class parents. He enrolled simultaneously in the programs offered in the Law School and in the School of Higher Studies (philosophy and letters) of the National University of Mexico and received his licentiate in law (1919), master's degree (1920), and doctorate (1933). During these years he also became an attorney at law.
In 1917 Toledano obtained a professorship at the Mexican Popular University and from 1918 until 1933 was professor of law and philosophy at the National University of Mexico. In 1933, when he was expelled from the university for his radical views, he founded his own university, devoted to the education of workers and peasants. In 1936 this institution emerged as the Universidad Obrera, with Toledano as rector, a position he held until the 1960s.
During the early years of the Mexican Revolution, Toledano, a liberal and socially conscious intellectual, supported the revolution. In 1923 he became governor of the state of Puebla. In 1926 and 1928 he was elected federal deputy.
By this time Toledano had developed a vivid interest in labor problems and had become active in labor organizations. In 1923 he became a member of the central committee of the most important labor confederation, the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM). He remained active in CROM until the early 1930s, when the organization disintegrated as a result of government undermining, internal dissensions, and lack of labor support. In 1932 Toledano organized the General Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CGOC), which united most of the former CROM unions, and in 1936 he founded and became first secretary general of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM).
With the support of President Lázaro Cárdenas the CTM grew into the largest and most important labor organization in the country. It abandoned craft unionism for industrial organization, and its principal centers of strength were located in the railroad, mining, electrical, and petroleum industries. As membership increased, so did the political and economic power of CTM. The organization benefited from the widespread nationalism prevalent in Mexico and from its close cooperation with the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), Mexico's ruling party. In 1938 Toledano tried to extend his power over labor throughout the continent by organizing the Confederation of Latin American Workers (CTAL).
Toledano's participation in the labor movement was instrumental in developing his ideology. He became initially an evolutionary socialist in the tradition of the Second International and later a Marxist. In his resignation speech from CROM on Sept. 19, 1932, Toledano explained that he would continue to be "a radical Marxist, although not a Communist" and that he would remain an internationalist and an opponent of chauvinistic nationalism. He claimed that the most important goals of the Mexican Revolution— economic independence, a higher standard of living, and equitable distribution of wealth—could be reached only if Mexico socialized the ownership of the means of production and planned its economic development. Prior to his conversion to Marxism, he had called for moral improvement through education as a means of realizing human ideals. But as he came to accept Marxism, he emphasized profound changes in society and in the material conditions of Mexicans.
Journalist and Party Leader
After he completed his term as secretary general of the CTM in 1940, he turned to journalism. In June 1938 he founded and became director of the daily El Popular. In 1946 he founded the Marxist review Documentos, which was devoted to questions of philosophy, economics, and politics. He felt that Mexico needed a new revolutionary vehicle to carry on its struggle; thus in 1948 he founded the Partido Popular (PP). The party accepted as its goal the establishment of a people's democracy which would aid in the construction of socialism in Mexico. He ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in the 1952 elections. In 1960 the party formally adopted the principles of Marxism-Leninism and changed its name to Partido Popular Socialista (PPS).
Toledano died in Mexico City on Nov. 16, 1968. At the funeral President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz praised him as a leading force in Mexican politics and one of the country's outstanding intellectuals.
Further Reading on Vicente Lombardo Toledano
Toledano's own works are helpful, although all are in Spanish. Robert P. Millon, Vicente Lombardo Toledano: Mexican Marxist (1966), is a complete study of Toledano's ideas. Information on him is also in William C. Townsend, Lázaro Cárdenas: Mexican Democrat (1952).