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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

41
The Cardinal and the Council

DESPITE the increasing chill of the cold war atmosphere, Pete stood with Ben in battle on a series of local issues -- for veterans' housing, against the sales tax increase and a rise in utility rates and for democracy in autocratically run Brooklyn College. But Pete and Ben soon discovered that the Democratic council leadership, which piously shrank from debating national and international issues when it suited them, were now thrusting cold war issues to the fore. Perhaps the most bitter of the cold war battles flared up around the formal honoring of Cardinal Francis Spellman, New York's Catholic archbishop.

Spellman was returning from Rome where he had received the red hat of cardinal -- stopping in Spain en route to visit with dictator Francisco Franco -- and the council leaders thought it appropriate to hail the former Fordham University shortstop who had become a prince of the church. Spellman, it may be recalled, was on the extreme right of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy -- there was nothing then like the Catholic Left of the sixties and seventies -- and had been a vicious foe of the Spanish Republic. He and most of the rest of the hierarchy had exerted enormous pressure on the Roosevelt Administration during the Spanish civil war of the thirties. Politically informed people regarded their power largely responsible for FDR's cowardly embargo on arms for the legitimate Spanish republican government in its struggle against Franco and his Hitler-Mussolini legions.

Spellman's political clout was legendary and manifested itself in a hundred ways in local, national and international affairs. A walkout of gravediggers at Catholic cemeteries drew his ire; he helped break the strike. It was not for nothing that the cardinal's residence was called "The Powerhouse" by New York politicians. When they said "50th Street" they were referring not to St. Patrick's Cathedral but to the adjoining Chancery offices; a frown or a smile from the archbishop or

-177-

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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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