Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the American empire? The 20th century was the century of America’s rise to supremacy. Now, in spite of its present might, the US economy is showing all the signs of a future demise. It is no accident that just as the US economy begins to show its weakness, its emperors try to flex their muscles militarily. But the Empire looks as though it might be overstretching itself just when it seems that it is all-powerful.

In the first three months of the year, the US economy grew at a 1.6% annual rate. All the signs are that the economic recession of 2001, from which 2002 saw a recovery, is now returning in 2003. The US economy is heading for what economists like to call a 'double-dip'.

The debate over whether Britain should join the Euro is heating up. On both sides of the debate we find a capitalist logic being applied. One side stands for so-called British "sovereignty", the other praises the merits of the wider market. Neither side is defending the real interests of the workers. As Mick Brooks points out, "The answer is surely for us to control the movement of capital by taking over the means of production, not relying on the goodwill of our enemy, the capitalist class."

Marxists are often accused of having a class bias, of having an irrational prejudice against the capitalist class. We must admit, that yes we don't particularly appreciate the fact that while millions go hungry in the underdeveloped countries a handful of super-rich billionaires actually decide on the fate of the world.

The world’s stock markets are hitting their highs for the year. Optimism rules in this sunniest and hottest of summers. The bulls (investors who reckon stock prices are going to rise) are in the ascendancy and the bears (those who forecast falling share prices) are in their caves. But is this optimism justified? Profits are up in the oil and the banking sectors. In industry as a whole profits are not up, as companies are finding it difficult to up prices in the world market.

Instead of further integrating the world's economies, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit in Cancun actually succeeded in creating more polarisation and deeper divisions between its members. The viability of the WTO, which since Seattle (December 1999) has gone from failure to failure, is more than ever in doubt. Luis Enrique Barrios, from the Mexican Marxist paper Militante analyses the breakdown of talks and future prospects.

Last September 14, world trade talks broke down in Cancun, Mexico. Everybody blamed everyone else. Before the conference, British delegate Patricia Hewitt had predicted, "if we fail, it will be a disaster for world economy." And this is true, for the collapse could stun the already fragile prospects of economy recovery.

As you read this, the papers are probably full of the news that the US economy is growing at the fantastic rate of over 6% a year. No wonder the stock markets of the world have been booming. However, Michael Roberts points out that in reality the economic growth that the US is now enjoying is an illusion. It is based on unhealthy premises of state spending and a massive credit boom, neither of which can last for much longer.

The big financial institutions and investors have become hugely optimistic about the revival of economic growth and employment. They reckon that the weapons of mass growth (WMG) will be found. Everything is looking better, according to the latest intelligence sources, Messrs Bush, Blair, Schroeder and Greenspan tell us.  The reality is that US growth in 2003 was artificially created and will prove to be ephemeral in 2004.

If you think things in the USA are bad now, wait till after the US elections. Once the result is in the bag (either for Bush or whoever stands for the Democrats) economic policy will switch from the present spending spree (mainly on arms) to cuts in welfare. The present level of indebtedness cannot be maintained for ever. Sooner or later the capitalists will make the workers pay.

Has British capitalism has finally overcome what used to be called the British disease: slower growth, higher inflation, continual currency crises and a falling behind in living standards compared with the US, Europe and Japan? Growth figures actually disguise a far more diseased system that the media would like us to see.

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