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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

permanent government, the banking and insurance crowd, among others, who feared the rising insurgency in the depression-stricken populace. The upper crusters were tired of the crude freebooting tactics of New York's Tammany administration, a regime which they tolerated and even cultivated during "normal" times. But this was the hour of reform and Seabury was a heaven-sent instrument through whom to visit the wrath of the gods on Tammany Hall.

Seabury was more than willing. Apart from an ancient grudge against Tammany Hall which had balked his political ambitions, Seabury still entertained some wistful presidential hopes, despite the fact that New York's Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt was the obvious front runner for the 1932 nomination.

As a disciple of Henry George, the single taxer, Seabury had attacked monopoly in his youth, demanded the municipal ownership of street railways and spoken before meetings of trade unionists. In 1899 he had run unsuccessfully for the city court on the Independent Labor party line. In 1914 he was elected to the highest court of the state, the Court of Appeals, as a candidate of both the Progressive and Democratic parties. ( The Progressive Party was then an off-shoot from the Republican Party. Its leading figure was former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was its unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1912.)

If his past was believed to be "radical" in some quarters, Seabury was considered safe by his corporate clients. Bar associations, old-line civic organizations and the press hailed his appointment in 1930 as a Referee to investigate the Magistrates' Courts in Manhattan and the Bronx and his later appointment as counsel to a state legislative committee investigating the affairs of the city.

The major newspapers jumped into the fray in high glee, sensing civic explosions and circulation gains. Roy Howard, publisher of the New York World-Telegram, was a particularly active ally. He turned loose his crack investigative reporters and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Rollin Kirby. Between the Seabury staff, the news hounds, discontented city workers and tips from disaffected Tammanyites, they located the buried bodies. New York was soon rocked with a series of revelations and the nation's political vocabulary enriched by some colorful phrases, not the least of which was "the wonderful tin box."

Seabury may have had an ultradignified judicial mien and the manner of a descendant of a long line of high church bishops. But behind that Olympian exterior was the wily mind of a man who knew his New York.

-39-

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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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