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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Hitler forces had surrendered in May and the Japanese in September. True, the atom bomb had been hurled at Hiroshima and Nagasaki but the full scope of that horror had not yet penetrated the public consciousness. The war was over and now attention had to be shifted to the tasks of peace. Even the Tammany-dominated City Council was not entirely insensitive to the new mood. On April 17 it broke something of a precedent, adopting Pete's resolution, submitted on behalf of the entire Council, proclaiming April 25 United Nations Day.That fall Pete's literature and speeches began to focus on peacetime projects, particularly housing for ex-GI's. He remembered vividly his experiences as a veteran of World War I and the battle for the bonus. This had been a different kind of war, he knew, but Pete didn't underestimate the callousness of the powers-that-be. He recalled only too well the old saw that yesterday's hero could be today's bum and the man in khaki who was cheered might well be the man in tatters who was jeered.One of his campaign leaflets spelled it out. What do the ex-GI'S want? Pete said it plainly:
A Home
A Job
Equality
Lasting Peace

That's What the Wax Veterans Want!

And with Pete's remarkable sensitivity to a rising racism, the leaflet -- which had been dictated by Pete -- ended by citing heroes, Black and white, who had been killed in battle, and concluded in bold capital letters:

NO BULLET EVER STOPPED TO ASK THE COLOR OR
RACE OR RELIGION OF THE SOLDIER IT KILLED.

No question who drafted that leaflet -- it was straight Pete.

And it was felt all over Brooklyn, in every working-class area, among the Jewish voters of Brighton Beach, among the Black voters of Bedford-Stuyvesant, among the Italian-Americans of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge and Red Hook. It was felt in the virtual tidal wave of support from labor and civic quarters for Pete's third term bid.

No question about it. It was the year of Pete. And it was clearly visible in the election returns. LaGuardia had declined to run for a fourth term and the ALP had formed an alliance with the Democrats to support Bill

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