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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

7
Tammany Handles Relief

PETE wasn't naive about public scandals. He'd been around. Payoffs and fixers were part of the system. He'd seen that in Las Vegas and even back home in Sayre. He knew that some cops took bribes for"protection" and building inspectors got "gifts" to overlook construction defects and health officers' palms were greased by restaurant owners who violated the sanitary code.

But he also knew that it went beyond small-scale handouts to corrupt petty officials. He had read of the robber barons and as an ex-railroader he had heard how the railroad magnates had bought out whole legislatures and blocs of congressmen as they pillaged their way across the nation. While his thinking on the subject deepened as he became more familiar with the intricacies of city politics, even in the early thirties he sensed that graft and corruption were integral elements of capitalist government. He may not have known the details but he understood that the big banks, insurance trusts and public utilities "took care" of the major party politicians, whether by so-called legal methods -- retainers for law firms -- or by dark-of-the-moon payoffs.

It was a jobless Pete Cacchione who had rolled into town in the wake of sensational exposures of Tammany Hall by Samuel Seabury, the famed ex-judge and investigator. Truth to tell, Pete's mind then was not on Tammany's crimes and the revelations that made banner headlines in the city's press. At that point in time, to use a phrase made familiar forty years later, Pete was more concerned with a night's lodging and his next meal.

But as he got around in the Unemployment Councils in the winter of 1932 and spring of 1933, Pete, like so many other New Yorkers, was fascinated by the story of the investigation into the doings of City Hall, crooked cops and judges. He had no love for Mayor Jimmy Walker; Pete had heard all about Walker's bluecoats brutally breaking up demonstrations of the unemployed. And he perceived something distinctly phony

-36-

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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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