The German economy is the largest in Europe. Since the recession of 2001, the German government has been claiming an economic upswing is imminent. But are these predictions realistic? Christoph Mürdter analyses the real direction of the German economy.

In the USA, in Britain, even in Japan all the talk is now of economic recovery and boom. But scratch just a little below the surface and a completely different picture emerges - one of longer hours, later retirement, huge personal debt and a growing polarisation between rich and poor. The main European powers have all this and hardly any economic growth to talk of. Michael Roberts looks at the real state of the economy in the advanced capitalist world.

The US and British capitalists are gloating about how their economies are currently growing at 3-4% a year while Europe's big capitalist economies and Japan are hardly managing 2%. However, there is another side to this. Two recent reports show that the US and Britain also hold the record for the highest levels of poverty and social inequality. Capitalism only works for some.

Over the summer, world stock markets trod water. Indeed, the movement up or down in share prices was the smallest since 1979. That tells us that investors in capitalism are really unsure whether the world economy is set for sustained growth (as their political leaders tell them it is) or not.

The news that Kerry has conceded defeat has just come through. We will publish a full analysis of the US election results tomorrow. In the meantime we are publishing this article which looks at the state of the US economy and traces its long term decline. Whether Bush or Kerry had won it would not have made a fundamental difference. They both defend US imperialism. They could not come out with fundamentally different policies for they are tied to the same basic economic interests. In fact the extreme similarity between the two explains why Kerry could not defeat Bush. Any policy based on the US economy as it is today means one thing: an attack on the living standards of American workers. To defeat Bush something else is needed – a party of the American working class.

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.

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