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Party members Christina (left) and Mattia (right) in the PMLI Sede di Milano office in Milan, Italy.
Party members Christina (left) and Mattia (right) in the PMLI Sede di Milano office in Milan, Italy.Jan Banning
Party members Christina (left) and Mattia (right) in the PMLI Sede di Milano office in Milan, Italy.
Partito Marxista-Leninista Italiano, sede centrale (head office) in Florence. Cinzia, membro della cellula "Nerina 'Lucia' Paoletti" in Florence.
Red Utopia, Portugal. Alentejo, former hardcore area of Reforma Agraria.  PCP office in Evora, Antonio Gavela, member of the "Commisao Concelha do PCP Evora". #2
Red Utopia, Portugal. PCP office in Evora. Pedro Grego, "responsable de distrito" van de JCP.
Red Utopia, Portugal. PCP office in Borba. Rodrigo Jose de Silva, militante de PCP.
Nepal, communism. UCPN-M (Maoist) district office in Danusha (Janakpur Zone). District committee Incharge"(and central committee member) Ram Chandra Mandal. The party came in 3rd (after Nepali Congress and UML) in 2013 elections, with 80 of 575 elected seats. Portraits: top L: 3 local maoist martyrs; bottom L: poster marking the 25th death anniversary of a prominent local communist leader; R: One of the founders of the communist movement.
Nepal, communism. UCPN-M (Maoist) district office in Nepalgunj city, Banke district, Nepalgunj zone. District chairman Akal Bahadur Bam "Rabindra" in his office. UCPN-M came in 3rd (after Nepali Congress and UML) in 2013 elections, with 80 of 575 elected seats.
Nepal, communism. CPN (Marxist), a marginal party which did not win seats in the 2013 elections. Sindhuli district office, Sindhuli town. Office secretary and Central Committee member Lila Shrestha. #1
Nepal, communism. UCPN-M (Maoists), district office in Libang, district Rolpa: chairman Surendra Thapa Gharti, aka "Dhruba." Rolpa was the district where the Maoist uprising started in 1996. UCPN-M came in 3rd (after Nepali Congress and UML) in 2013 elections, with 80 of 575 elected seats.
Nepal, communism. CPN-Maoist (Baidya) district contact office in Pokhara, Kaski district. group including the Constituency Incharge, 3 members of youth wing, and a journalist/editor of a pro-party newspaper. Baidya’s party broke away from the main UCPN Maoists in 2012. It refused to participate in the 2013 elections or take up any seats in the (2nd) Constituent Assembly.
Nepal, communism. CPN-UML (marxist-leninist) Regional (or Constituency) office in Aurahi VDC (village), Danusha district (Janakpur zone). The party came in 3rd (after Nepali Congress and UML) in 2013 elections, with 80 of 575 elected seats. #3
Party members Christina (left) and Mattia (right) in the PMLI Sede di Milano office in Milan, Italy.
Jan Banning
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Meet the World’s Remaining Communists

Updated: Dec 15, 2015 6:03 PM ET | Originally published: Dec 11, 2015

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, one photographer, Jan Banning, is traveling the world to document, as part of an ongoing project, the offices of people who still have faith in communism, an ideology that dominated the better half of the 20th century but, since 1989, has been slowly losing influence.

Venturing behind certain doors in Portugal, Nepal and Italy, Banning, through his photographs, wonders “how could you still say you are a communist after everything we discovered the movement did in the Soviet Union? " And yet, he finds, that dream persists.

Banning, an artist and history scholar best known for Bureaucratics, his previous work on administrative staffers around the world, says he has never been tempted by communist values himself. Yet, his left-leaning political tendencies allow him to have sympathy for that dream. “Some of the communists I have met have spent years in prison under torture and starvation for an ideal," he says. "I find it admirable, these people who are willing to endure such things for social justice."

Who are these utopian idealist seekers? They're not just aging has-beens whose moral vision is clouded by antiquated ways of seeing. Banning was surprised to find that many young people in Nepal and Italy believed in communism. “Within these communist parties, there are different styles or approaches or atmospheres,” says Banning. “While those who were absolutely skeptical simply didn’t allow me in, most were quite open about their ideology.”

Banning's images, the firsts in an ongoing photographic project, offer a survey of what the offices of these party members look like. “The starting point [is always] to ask them to do what they [usually] do,” he says. “I asked them to stay where they were and to sit in their normal position. In a group shot, you have a more artificial portrait. I did some arranging, but I never tell them how to look.”

Of course, there is a touch of irony in the Banning's photographs, but he says it's almost intentional. “If I want to stimulate people to think, some element of absurdity is necessary,” he says. “I’m not trying to make them look a certain way at all, but there is a bit of absurdity in every office. Whether it’s the office of a bureaucrat or of a communist, the whole idea of an office is a kind of theater stage. I’m using that to engender thought.”

For Banning, his role as a photographic artist is not to present a one-dimensional portrait but to create fodder for speculation. “I confuse even myself in that,” he says. “But that’s ok. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t be presenting enough perspectives.”

The project is unfinished. In 2016, Banning plans to go beyond Nepal, Italy and Portugal, continuing to Southern Italy and on to South Africa and Chile. “The idea was to cover different continents, to give an overview and turn it into a comparative study,” he says.

Jan Banning is a Dutch artist and photographer based in the Netherlands. His work has a social focus, reflecting often on the broader social political context of his subjects. His latest book, Law & Order, is a photo project that compares the criminal justice system in Colombia, France, Uganda and the United States. Combining an artistic view with a documentary approach, it sheds light on the key institutions within the criminal justice system: the police, the courts and prisons.

Alice Gabriner, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s International Photo Editor.

Rachel Lowry is a writer and contributor for TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @rachelllowry.

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