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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

4
Pete Gets Involved

PETE didn't know it then but that speech he made in front of the Municipal flophouse was a turning point in his life. After he got through attacking "conditions," one of the men who had gone with him to see the management, suggested that he look up the Unemployment Councils. That was exactly what he did. He located a council on the Lower East Side of Manhattan -- they were everywhere in New York and all over the country where there were jobless. And where weren't there jobless workers then? Pete quickly found himself at home. A man was speaking as he walked in. Pete listened attentively. By God, the man was putting into words, into slogans, everything that Pete had been thinking!

But it was more than slogans. The speaker mentioned a hunger march to Albany and, more immediately, he asked for volunteers to help put back the furniture of a poor family evicted for nonpayment of rent. Pete promptly volunteered. On Suffolk Street they found an old woman sleeping on the mattress in the snow. Pete carried her on his back into her apartment, ignoring her muttered complaint about being awakened. The same committee then went scouring the neighborhood for wood for an elderly couple in the same cold water tenement where wood stoves were the only way to produce heat. Pete and his committee also promised to visit the Home Relief Bureau about a coat for a child in the next door flat.

Pete returned to the council completely tired. He slept that night on the council floor. A few days later, a council member, learning that Pete was a world war veteran (that was World War I, remember) told Pete that he ought to join an ex-soldiers' organization. That night, Pete recalled, he moved to the floor of the Workers Ex-Servicemen's League at 169 East 3rd Street on the Lower East Side. Here he slept many nights and began a new phase in his career.

Not that Pete didn't like the Unemployment Councils and the camaraderie he found there. He often spoke of those days, his face

-26-

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