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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

31
Widening Support

BY THE late summer and early fall of 1943 it was clear that there was no cause for nervousness. Pete's record was getting amazing response. Barring untoward accident or wholesale larceny, the city's first "avowed Communist" councilman would be reelected.

A powerful labor committee for Pete came into existence quickly, with forty unions represented, both AFL and CIO. Early in October the Political Action Committee of the CIO Industrial Union Council of Greater New York announced it was backing Pete on the basis of his record. From Joseph Curran, the CIO council president, and Saul Mills, its secretary, came a warm letter to Pete:

Your endorsement was unanimously voted by the CIO Council delegates because of your outstanding record in the present City Council. Your fight for such measures as bills to prevent waterfront sabotage, outlawing discrimination and to alleviate the financial crisis of New York City has won the support of all workers in the Borough of Brooklyn. You can be assured of the support of all CIO members in Brooklyn.

(This was, of course, in Joe Curran's salad days. He later became one of the highest paid bureaucrats in the trade union movement, taking a salary of about $100,000 a year, surrounding himself with sycophants and suppressing democratic opposition. Before he retired in the early seventies he acquired an estate in upstate New York and wangled a near-million dollar pension from the National Maritime Union. But in the thirties and early forties Curran was still part of the powerful left-wing bloc in organized labor.)

Pete clearly had strength among seamen, longshoremen, transport workers, furriers, furniture workers and painters. He had a big following among the thousands of members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union who lived in Brooklyn, particularly the shorefront area of Coney Island and Brighton Beach where they had fled from the

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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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