One more year according to the Gregorian Calendar is coming to an end. Naturally, therefore, wishing the very best to everyone in the New Year, 2014. Many, at the stroke of midnight, will pledge new resolutions in order to change for the better. Most often Lord Tennyson’s famous line "Ringing out the old, ringing in the new" is invoked in this context.
Indeed, some seminal achievements have been consigned to history like the iconic telegram and the canned film reel, with Bollywood announcing that its latest offering Dhoom 3 was released entirely in the digital format. No longer will we see the sheer poetry of Sachin Tendulkar’s batting in Test cricket.
Yet, in almost every aspect, as experience teaches us, life is a continuum. The year 2013 is ending with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) forming the government in Delhi. We congratulate them and wish them all success.
However, the government has announced to start working next year. Indian democracy has had many other instances when a new born party swept the elections like the Telugu Desam Party under NT Rama Rao.
The continuation and sustainability of such parties have crucially depended on the policies and programmes that they have pursued.
So shall be the case with the AAP government in Delhi.
Hopefully, 2014 will see the articulation of the AAP’s policies and programmes with regard to the neo-liberal economic reforms that continue to heap miseries on the people and communalism that grievously threatens the very secular democratic foundations of modern India.
At another level, the economic hardships imposed on the vast majority of our people during 2013 threaten to intensify in 2014 unless, of course, there is a radical shift in the policy trajectory in the country. The year begins when the negative impact of another round of administrative fuel price hikes will be felt by the people.
By now it has become common place to attribute the growing economic burdens on the people to the global crisis.
The global economic crisis, however, appears all set to continue. Notwithstanding the fits and burst of hopes and recovery in 2013, world economy continued to falter and stagger. India, which withstood the devastating impact of the 2008 global financial meltdown, has now become vulnerable and is buckling down under this impact.
This can only be reversed if the unbridled economic reforms that place Indian resources and markets at the disposal of profit maximisation to foreign and domestic capital are reversed and our own resources are marshalled for our domestic economic growth and improved welfare of our people.
The year 2014 provides an opportunity for such a shift in the policy trajectory in the country. The forthcoming general elections must serve as the opportunity to bring about such a change not merely in the ruling party but in terms of alternative policies.
The Indian people, if they want to change the situation for the better, will have to use this opportunity provided by the general elections to bring about a political alternative that is capable of implementing alternative policies. The Left, democratic and secular parties must rise to the occasion and create conditions for such a policy shift in the country.
The growing protests at the global level against the continuing economic crisis also indicate that the majority of people are seeking such a change for the better.
It was reported sometime earlier that the venerable Pope in the Vatican had asked for a volume of Karl Marx’s Das Capital to understand the nature of the current global capitalist crisis and look for possible solutions or an alternative.
This effort has now been confirmed by the Apostolic Exhortation, first by the current Pope, of November 24. Calling for a systemic change, not merely reforms alone, the Pope has put forward a new theology of liberation noting that, "In our time humanity is experiencing a turning point in history….
This epochal change has been set in motion the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology".
However, this, according to him, has created "An economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"
He proceeds: "The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person!"
Pleading for a change in the situation and asking his followers to intervene, he says: "In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile like the environment (including the vast mass of the ‘excluded’ people) is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule".
He calls for a "return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings".
In the final analysis, such humanism can be practical only when the present system, which accentuates such inhuman burdens on the vast majority of the people, is changed.
The year 2014, thus, will see a situation where theology from its point of view and philosophy from the point of view of Marxism seek to change the current dominant system based on exploitation and exclusion.
The year 2013 ended with the death of Nelson Mandela, a towering colossus of the worldwide people’s struggles for emancipation and liberation. As he led the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid, he had given a stirring call: "The battle continues — till complete human emancipation and liberation".
As we, along with the progressive world, pay homage to him, we must re-double our resolve to carry forward his bidding — strengthen people’s struggles in 2014.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal