Pete, Ben and the Party had done some agonizing reappraising of their positions in 1945. The Communist Party, under Earl Browder's leadership, had virtually liquidated itself as a party and even changed its name to Communist Political Association. Browder had preached a doctrine that was essentially that of class peace and had the Communist movement tamely tailing after the old parties in the postwar world. He saw a world in which U.S. capital would help develop the underdeveloped countries, create prosperity at home, and thereby enter into a partnership with labor, making strikes unnecessary.
That, of course, was not the real world, and the Communists in the summer of 1945 rejected Browder's outlook, resuming both the name of the Communist Party and class struggle policies. It was a period of intense self-examination by the Communist Party and for Pete and Ben a time of review of their policies in the City Council. Had they always acted as the people's tribunes?
Long self-critical discussions ensued. By and large, the two Communist councilmen concluded, they had been essentially correct in their policies during the war period. But they agreed that they had made a number of mistakes, primarily by not holding firmly to their principled positions on certain questions even at the risk of temporary isolation. There were at least three outstanding errors, they felt. One was their reluctant vote in 1944 to renew the one percent sales tax; the second was to extend the term of City Council members from two to four years; and the third was to vote for an antidiscrimination housing bill that did not specifically ban discrimination in Stuyvesant Town, the huge complex built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
Obviously, their 1944 vote to renew the sales tax was very much on Pete's mind in 1946 when he resisted O'Dwyer's proposal to increase it. Pete, who by agreement with Ben Davis on division of labor, was the team's specialist on city finances and knew intimately the history of the sales tax. He recalled that it was a direct outgrowth of the notorious Bankers Agreement of 1933 signed by then Mayor John O'Brien, a hapless Tammany hack, and a group of the city's most powerful institutions.
Under the Agreement with the Committee of Banks -- whose agent was J.P. Morgan & Co. -- the city was to issue ten-year serial bonds at 4 percent interest to the amount of $70 million to be used for work relief and home relief for the unemployed. The banks were to underwrite the issue, that is, to buy and market the bonds. But -- and this was a crucial