Henry Ford had a mythical reputation as a “people's capitalist”, a man who was smart enough to design a car that ordinary workers could afford, and a boss who paid his workers enough to buy Ford cars. Nothing could be further from the truth! The great lesson of labour relations at Ford's from its beginning is that every improvement for the workers was gained through bitter and unremitting struggle. By Mick Brooks

Who produces the wealth and who gains most from its production? In a pamphlet written 97 years ago, John Wheatley described an imaginary court case, with a coalmaster, a landowner and several others being charged with “having conspired together and robbed an old miner, Dick McGonnagle." Its basic class analysis remains valid for workers today as they are still being robbed.

In 1916 in the midst of the First World War Lenin produced a Marxist masterpiece, entitled “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”. With US imperialism extending its domination over the whole of the world, this book is more relevant than ever. Eighty years after Lenin’s death we publish an appraisal of this classic work.

In the 1980s there was a debate within the Marxist tendency about productive and unproductive labour. Here we provide a contribution to that debate by Mick Brooks. Although this is archive material, we believe it will help today’s generation to better understand capitalism in order to overthrow it.

Behind all the optimistic talk about the health of world capitalism from Bush, Blair etc, the more serious analysts are worried. In its semi-annual report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced that it is cutting its forecasts for all leading economies. It may not happen this year, but the huge imbalance in the world economy is going to crack.

House price increases are slowing down in Britain. In June in London prices actually fell. This is the beginning of the end of the house price bubble and it will be very painful for many families who have borrowed on the basis of the increased equity in their property. It will have a knock-on effect on the whole economy as spending is already slowing.

Over the past couple of years the U.S. economy has gained some momentum and avoided slipping back into recession, but this was based on the increased squeezing of the U.S. and world working class, not job growth or significant investment in productive capacity. Even if the U.S. economy miraculously takes off in the second half of 2005, the damage has already been done for millions of working Americans.

The world economy is being sustained by US consumer spending and Chinese manufacturing. US consumer spending is based on the illusion of growing property values, but these cannot keep going up forever. The property bubble in the US will burst and when it does it will have devastating effects on the whole of the world economy.

It has become fashionable among contemporary bourgeois historians and sociologists to belittle the role of the working class by claiming that it has been diminished in size and influence. Some even venture as far as declaring that the working class no longer exists. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mick Brooks answered these points in an article that was originally published in November 1996 in the British Socialist Appeal.

As the Chinese bureaucracy pushes the economy of China more and more along the capitalist road, more contradictions are appearing. The more the economy is integrated into the world market the more it will be prone to all the ups and downs of world capitalism. A serious slowdown on a world scale will have devastating effects.

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