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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

Not all sections of the coalition saw it quite that way, but enough did to hold the lines intact and even to expose Tammany's red-baiting as the desperate effort of a corrupt, bankrupt, reactionary gang. Unity of the coalition, irrespective of obvious ideological differences, was the watchword of the Communists. This writer, then a Daily Worker reporter covering City Hall and Mayor LaGuardia, recalls writing an article in a radical weekly * reflecting the Communist position. The article was widely read around City Hall and in other sections of the political and labor movements not usually found reading Marxist material. Entitled "LaGuardia: Labor Party Mayor?" the piece was a warts-and-all review of the first LaGuardia Administration and concluded that "New York labor and progressives, critical of LaGuardia, will, however, undoubtedly concentrate on the defeat of Tammany, by all odds the most reactionary influence in local politics today."

The article stressed that labor's political action was decisive. Victory, it went on, could be attained "by a broadened American Labor Party that will be a genuine alliance of the workers and middle class of New York, an inclusive federation composed of the trade unions, fraternal organizations, Negro groups, the Socialists, the Communists, the All People's Party of Harlem, etc. Such a movement, defending the needs of the workers, middle-class taxpayers, civil service and Negro people, would, in essence, be a city-wide people's front movement."

Actually, the coalition formed around LaGuardia was even wider. Its vital section was labor but it also included a section of liberal silkstocking Republicans and some hard-headed business people who had their own fish to fry. If not everybody in the LaGuardia coalition was pure of heart, the opposition was vile -- the old core of Tammany contractors, district leaders, fixers, pro-Nazis, professional anti-Communists and a substantial group of right-wing Republicans associated with what was then known as the Liberty League who hated Franklin D. Roosevelt with a religious fervor.

The FDR-haters held a special bitterness toward Fiorello. He, a nominal Republican, had strongly backed the reelection of Roosevelt in 1936 and was working closely with the New Deal and the growing CIO headed by John L. Lewis. The circumstance that the pro-LaGuardia coalition in fact included the Communists became a central point of their attack. How that attack was defeated is something of a textbook classic in meeting red-baiting assaults on a united front movement.

____________________
*
New Masses, March 9, 1937.

-73-

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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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