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

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview
Hitler forces had surrendered in May and the Japanese in September. True, the atom bomb had been hurled at Hiroshima and Nagasaki but the full scope of that horror had not yet penetrated the public consciousness. The war was over and now attention had to be shifted to the tasks of peace. Even the Tammany-dominated City Council was not entirely insensitive to the new mood. On April 17 it broke something of a precedent, adopting Pete's resolution, submitted on behalf of the entire Council, proclaiming April 25 United Nations Day.That fall Pete's literature and speeches began to focus on peacetime projects, particularly housing for ex-GI's. He remembered vividly his experiences as a veteran of World War I and the battle for the bonus. This had been a different kind of war, he knew, but Pete didn't underestimate the callousness of the powers-that-be. He recalled only too well the old saw that yesterday's hero could be today's bum and the man in khaki who was cheered might well be the man in tatters who was jeered.One of his campaign leaflets spelled it out. What do the ex-GI'S want? Pete said it plainly:
A Home
A Job
Equality
Lasting Peace

That's What the Wax Veterans Want!

And with Pete's remarkable sensitivity to a rising racism, the leaflet -- which had been dictated by Pete -- ended by citing heroes, Black and white, who had been killed in battle, and concluded in bold capital letters:

NO BULLET EVER STOPPED TO ASK THE COLOR OR
RACE OR RELIGION OF THE SOLDIER IT KILLED.

No question who drafted that leaflet -- it was straight Pete.

And it was felt all over Brooklyn, in every working-class area, among the Jewish voters of Brighton Beach, among the Black voters of Bedford-Stuyvesant, among the Italian-Americans of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge and Red Hook. It was felt in the virtual tidal wave of support from labor and civic quarters for Pete's third term bid.

No question about it. It was the year of Pete. And it was clearly visible in the election returns. LaGuardia had declined to run for a fourth term and the ALP had formed an alliance with the Democrats to support Bill

-163-

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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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