Red Utopia

Jan Banning

2013 - 2017

India; Italy; Nepal; Russia


Communism a Century after the Russian Revolution

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union,

Communism seems like a thing of the past: relegated to the dustbin of

history. Red Utopia is a non-propagandistic search for what is left of this ideology that so determined the course of the twentieth century.

The photographer set off in search of locations in five countries

where the ghost of Communism still walks abroad and sometimes even dominates local mind-sets. In cities, towns and villages, he recorded the interiors of Communist Party offices with their often exuberant iconography: red flags and banners, portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, and pictures of national party leaders and ideologues.

Regularly, he included local party officials and activists: people who, unlike their colleagues in communist dictatorships, chose for membership of such a party out of a sense of conviction and free choice against the prevailing neoliberal trend.

Red Utopia focuses on five “non-communist” countries where this ideology still plays a role of some (and sometimes remarkably big) importance:

- India: the federal state of Kerala elected the world's first Communist government in 1957. Since 2016, Kerala is again being ruled by a coalition, which is led by two Communist parties.

- Italy, the birthplace of Euro-Communism. The PCI has long been the largest Communist party in the capitalist West. The Civil Revolution coalition, with among others the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (PRC), took about 2% in the national elections in 2013 and 4% in the European elections of 2014.

- Nepal has a Marxist-Leninist president, a member of the largest opposition party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist). In 2016, the country again opted, by a large majority, to elect a Maoist prime minister, member of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), for a government of Maoists and the Nepali Congress Party.

- Portugal, where the Partido Comunista Português (PCP) and smaller communist parties have been supporting the Socialist government to a large extent since 2015.

- Russia, where in the last parliamentary elections of September 2016 the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) again became the second biggest party by securing more than 13% of the vote.

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