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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

United States, England and France were "neutral," which was their way of assisting Franco. Only the Soviet Union and Mexico helped supply the legally elected republican government of Spain with the arms it so desperately needed. Small groups from all over the world, including the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of U.S. volunteers, fought alongside other anti-Fascists in the famed International Brigade.

Pete pleaded to go but his comrades prevailed on him to stay. At home the struggle also needed good organizers, it was pointed out to him. He agreed reluctantly and plunged anew into work. The logical candidate in Brooklyn, Pete was nominated as the Communist candidate for City Council, and work went forward to put him on the ballot by obtaining signatures on nominating petitions. Meanwhile, Pete and other Party leaders worked out a central united front strategy. LaGuardia was the ALP candidate for Mayor, and it was decided to give him and the ALP ticket critical support.

It was a strategy with which Pete wholeheartedly agreed, for the Communists had long urged labor's political independence. But it did pose some problems for the Communists, whose program was far in advance of that of the ALP both as to immediate demands and the CP's ultimate goal of socialism.

While details were debated in Communist circles, there was virtual unanimity on the central policy -- to help build a progressive coalition to defeat Tammany in the municipal elections with the focus on strengthening the ALP. While supporting the ALP, critically at times, the Communist Party would find the form through which to advance its own independent program and express its own strength. It was a policy that gave advanced workers the opportunity to build a popular coalition while indicating support for selected Communist candidates.

The tactics pursued were fully within this strategic framework. The Communists named a full city-wide slate and various other candidates including councilmanic candidates, with Pete Cacchione as the nominee for councilman from Brooklyn. They gathered the necessary signatures on nominating petitions and filed them in due course. Then, after discussions with various people in the ALP, the Communist Party withdrew its own slate in favor of the ALP city-wide ticket, headed by LaGuardia. It even withdrew its candidate for District Attorney of New York County opposing Thomas E. Dewey, (who was later to become governor and twice unsuccessful Republican candidate for President) without, however, endorsing him. But it kept in the field its councilmanic candidates,

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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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