On September 11, 2001, our country - for just a moment - stopped functioning. In the wake of the attacks on lower Manhattan, amid the smoke, fires, stench, and rubble, those who were left breathing staggered to their feet, emerged from the subway, or sank to their knees, depending on their proximity to the World Trade Center. Across the river in New Jersey, everybody watched in disbelief as the city seemed to cave in on itself. The rest of the country was glued to their TV sets in shock and horror. It was in those few seconds after the second tower fell that New York City was silent for the first time.

The five years after the end of the Second World War were some of the stormiest years ever seen in the United States. The entire nation had been mobilized for war - millions of workers were drafted into the military, and millions more were employed in the newly-created arms plants. The State set up hundreds of specialized committees to regulate everything from food rationing to enforcing the reactionary "No Strike Pledge," which was held in place partly by the influence of the Communist Party and the Stalinist-dominated unions as well as by the leadership of the AFL and CIO. This "No Strike Pledge" flew in the face of the newly created Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) but yet was supported by the "statesman" like leadership over the will of the millions of workers of the CIO, with the help of the Stalinists.

Rob Sewell reports from the founding convention of the American LaborParty in Cleveland, Ohio..."This is war. We have dug in our heels and we will not surrender." With these words of defiance, Margaret Trimmer-Hartley speaking on behalf of the 2,000 striking newspaper workers in Detroit, brought the founding Labor Party Convention in Cleveland to its feet. An older trade unionist from Chicago approached the microphone and began playing on his harmonica the old union anthem, "SolidarityForever". The whole Convention spontaneously erupted to the sound. Every delegate linked arms in a show of strength and unity. It served to sum up the whole mood of jubilation and determination that everyone present was carving out a new heroic chapter in the history of the American working class.

When Bill Clinton first came in to office back in 1992 he claimed to carry the hopes and aspirations of millions of working people - both black and white, and all those who had been marginalised by the successive right wing Republican regimes of Reagan and Bush. One by one any hopes have been dashed - on welfare, healthcare and education, Clinton has sided with the rich and the conservative every time, his phony ‘third way’ philosophy little more than warmed up Republicanism.

The weeks following the Clinton election victory opened up discussions throughout the ranks of the new American Labor Party. In an election where less than 50% bothered to vote, the lowest percentage since 1924, it gave further proof of the disillusionment with the parties of big business. Even amongst those who voted, many did so reluctantly. Despite the fact that over the last four years Clinton had moved further towards the Republicans, the bulk of the US unions gave him support. In the next four years, the unions will be forced to look in a new direction. According to Republican Congressman, Frank Cremeans, "The President signed 60% of our legislation into law. I'm confident he will work with us in completing the Contract (with America) issues that we set out to accomplish."

The murder by a white police officer of an unarmed 19-year-old black man was the spark which ignited the accumulated tinder of racism and poverty in Cincinnati last week. In the biggest "race riots" since the Rodney King trial in Los Angeles in 1992, hundreds took to the streets to protest police brutality and the pent-up frustrations of decades of marginalization and poverty. Timothy Thomas was the 15th black male killed by the Cincinnati police since 1995, and the fourth since November. During the same period of time, no whites were killed by police. Officer Stephen Roach shot him as he evaded arrest for outstanding warrants - mostly traffic violations. Roach claims he feared for his life because he saw Thomas reach for a weapon during their encounter in a dark alley - but no gun was recovered at the scene. Like the Amadou Diallo case where the West African immigrant was shot 19 times just for reaching for his wallet, the case of Timothy Thomas highlights the fact that relations between one of the most oppressed segments of society and the police are balanced on a knife's edge, ready to explode at any moment.