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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

32
Manhattan Names Ben Davis

ACROSS the river the joint was jumping, politically speaking. Adam Powell, still the council's only Black member, had declined to run for reelection. He planned to run for Congress the next year in the new Harlem district carved out by the State Legislature in belated response to the growing demand for Black representation. Who would fill the shoes of the magnetic Adam Powell?

Pete was up to his neck in his own campaign but rationed his own precious time in order to huddle in Manhattan with Ben Davis, Harlem leader of the Communist Party, state secretary Gil Green and others. To complete its ticket the Communist Party had nominated Carl Brodsky, a well-known Party leader with special strength in the Lower East Side Jewish community, but obviously that didn't meet the problem of another Black representative, one who could have a powerful base in the Harlem electorate and yet poll enough votes in white communities to win a borough-wide seat.

Ben Davis took the initiative. He visited Powell to urge him to reconsider his decision. Nothing doing. To make the council race in 1943 and the congressional race in 1944 was too much. Would he help establish unity around a progressive Black councilmanic candidate? Powell preferred, as Davis recalled later, "a hands-off policy." ( Davis, op. cit., all quotations from Davis in this chapter are from his autobiography.)

Ben then visited Dr. Channing Tobias, a YMCA leader, not a militant but highly regarded in the Black community and with considerable contacts among the Roosevelt forces. "He was a typical liberal," wrote Davis, "but I was not looking for a Communist candidate but one around whom the broadest unity of the Negro people and labor could be achieved in this specific situation." Dr. Tobias respectfully declined as did Dr. George Cannon, a prominent Black surgeon who was also approached by Davis.

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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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