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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

Ethiopia. He was associated firmly with the anti-Fascist section of the Italian-American community and constantly appealed to the progressive tradition of Garibaldi among older Italian-Americans.

At the same time, he was keenly aware that to the native-born Italian- Americans that tradition was vague. With them he sought common ground on economic questions and on the basic issues of the anti-Axis war, constantly pointing out that a victory for fascism would mean death to'their democratic rights, limited though they were, and their hard-won living standards.

With red-baiters and Soviet-haters in the Italian-American community Pete was blunt: they were following Hitler-like policies and disrupting the war effort. He did not hesitate to take on the toughest of them, including the powerful Luigi Antonini, a vice-president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, whose anti-Fascist posture was far weaker than his vociferous anticommunism.

In a letter to an Italian language newspaper published in New York, Pete wrote:

Anyone who red-baits is helping to spread disunity and weaken our war effort.

History has demonstrated that the main weapon used by Hitler to divide the German people and come to power was his use of the bogey fear of Communism.

And, in turn, this weapon was used to divide one nation from another so that each could be conquered separately...

If all the democratic forces must be united, anyone who works to prevent these democratic forces from getting together is doing a disservice to the cause of unity and the war effort.

And Mr. Antonini certainly falls in this category. Does he not continually attack the Communists? And the Soviet Union, one of the main bulwarks of the United Nations?

Does his policy help to unify all Italians in the United States to help the people of Italy rid themselves of fascism? (as quoted in the Daily Worker, May 31, 1943.)

Pete's frank position won him wide respect in the Italian-American community. He was one of the scheduled speakers at a huge Madison Square Garden rally of the United Americans of Italian Descent on September 9, 1943, one day after Italy's unconditional surrender to the Allied forces.

Pete's speeches and writings on the subject of Italy are worthy of a

-139-

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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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