Pete: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York's First Communist Councilman

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

blacklist because of his part in organizing a postwar strike in the Sun Shipyards of Chester, Pennsylvania. He had also walked off his brakeman's job on the Pennsylvania Railroad when his union, the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, called the 1922 strike. Now there was real unemployment in the valley and he was out of a job.

Pete resolved to break out of the dead end of working for wages and go into business for himself. Like generations of ambitious young men before him he looked to the West. He had read about the building of Boulder Dam and had the idea of forming a small construction company to haul gravel and other construction material. His father approved and made him a gift of the family Pontiac, a year's groceries and added a small sum of money to his son's life savings.

The venture was a failure. Competition for hauling jobs was severe and one day Pete discovered that the partner he had picked up in Las Vegas had skipped with money and trucks. He had kicked his way up into a business partnership and was promptly kicked out into the biggest depression in the world.

Once more he set out to hire himself out as a laborer. First, he tried the dam. Part of a battalion of jobless men, he made a daily trek to the employment office which was twenty miles out in the desert.

"We would start walking every night at seven o'clock," he recalled, "for it was impossible to walk by day under the blazing sun. At the employment office we found twenty men lined up for every job. I'll never forget the desert sunset and the look in the eyes of the men as we started back." It began to get worse. "They shoved us into boxcars and shipped us to another town, there again to be loaded into boxcars and shipped to further unemployment."

It went that way month after month. He stood on job lines and breadlines. He heard men in boxcars and around burning refuse curse Herbert Hoover and Wall Street and threaten vague vengeance. He knew that something had gone wrong in the country but he also wondered if something wasn't wrong with him.

Homesick and troubled, he began beating his way back East, meeting other men who were beating their way through the country and looking for a back door into the warmth of America. He heard stories like his own and his quick sympathy suffered long after the telling of these stories. Finally, anger against the depression-makers took up permanent residence in Pete Cacchione.

One night he swung off a freight in Sayre. He was unable to bring

-24-

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Pete: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York's First Communist Councilman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 2
  • Pete Made a Little History 5
  • Contents 7
  • 1 - The Argument 17
  • 2 - Boyhood in Sayre, Pa. 21
  • 3 - To New York -- via Las Vegas 24
  • 4 - Pete Gets Involved 26
  • 5 - Pete Leads a Bonus March Contingent 30
  • 6 - Brooklyn Captures Pete 34
  • 7 - Tammany Handles Relief 36
  • 8 - Seabury and Chile Acuna 39
  • 9 - Tin Boxes and Red Herrings 43
  • 10 - Class Struggle and Goo-Goos 47
  • 11 - The Fiorello Phenomenon 50
  • 12 - The Labor Party is Born 56
  • 13 - Pete and PR 61
  • 14 - Pete's First Try 67
  • 15 - The '37 Mayoralty Campaign 73
  • 16 - Election Day, 1937 79
  • 17 - The '37 Count 82
  • 18 - Towards the '39 Campaign 86
  • 19 - Marcantonio: A Man to Study 90
  • 20 - War Clouds and a Write-in Vote 99
  • 21 - From Phoney War to Anti-Fascist War 103
  • 22 - Victory in '41 112
  • 23 - Why Pete Won: Reflections 113
  • 24 - The Eagle Screams 116
  • 25 - Pete's First Council Session 120
  • 26 - Fighting Fascism and Anti-Semitism 124
  • 27 - Battling Baseball's Jim Crow 129
  • 28 - On Pete's Style of Work 132
  • 29 - Prophetic Resolutions 136
  • 30 - Defender of Italian-Americans 139
  • 31 - Widening Support 142
  • 32 - Manhattan Names Ben Davis 148
  • 33 - Tackling The Eagle and O'Dwyer 151
  • 34 - Pete Tops the List 153
  • 35 - Brooklyn to the Rescue 156
  • 36 - The Team of Two 161
  • 37 - Pete Wins a Third Term 163
  • 38 - Cold War Years 166
  • 39 - Stuyvesant Town: A Close Question 169
  • 40 the Going Gets Rougher 173
  • 41 - The Cardinal and the Council 177
  • 42 - The Year of the Long Knives 182
  • 43 - PR: Cold War Casualty 187
  • 44 - A Day of Civic Mourning 192
  • 45 - The Succession Fight 196
  • 46 - Running for Pete's Seat 203
  • 47 - An Afterword 204
  • Index 211
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