Fifty Years Since Its Founding: 
A History of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR)

Miguel Enriquez, Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the MIR

Fifty years ago, the Move­ment of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Left (MIR) was born, a polit­i­cal force that marked the his­to­ry of the Chilean and Latin Amer­i­can left. Franck Gau­dichaud pro­vides a brief intro­duc­tion to this sto­ry – still under con­struc­tion – and dis­cuss­es it with Uni­ver­si­ty of San­ti­a­go (USACH) his­to­ri­an Igor Goicov­ic Donoso, spe­cial­ist on the sub­ject of polit­i­cal vio­lence and an ex-mil­i­tant of the MIR dur­ing the 1980s.1

Introduction

On Octo­ber 5, 1974, Miguel Enríquez, Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of the MIR, was assas­si­nat­ed dur­ing an unequal fight, on San­ta Fe Street in San­ti­a­go, Chile that put him up against the secret ser­vice of Gen­er­al Pinochet’s dic­ta­tor­ship. In 2014, forty years lat­er, in the Chilean cap­i­tal as in the rest of the coun­try, com­mem­o­ra­tions, book events and meet­ings were orga­nized by diverse polit­i­cal col­lec­tives, orga­ni­za­tions and mag­a­zines (like the bimonth­ly Pun­to Final), not only to remem­ber the polit­i­cal leader that Miguel was, but also in the name of all of those resis­tors that fought against the jun­ta and died for hav­ing tried to trans­form Chile’s social­ist prospects. Today, fifty years from the found­ing of this rev­o­lu­tion­ary polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion, var­i­ous polit­i­cal activ­i­ties also took place in San­ti­a­go, as in sev­er­al regions, espe­cial­ly Con­cep­ción.2 Of course, this was not with­out pro­vok­ing indig­nant reac­tions in the con­ser­v­a­tive media and among sev­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the right (and for­mer sup­port­ers of Pinochet’s dic­ta­tor­ship) against what they con­sid­er an apolo­gia of “a group that pro­mot­ed armed sub­ver­sive strug­gle in Chile’s his­to­ry” and that, for that rea­son, should not be, accord­ing to them, the sub­ject of fora, debates and sem­i­nars in pub­lic spaces of the cap­i­tal.3

The MIR was born on August 15, 1965, out of the con­flu­ence of sev­er­al small cur­rents of the crit­i­cal left (Trot­sky­ist, Gue­varist, rad­i­cal Chris­tians, ex Social­ists or com­mu­nists) that at that time opposed par­lia­men­tar­i­an­ism and the legal­ism of the major­i­ty of the left (par­tic­u­lar­ly the Chilean Com­mu­nist Par­ty) and aspired to con­struct a Marx­ist rev­o­lu­tion­ary orga­ni­za­tion, rup­tur­ing with elec­toral strate­gies and the state. The peri­od was marked by the  Cold War, anti-impe­ri­al­ist strug­gles in the Third World and, espe­cial­ly in Latin Amer­i­ca, by the con­ti­nen­tal impact of the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion as well as by the debates around armed strug­gle (ver­sus insti­tu­tion­al strug­gle). In its foun­da­tion­al texts, the MIR analy­sis dif­fered from the tra­di­tion­al Chilean Marx­ist left. The orga­ni­za­tion empha­sized the country’s uneven and com­bined depen­dent cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment char­ac­ter, reject­ing the illu­sion sup­posed by ally­ing – as the Com­mu­ni­ty Par­ty pro­posed – with a non-exis­tent “nation­al” bour­geoisie or even in fol­low­ing a peace­ful and legal­is­tic tac­tic of “rev­o­lu­tion in stages.” The Miris­tas believed that the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process must be unin­ter­rupt­ed, per­mit­ting a work­ing class alliance of the work­ers with the “poor of the city and coun­try” and that it was essen­tial to vio­lent­ly destroy the bour­geois state appa­ra­tus, defend­ing it in par­al­lel from the  onslaught of impe­ri­al­ism. The MIR con­struct­ed itself accord­ing to Lenin­ist cri­te­ria, in terms of “demo­c­ra­t­ic cen­tral­ism” and con­sid­ered itself a “rev­o­lu­tion­ary van­guard” in the ser­vice of the Chilean peo­ple, as well as the Latin Amer­i­ca rev­o­lu­tion, cul­ti­vat­ing a clear­ly inter­na­tion­al­ist and nues­traamer­i­can­ista vision. The first con­gress approved a doc­u­ment titled “Towards the Con­quest of Pow­er via the Insur­rec­tionary Road” that claimed armed strug­gle and pro­longed pop­u­lar war as legit­i­mate means of rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment, “polit­i­cal mil­i­tary the­ses” that were val­i­dat­ed dur­ing the sub­se­quent nation­al debates.

Start­ing with the Third Con­gress (1967), a new gen­er­a­tion, com­ing par­tial­ly from the stu­dent milieu in the city of Con­cep­ción, took con­trol of the lead­er­ship, head­ed by the bril­liant med­ical stu­dent (and for­mer Social­ist par­ty mil­i­tant) Miguel Enríquez but also by his broth­er Edgar and Bautista van Schouwen, Ser­gio Pérez  and Ricar­do Ruz (among oth­ers). These mil­i­tant youth fin­ished in these years sidelin­ing (and even expelling in 1969) the major­i­ty of the old union lead­ers and the Trot­sky­ist oppo­si­tion (includ­ing the his­to­ri­an Luis Vitale, the union leader Hum­ber­to Valen­zuela and Oscar Weiss, who returned to the Social­ist Par­ty), con­sid­ered a lia­bil­i­ty for the devel­op­ment of the par­ty. The MIR reori­ent­ed the orga­ni­za­tion towards a Cas­tro-Gue­varist strate­gic out­look: dra­mat­ic actions and “expro­pri­a­tions” of bank funds, forc­ing the mil­i­tants to go under­ground. With the elec­tion of Sal­vador Allende in 1970 and the return to legal­i­ty (thanks to a pres­i­den­tial amnesty), the MIR – despite con­sti­tut­ing an orga­ni­za­tion of only a few thou­sand mil­i­tants – con­vert­ed itself into one of the prin­ci­pal orga­ni­za­tions of the extra­parlia­men­tary rev­o­lu­tion­ary left, with a not insignif­i­cant impact with­in the pop­u­lar move­ment, or at least among its most politi­cized fringes. The era of the Pop­u­lar Uni­ty gov­ern­ment, a left coali­tion artic­u­lat­ed around the Com­mu­nist Par­ty and the Social­ist Par­ty, was eval­u­at­ed by the MIR lead­er­ship as a “pre­rev­o­lu­tion­ary” peri­od, but the Allendista bet on a “Chilean Road to Social­ism,” insti­tu­tion­al, with­out arms, respect­ful of the Con­sti­tu­tion and armed forces, was severe­ly denounced as illu­so­ry. The gov­ern­ment was ana­lyzed as demo­c­ra­t­ic, pop­u­lar, and anti-impe­ri­al­ist but dom­i­nat­ed by “work­er and petit bour­geois reformism.” Nev­er­the­less, the MIR “gave mate­r­i­al and crit­i­cal sup­port” to all of the most advanced mea­sures of the gov­ern­ment, mea­sures that appear in today’s light as rad­i­cal: nation­al­iza­tion of the cop­per mines that were in the hands of the Unit­ed States, nation­al­iza­tion of 90% of the bank­ing sys­tem and of sev­er­al “monop­o­lis­tic” com­pa­nies, deep­en­ing of the agrar­i­an reform, sub­stan­tial increas­es to the base salary, an unaligned anti-impe­ri­al­ist for­eign pol­i­cy, etc.

The orga­ni­za­tion sought to rad­i­cal­ize the most “rup­tur­ist” frac­tions of Pop­u­lar Uni­ty in this way (the left wing of the Social­ist Par­ty and the Chris­t­ian Left, in par­tic­u­lar), sus­pend­ed its armed oper­a­tions and even put part of its appa­ra­tus at the ser­vice of Pres­i­dent Allende’s secu­ri­ty (with the cre­ation of GAP, the “group of friends of the pres­i­dent,” a per­son­al secu­ri­ty ser­vice). Dur­ing those one thou­sand days that for­ev­er marked the col­lec­tive mem­o­ry of the Chilean peo­ple and the glob­al left4, the orga­ni­za­tion of the MIR, high­ly ver­ti­cal, “com­part­men­tal­ized and cen­tral­ized” around polit­i­cal-mil­i­tary groups (GPM), entered more and more into ten­sion with the real dynam­ic of class strug­gle and the more hor­i­zon­tal forms of pop­u­lar pow­er being born, such as the cor­dones indus­tri­ales (above all start­ing in 1972). Many of the mil­i­tants and sym­pa­thiz­ers that expe­ri­enced this con­tra­dic­tion between the rigid par­ty organ and their dai­ly mil­i­tan­cy in a pop­u­lar move­ment at full boil lived this con­tra­dic­tion as a clear obsta­cle to the devel­op­ment of the par­ty and the cre­ation of “com­mu­nal com­mands” of work­ers, stu­dents and peas­ants, a posi­tion argued with force by the MIR since 1972.5 Nev­er­the­less, the move­ment, which com­prised between ten and fif­teen thou­sand mil­i­tants in 1972, influ­enced dozens of thou­sands of active mem­bers of the pop­u­lar move­ment through “inter­me­di­ate fronts” and the “mass­es.” This in spite of the dif­fi­cul­ty of insert­ing them­selves in more struc­tured and cen­tral­ized sec­tors of the work­ers’ move­ment, wide­ly orga­nized by the Social­ist Par­ty, the com­mu­nists, and Chris­t­ian Democ­ra­cy. They achieved a notable devel­op­ment in the poor urban sec­tors (among the pobladores), stu­dents and even peas­ants (as in Cautín), favor­ing orga­ni­za­tion “from below” and in a “rev­o­lu­tion­ary key,” and reject­ing insti­tu­tion­al com­pro­mis­es.

After the coup d’etat on Sep­tem­ber 11, 1973, the MIR was one of the first orga­ni­za­tions that entered the resis­tance and announced with courage, audac­i­ty and moral strength: the MIR “does not seek asy­lum.” Fac­ing a fierce and ruth­less civ­il-mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, these mil­i­tants attempt­ed to deploy, in very dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, their strat­e­gy of  “pro­longed people’s war” and the legit­i­mate right to armed insur­rec­tion in the face of tyran­ny.6 After the assas­si­na­tion of Miguel Enríquez (Octo­ber, 1974), and of sev­er­al cadres of the under­ground lead­er­ship in Mal­lo­co (Octo­ber 1975), the repres­sion, the dis­per­sion of mil­i­tants, exile and reor­ga­ni­za­tion were very painful and weak­ened the move­ment still fur­ther. Andrés Pas­cal Allende, the new Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al, would be one of the ini­tia­tors of “Oper­a­tion Return” (start­ing in 1977-78), intend­ed to bring back mil­i­tants from abroad to the nation­al ter­ri­to­ry, many of them young rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies trained in Cuba, to orga­nize polit­i­cal-mil­i­tary resis­tance mis­sions and even guer­ril­la attempts, like in Netume in the south (1981). But the lead­er­ship abroad had dif­fi­cul­ty gaug­ing the real­i­ty of the bal­ance of forces, and they tend­ed to under­es­ti­mate the pow­er of the jun­ta and over­es­ti­mate their own forces, with­out real­ly con­sult­ing with the cadre milieu work­ing on the ground and also with­out under­stand­ing the dynam­ics of reor­ga­ni­za­tion under­way with­in the pop­u­lar class­es. The human cost of those dark years was ter­ri­ble and the polit­i­cal results of this ori­en­ta­tion con­tin­ue to be a sub­ject of con­tro­ver­sy between the old mil­i­tants that sur­vived, as well as among con­tem­po­rary his­to­ri­ans.

The years 1985-87 were the peri­od of final frag­men­ta­tion and decline, the result of the dif­fi­cul­ties of adapt­ing the orga­ni­za­tion in the face of the changes of the era, as much at the nation­al lev­el (nego­ti­a­tion between elites and pact­ed tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy) as at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el (defeat of “real socialisms,” end of the San­din­ista expe­ri­ence, glob­al hege­mo­ny of neolib­er­al­ism). The mul­ti­ple inter­nal con­flicts and human dimen­sions, the lack of inter­nal democ­ra­cy and par­tic­i­pa­tion in deci­sion mak­ing, as well as, obvi­ous­ly, the trau­mat­ic dimen­sion of state ter­ror­ism (more than 600 mil­i­tants were dis­ap­peared in the tor­ture cen­ters of the dic­ta­tor­ship or were exe­cut­ed in the street) accen­tu­at­ed and deep­ened this gap and the organ­ic cri­sis. The sit­u­a­tion divid­ed the move­ment among var­i­ous ten­den­cies (“His­toric MIR,” of A. Pas­cal Allende, “Polit­i­cal MIR” with N. Gutiér­rez and “Mil­i­tary MIR” with “Nacho” Agui­lo): dis­so­lu­tion had tak­en place by 1987, from above and with­out hav­ing orga­nized a nation­al con­gress.

These days, a broad “Mirista cul­ture” exists, dif­fuse and mot­ley, with sev­er­al small col­lec­tives and ant­i­cap­i­tal­ist orga­ni­za­tions who iden­ti­fy them­selves with the Mirista rev­o­lu­tion­ary lega­cy and its red and black flag (such as the Gue­varist left). Some even claim a direct con­ti­nu­ity with the orga­ni­za­tion, espe­cial­ly the MIR led by Demetrio Hernán­dez and Móni­ca Quilo­drán,7 but in gen­er­al, in spaces with lit­tle influ­ence in the real pop­u­lar move­ment. On the oth­er hand, some organs of the “new” left of today rec­og­nize a cer­tain kin­ship – though dis­tant and crit­i­cal – with part of this rev­o­lu­tion­ary her­itage (as is the case with the Autonomous Left or the Lib­er­tar­i­an Left). And this is with­out count­ing the media use that can be made of the fig­ure of his father by ex (future?) pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mar­co Enríquez-Omi­na­mi, from the cen­ter-left.

After four decades of unchecked neolib­er­al cap­i­tal­ism and more than twen­ty years of par­tial democ­ra­ti­za­tion admin­is­tered with enthu­si­asm by the social lib­er­als (gov­ern­ments of the Con­certación, 1990-2010), social strug­gles have begun to erode the myth of the “devel­oped,” mod­ern and “sta­ble” Chile. The great stu­dent mobi­liza­tions of 2011 that sought to end Pinochet’s lega­cy in edu­ca­tion, the demands in favor of a Con­stituent Assem­bly to end the author­i­tar­i­an con­sti­tu­tion of 1980, the return of the spec­tre of strug­gles of work­ers and the pre­car­i­ous non-salaried (in ports, mines, call cen­ters, the forestry sec­tor, etc.), or the idea of a rena­tion­al­iza­tion of cop­per, show that a new peri­od has arisen. The cur­rent cri­sis of legit­i­ma­cy of the sec­ond gov­ern­ment of social­ist Michelle Bachelet and the inte­gra­tion of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty to the new exec­u­tive of the “Nue­va Mayo­ria” coali­tion on the basis of a pro­gram of reforms that, in the end, con­tin­ue the func­tion­ing of the neolib­er­al sys­tem, open as well a space of inde­pen­dent reor­ga­ni­za­tion of the left and the pos­si­ble rein­ven­tion of an anti-cap­i­tal­ist per­spec­tive in Chile.

This is what Car­men Castil­lo, part­ner of Miguel Enríquez who was at his side dur­ing his last fight on San­ta Fe Street high­light­ed in 2014.8 For the Chilean film­mak­er, the strug­gles of those that fell beneath the blows of the dic­ta­tor­ship in the name of their rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­mit­ment still live in the present and con­sti­tute an essen­tial red thread with which to think our futures: “faith­ful­ness to Miguel Enríquez is at play in the present in our polit­i­cal lives. With the lessons of Miguel and the MIR in mind, lucid­ly and with much humor, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies brim­ming with doubts, with­out faith or cer­tain­ties, wager­ing from the uncer­tain­ties of the cen­tu­ry, rais­ing up courage as a non-nego­tiable val­ue, putting absolute ener­gy at the ser­vice of rel­a­tive cer­tain­ties, let’s invent new forms of ant­i­cap­i­tal­ist strug­gles.”9

Interview

Franck Gau­dichaud: In order to return to this mil­i­tant his­to­ry, to think about the eman­ci­pa­tions of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry which have been influ­enced in a notable man­ner by the debates and strug­gles of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary left of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, we speak with Igor Goicov­ic Donoso, Uni­ver­si­ty of San­ti­a­go (USACH) his­to­ri­an spe­cial­iz­ing in the sub­ject of polit­i­cal vio­lence and an ex-mil­i­tant of the MIR from 1980-90.10

Could you tell us briefly about your per­son­al expe­ri­ence in the MIR and about the man­ner in which you became a mil­i­tant in this orga­ni­za­tion dur­ing the dic­ta­tor­ship?

Igor Goicov­ic Donoso: My ini­tial for­ma­tion, more cul­tur­al than polit­i­cal, was in the Social­ist Par­ty (Almey­da). I was from a Social­ist fam­i­ly and a region (the Province of Choa­pa) in which the Social­ist Par­ty had his­tor­i­cal­ly been the prin­ci­pal polit­i­cal force. With this for­ma­tion, I arrived in 1980 at the Catholic Uni­ver­si­ty in Val­paraí­so. But start­ing in 1982, my par­tic­i­pa­tion as a mem­ber in the Social­ist Par­ty began to weak­en. I ques­tioned the incon­sis­ten­cy between the party’s words and actions, among oth­er things, in terms of prepar­ing the orga­ni­za­tion for the devel­op­ment of pop­u­lar mass insur­rec­tion. From that moment, I began to sup­port the actions that the MIR com­rades were devel­op­ing through the Mili­tias of Pop­u­lar Resis­tance, fun­da­men­tal­ly in the area of pro­pa­gan­da and agi­ta­tion. But in 1984, I was detained by the CNI and I spent two years in the Pub­lic Prison of Val­paraí­so. In prison, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the col­lec­tive of Mirista pris­on­ers and for a time it fell to me to assume the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Polit­i­cal Pris­on­ers (OPP). Upon leav­ing prison, I returned to the uni­ver­si­ty and they assigned me tasks of pub­licly rep­re­sent­ing the MIR. I was a stu­dent leader until 1988.

Dur­ing this peri­od, I wit­nessed the divi­sion of the par­ty. Though I was very crit­i­cal of what was hap­pen­ing (I con­sid­ered it a cri­sis of lead­er­ship), I stayed loy­al to the for­mal par­ty orga­ni­za­tion and fol­lowed the par­ty line led by Andrés Pas­cal. It also fell to me to wit­ness the sub­se­quent frag­men­ta­tion of the orga­ni­za­tion. I was a mil­i­tant in one of the microfrac­tions of the MIR until 1992. At that time, a repres­sive sit­u­a­tion in the south of Chile end­ed up dis­band­ing the group I was in.

FG: As a his­to­ri­an, what are the prin­ci­pal stages and events in the tra­jec­to­ry of this par­ty that you would high­light?

IGD: I main­tain that there were four basic peri­ods in the his­to­ry of the MIR, and that those peri­ods sug­gest the exis­tence of four dis­tinct par­ties. The first step, from 1965 to 1967, coin­cides with the stage of par­ty for­ma­tion in which the Trot­sky­ist influ­ence pre­dom­i­nat­ed.

A sec­ond stage began with the Third Con­gress (1969) and extend­ed up until the con­fronta­tion in Mal­lo­co (Octo­ber, 1975). In this stage the influ­ence of the Cas­tro-Gue­varist ten­den­cy was set­tled, fol­low­ing the line of the col­lec­tive lead­er­ship head­ed by Miguel, and the MIR con­test­ed the han­dling of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process (1970-1973) and lat­er took up the orga­ni­za­tion of resis­tance to the dic­ta­tor­ship (1973-1975). But this par­ty, in my opin­ion, began to dis­ap­pear with the fall of Miguel in com­bat (1974) and with the lead­er­ship sub­se­quent­ly leav­ing the coun­try (1975). This result­ed in an exo­dus of mil­i­tants (as much with­in Chile as into exile), and many of these cadres did not return as mil­i­tants in the orga­ni­za­tion again.

The third stage was ini­ti­at­ed at the end of 1975, with the dif­fer­ent nuclei of par­ty recon­struc­tion, strength­ened with Oper­a­tion Return (1978) and extend­ed with the recruit­ment of new cadre; espe­cial­ly among youth, the urban poor, and under­em­ployed or unem­ployed work­ers. And this, in my opin­ion, was a new par­ty. This was the par­ty of the Ver­gara Tole­da broth­ers, of Mauri­cio Mar­gret and of Arace­ly Romo. This par­ty was until 1984 the one that would endure the weight of the strug­gle against the dic­ta­tor­ship.

The final stage, ini­ti­at­ed by the inter­nal cri­sis of 1986, sur­prised the MIR in a sit­u­a­tion of extreme weak­ness. The repres­sive blows had erod­ed its par­ty struc­ture and cut off the rela­tion­ship of the par­ty with the mass move­ment. The orga­ni­za­tion became frag­ment­ed, but in that same sit­u­a­tion, the bases of what until today are known as “Mirista cul­ture” were installed, per­me­at­ing broad polit­i­cal and social move­ments.

FG: After its found­ing, in which var­i­ous rev­o­lu­tion­ary cur­rents par­tic­i­pat­ed (lib­er­tar­i­an, Chris­t­ian, Trot­sky­ist, Social­ist), the MIR seemed to cen­ter itself on a polit­i­cal-mil­i­tary strat­e­gy influ­enced by the Cuban expe­ri­ence. What were the cen­tral ideas and the­o­ret­i­cal-ide­o­log­i­cal axes of this orga­ni­za­tion?

IGD: It’s obvi­ous that in the ten­den­cy led by Miguel, there exist­ed a clear ide­o­log­i­cal, polit­i­cal and eth­i­cal influ­ence from the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion. What’s more, it can be main­tained that for this gen­er­a­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion was an appeal that demand­ed com­mit­ment. But Miguel and that gen­er­a­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies always knew that the his­tor­i­cal con­di­tions of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process in Chile, and, espe­cial­ly, the con­di­tions of build­ing the left, pos­sessed par­tic­u­lar con­di­tions. From there they reject­ed Reg­is Debray’s foco the­o­ry.

The polit­i­cal-mil­i­tary the­sis of the MIR, until 1973, con­tem­plat­ed the accu­mu­la­tion of social, polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary forces for the deploy­ment of an insur­rec­tionary war of the mass­es. That is to say, the fun­da­men­tal com­po­nent of the strate­gic design was the work­ers and the peo­ple. For that rea­son, the empha­sis of the MIR’s pol­i­tics in the most sig­nif­i­cant cycle of class strug­gle (1970-1973), was on con­struct­ing itself as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary van­guard to win the direc­tion of the mass strug­gle with­out renounc­ing direct action. This was under­stood as the deploy­ment of forms of legal, semi-legal and ille­gal strug­gle in a con­text of open class con­flict. The land takeovers, indige­nous land recov­er­ies, occu­pa­tions of man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ters, con­fronta­tions with the shock troops of the right and the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats, and self-defense in the face of state vio­lence are the great­est expres­sion of the advances reached in this process -- advances that, in any case, were not suf­fi­cient. It’s nec­es­sary to say it, the MIR did not mature as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary van­guard and, as a con­se­quence, was not able to win the direc­tion of the whole of the pop­u­lar move­ment, only the most rad­i­cal­ized fringe of it.

FG: What kind of rev­o­lu­tion­ary par­ty did the MIR rep­re­sent? Very often it’s called a cadre par­ty or a par­ty of “pro­fes­sion­al rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies,” also empha­siz­ing the inter­nal ver­ti­cal­ism and the low lev­els of inter­nal democ­ra­cy. What do you think about this? Viewed from today, what were its prin­ci­pal dif­fi­cul­ties or organ­ic weak­ness­es dur­ing the Pop­u­lar Uni­ty and the dic­ta­tor­ship?

IGD: I said it before: there is no MIR. At least three MIRs exist, as well as a cul­tur­al con­ti­nu­ity. From those three MIRs, two can be iden­ti­fied with the Mirista tra­jec­to­ry and lega­cy. One of these is the MIR led by Miguel, between 1967 and liv­ing on a cou­ple of years more after his death. This par­ty can be named a “cadre par­ty,” artic­u­lat­ed below the lead­er­ship of a wide­ly rec­og­nized col­lec­tive direc­tion, valid and with impor­tant mass work stem­ming from the cre­ation of what were called “inter­me­di­ary fronts.” After this was the MIR that direct­ed the anti-dic­ta­to­r­i­al strug­gles, espe­cial­ly in the 1978-1984 cycle. This sec­ond MIR, also call­ing itself a “cadre par­ty,” was oblig­at­ed to build itself under­ground and to con­front harsh repres­sive attacks. In that sit­u­a­tion, the process of train­ing pro­fes­sion­al cadres was more com­plex and the deficits when com­pared with the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions are more obvi­ous. But, against the odds, the com­mit­ment and the rev­o­lu­tion­ary will mea­sured up in sit­u­a­tions sig­nif­i­cant­ly more harsh than those of the 1970-1973 cycle.

In both cir­cum­stances, the require­ments of con­tin­gent pol­i­tics and ide­o­log­i­cal lega­cy of “demo­c­ra­t­ic cen­tral­ism” favored the con­struc­tion of a strong­ly cen­tral­ized par­ty in which inter­nal democ­ra­cy was reduced. Prob­a­bly today, in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of polit­i­cal and social strug­gle, this mod­el of orga­ni­za­tion and polit­i­cal lead­er­ship seems inap­pro­pri­ate. But the Lenin­ist mod­el of the par­ty was the one avail­able to the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies of the 60s, 70s and 80s. And to that par­ty mod­el we chose to enter: no one forced us… To claim to eval­u­ate (and even reproach) those polit­i­cal prac­tices with the para­me­ters of the cur­rent con­text seems to me a dis­loy­al­ty.

FG: At forty years since the fall of Miguel Enríquez in com­bat, there are many young peo­ple that reclaim this rev­o­lu­tion­ary fig­ure: What does it mean to be Mirista in today’s Chile and what are the prin­ci­pal lessons that that gen­er­a­tion of anti-cap­i­tal­ist mil­i­tants of the 70’s hand­ed down to us?

IGD: The lega­cy is very wide and can be observed in mul­ti­ple dimen­sions: polit­i­cal, social, cul­tur­al, aes­thet­ic and eth­i­cal. I’m going to restrict myself to the polit­i­cal dimen­sion. In that, there are sev­er­al aspects that we can empha­size. On the hand is the pro­gram­mat­ic con­tent of the MIR’s pro­pos­al: this orga­ni­za­tion put forth, and fought mate­ri­al­ly in that sense, for the con­struc­tion of social­ism in Chili. Today, when the alter­na­tives to cap­i­tal­ism are con­fig­ured in a dif­fuse man­ner, many young peo­ple and many rev­o­lu­tion­ary orga­ni­za­tions are return­ing to argue for the neces­si­ty of con­struct­ing social­ism. What kind of social­ism? We don’t know; but the debate about its con­tents and ori­en­ta­tions is a fun­da­men­tal demand of our era. And with regards to that, the Miris­tas and the Mirista pro­gram have a lot to say.

On the oth­er hand, the first gen­er­a­tion of the Miris­tas and the one formed after that, in the strug­gle against the dic­ta­tor­ship, put for­ward a polit­i­cal exam­ple and an eth­i­cal chal­lenge. It con­cerns gen­er­a­tions of rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies whose gen­eros­i­ty and com­mit­ment led them to give their lives for their ideals, with­out ask­ing any­thing in return. So far from the con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal class (old or young), that makes of their career in pub­lic office a strat­e­gy of enrich­ment and pow­er. The moral stature of those rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies influ­ences, with­out a doubt, in an impor­tant way the polit­i­cal atti­tude of anti-cap­i­tal­ist mil­i­tants today.

Final­ly, it’s nec­es­sary to empha­size the require­ment of orga­ni­za­tion. Many today, after mov­ing along the roads of a ster­ile move­ment, accept that polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion, the polit­i­cal van­guard, con­sti­tute an irre­place­able ele­ment of every rev­o­lu­tion­ary process. The suc­cess­ful his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ences demon­strate it (Rus­sia, Chi­na, Viet­nam, Cuba, Nicaragua). That rev­o­lu­tion­ary orga­ni­za­tion, pro­vid­ed by a rev­o­lu­tion­ary strat­e­gy, that takes into account the par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of a region (Latin Amer­i­ca) and a coun­try (Chile), must con­struct itself from with­in the work­ers and the peo­ple. It must adjust itself to the new sit­u­a­tion and his­tor­i­cal con­text. That les­son of the dialec­tic of his­to­ry, the MIR con­struct­ed with com­mit­ment, courage and self-sac­ri­fice.

-Trans­lat­ed by Katy Fox-Hodess 


  1. A first ver­sion of this text was pub­lished in French by the mag­a­zine Con­treTemps. The trans­la­tion of the intro­duc­tion to that ver­sion was made by Rocio Gajar­do Fica. 

  2. Cf. in San­ti­a­go, the sem­i­nar orga­nized by the Miguel Enríquez Foun­da­tion and the forum orga­nized by the Gue­varist Left; Cf. as well the pub­lic activ­i­ty at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­cep­ción, in the south of the coun­try, designed by the news­pa­per Resumen, by the stu­dent fed­er­a­tion of that uni­ver­si­ty (FEC) and by the Bautista Van Schouwen Mutu­al­ist Cor­po­ra­tion. 

  3. “UDI Asks the Controller’s Office to Review the Dibam’s Per­mis­sion for a MIR Sem­i­nar in the Fine Arts Muse­um,” El Mer­cu­rio, August 12, 2015. 

  4. Franck Gau­dichaud, Chile: 1970-1973. A Thou­sand Days that Shook the World (Rennes: Press­es Uni­ver­si­taires de Rennes, 2013; Peter Winn, The Chilean Rev­o­lu­tion. (San­ti­a­go: LOM Edi­ciones, 2013). 

  5. Franck Gau­dichaud, Pop­u­lar Pow­er and Cor­dones Indus­tri­ales: Tes­ti­monies from the Chilean Urban Pop­u­lar Move­ment (1970-1973) (Santi­go: LOM Edi­ciones, 2013); also see  Jan Malewski’s inter­view with Gau­dichaud, “1970-1973: Dialec­tic of Chilean Pop­u­lar Pow­er.”  

  6. Julio Pin­to, “And His­to­ry Makes Them Right? The MIR in the Dic­ta­tor­ship, 1973-1981,” in Their Rev­o­lu­tion Against Our Rev­o­lu­tion: Lefts and Rights in the Chile of Pinochet (1973-1981), eds. Veróni­ca Val­divia O. de Z., Rolan­do Álvarez and Julio Pin­to (San­ti­a­go: LOM Edi­ciones, 2006). 

  7. www.mir-chile.cl. 

  8. See the film: Calle San­ta Fé, Chile-France; Les Films d’Ici / Les Films de la Passerelle / INA / Parox et Love Stream pro­duc­tions, 2007 (dis­trib­uted in Chile by Le Monde Diplo­ma­tique / “Aun creemos en los sueños” Pub­lish­ing House). 

  9. Car­men Castil­lo, “The Past Encoun­ters the Present.” Le Monde Diplo­ma­tique – Chile, Octo­ber 2014. 

  10. See his brief his­to­ry of the MIR: Igor Goicov­ic Donoso, Move­ment of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Left (Con­cep­ción: Edi­ciones Escaparate, 2012). 

Author of the article

is a lecturer in Latin American Civilization at the University of Grenoble and a visiting researcher at the University of Chile.