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When I was recently in Gothenburg, Sweden, Dave Webb (UK) and I were taken by our friend Andre Brochu to a local radical bookstore in a cozy basement. The warm and snug feeling inside this cave-like book warren helped to make it a special night. Andre is originally from the northeast in the US but moved to Sweden during the Vietnam war as part of his draft resistance. He stayed there, raised a family, and worked as a librarian. He is often sending emails to me with many excellent resources.
Inside the bookstore Dave and I made our space militarization presentations. Before the event began one of the bookstore hosts approached us with an armload of books - all written in English. "These don't sell well here, please take home what you'd like." I took two books and just finished the first of them entitled: PETE: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York's First Communist Councilman.
I was moved by the story and appreciated the education I received from the book written by Simon W. Gerson. Cacchione was elected because New York City instituted 'Proportional Representation' for minority political parties what is today called Rank Choice Voting (RCV). Voters eventually put two Communists on the NYC Council along with various labor party leaders. This was a challenge and threat to the ruling oligarchies on Wall Street so they eventually turned the media into attack dogs by ordering them to take down the RCV process in a future election. Their goal, made easier by the demonization of the Communists on the Council, gathered enough votes from fearful and manipulated NYC voters and RCV was struck down.
In the book the author writes about Pete's reaction to the growing repression from the ruling elites. His Italian-American working-class community tried hard to stand in unity with other racially and economically repressed people in the city. Pete knew that respect for one another was the road to creating real social harmony and political unity.
For Pete the fusion of the theory and practice of the united front was no problem. He had an almost intuitive feeling about unity. All his life he had identified with people; there was a deep reservoir of empathy in him. Other people's problems, particularly those of the poor and powerless, became his problems quickly - sometimes all to quickly, his co-workers would say fondly. It was virtually second nature for Pete to find common ground with his fellow worker and neighbor. "The truth is," he once said, "that most people shrink from dog-eat-dog competition and crave a life of cooperation. Unity is the most powerful word ever invented."
Pete's life should help illuminate the path ahead: a great, new fighting unity of the people from which can develop a powerful antimonopoly coalition and a new, people's party with a decisive working-class component that can attain governmental power.
I'm glad I picked up the book and glad to know more about a fellow Italian-American who gave his life to building unity, justice and peace. His words carry value and wisdom. When people ask me, 'what should we do now?' ....... my answer will be unity.
Pete died while in office - many said because of a broken heart. He was a WW I veteran as well. The author Gerson was nominated by the Communist Party to replace Pete in a manner outlined by the City Charter. But the Democrats who ran the city saw this as an opportunity to deny the council seat to a Communist. So they resisted Gerson's legal appointment (see article above) as Pete's successor. Once again the media carried water for the financial big wigs who sat on their thrones on Wall Street. Wall Street cheated for what it wanted. The elite could not win any other way.
Pete believed in taking the big wigs on - head on - and he won the people's love and confidence for doing so. He was a great man and should be remembered.