Corvalán joined the Communist Party of Chile at the age of fifteen in the city of Chillán shortly after the fall of the dictatorship of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo in 1932. Trained as a teacher, after 1952 he became an elected member of the PCCh's Central Committee, and after 1958 served as the secretary-general. The party was outlawed from 1948 until 1958.
On 11 September 1973, General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup and Corvalán was among the many arrested. After the murder of Víctor Jara, he was the most prominent political prisoner in Chile. While in prison, Luis Corvalán was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize (for 1973–74). The Soviet Union launched an international campaign for his release and on 18 December 1976, Corvalán was exchanged for a notable Soviet political prisoner, dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, and received asylum in the USSR.
Corvalán headed the Communist Party of Chile – both within Chile and whilst in exile – for over three decades, which covered the whole period of the Pinochet military dictatorship. Corvalán returned to Chile in 1988.
- The Other Germany – the GDR. Discussions with Margot Honecker, in which Margot Honecker speaks about the history of the German Democratic Republic from her perspective.
- Living Portrayal of Salvador Allende by Luis Corvalan. (Spanish language)
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- "Partido Comunista de Chile". Retrieved 21 May 2016.
- "Fallece Luis Corvalán Lepéz, ex secretario general del PC". Retrieved 21 May 2016.
- According to Nuestra Propuesta Interview - Raúl Martínez / Corvalán. (Carlos Ibáñez del Campo would return to the presidency between 1952 to 1958 a period which meant severe repression against the PCCh)"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-03-24. Cite uses deprecated parameter
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- Judt, Tony. Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. p 575
- "Conversaciones con Margot Honecker : la otra Alemania, la RDA". Catalogue of National Library of Chile.