Luis Corvalán 1916—2010

LUIS ALBERTO CORVALÁN Lepe, former leader of the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh), died last week. He had joined the PCCh when he was 15.

He trained as a teacher but became a militant and writer for the underground communist press when the Party was banned. He was twice interned during this period of repression. In 1952 he was voted on to the Central Committee of the PCCh and became general secretary in 1958, the year the Party was allowed to operate legally again.

Corvalán won a seat on the Conception town council in 1961 and entered the national Senate in 1969. He led the communists into alliance with Salvador Allende’s Socialist Party who won the presidential elections in 1970 on a programme of social reform that put Chile on a collision course with US imperialism.

In 1973 General Augusto Pinochet seized power with the support of the CIA. Allende died when the presidential palace was stormed and Corvalán was one of the thousands rounded up in the wave of terror that followed the coup. His son was also tortured and would die of his injuries two years later in exile in Bulgaria

The Soviet Union launched an international campaign for the release of Corvalán who was held in the Dawson Island concentration camp in the remote south. Corvalán was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1974 and eventually released in exchange for jailed Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, in 1976. The Chilean communist leader continued to direct the communist resistance in exile in Moscow, sometimes returning to Chile in disguise to help the underground.

Corvalán returned to Chile after the restoration of some democratic rights in 1988. The end of the dictatorship soon followed. In 1989 Corvlán resigned as general secretary but remained on the Central Committee and active as a communist for the rest of his life .

Luis Corvalán is inextricably linked with the struggle of the communist and workers’ movement for democratic and popular rights, social justice and socialism.

Corvalán led the Chilean communists through times of fierce struggle, confronting dictatorship, persecution, torture, imprisonment and exile. He dedicated his life to the struggle of the working class and never wavered in his commitment to socialism and the communist future.

Veteran Chilean communist Luis Corvalán died on July 21, 2010. He was 93.