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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview
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talented assistants, discussed legislation in advance and generally were more deeply grounded in the problems of the city than were most of their colleagues.

Both maintained heavy speaking schedules, keeping close contact with their constituents. They were often importuned to take out-of-town assignments and all too frequently yielded to the understandable desire of people in other cities who wanted to hear and see Communist public officials in the flesh.

For Pete, his eyesight steadily dimming, it was a special blessing to have Ben at his side. While he followed council proceedings with hawklike attention, there were things he would have missed were not Ben there.

Both men worked easily and comfortably with most of the other members of the minority, particularly with Laborite Mike Quill and Liberal Republicans Stanley Isaacs and Mrs. Genevieve Earle. Much of their legislation was put in jointly, with fiscal questions being Pete's specialty and Ben Davis taking the lead on such questions as fighting discrimination in Stuyvesant Town, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company development. On this issue, a resolution was sponsored jointly by Isaacs and Davis. But even on this question Pete spoke and wrote, making it clear that he and Ben stood as one in the fight against the racist insurance monopoly.

In 1944, Pete expended considerable time on an issue to which most of his fellow council members paid only lip service, the right of servicemen to vote. It was a difficult moment, politically. Roosevelt had opted to run for a fourth term, the Second Front had been opened and grand plans for the United Nations were being laid. The vote of the men and women in uniform might mean victory for Roosevelt and his policies. Their failure to vote might mean the election of the Republican Thomas E. Dewey whose attitude towards unity between the United States and the Soviet Union, crucial for victory over the Fascist Axis, seemed cool, at best, and downright ominous at worst.

Or so it seemed to Pete. He thereupon engaged in a wide speaking and writing campaign to guarantee that the GI's actually exercised their legal right to vote. Pete sent considerable mail out of his own office calling for the widest use of the military ballot, pressing his constituents and others to communicate with their loved ones in the armed forces on their right to the ballot wherever they were.

It was an extraordinary period, that 1944-45 term. The war was going

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