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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

1
The Argument

NO QUESTION about it -- the two Communist councilmen were arguing. They kept their voices low, too low for the Tammany Democrats on the other side of the aisle to catch the drift of the passionate debate between the two men who hitherto had worked together like blood brothers.

An occasional hoarse whisper reached the straining ears of the Democrats and the various minority members, Republicans, Laborites and Liberals. "I want to answer him," they heard Councilman Benjamin J. Davis of Manhattan say. "Nope, it's my job," came the reply of Councilman Peter V. Cacchione of Brooklyn."It's my duty, not yours."

Somehow the controversy was resolved. The tall, powerful, handsome Davis, the only Black member of the Council, eased back into his seat slowly, reluctantly. Cacchione, a stocky figure in dark blue, his olive- complected face slightly flushed, rose to ask for the floor. He was promptly given it by the presiding officer, who was as mystified as his colleagues at the unique drama they were witnessing in New York's ancient City Council chamber on that chilly afternoon of January 21, 1947.

"Mr. President," Cacchione began. "I want to speak to the question of the Negro History Week resolution submitted by my colleague, Mr. Davis, and address myself especially to the remarks of a previous speaker, Mr. Rager."

The mystery was finally beginning to clear. It seemed that Councilman Edward Rager, a Republican of Manhattan, had attacked Davis' resolution which called on the Council to memorialize the Mayor to make Negro History Week an official city observance. Normally, such a resolution, whether submitted by Davis or his Black predecessor, Councilman Adam Clayton Powell, was unanimously adopted with a minimum of fuss. This time, however, Rager, widely regarded as a

-17-

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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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