American Labor Party and New York City’s Italian American Communities: 1936-1950

The literature on Italian Americans, with very few exceptions, depicts them as either nonideological, politically apathetic, or conservative.(1)  This paper takes issue directly with the last of these assertions and by extension with the first two. Associations between Italian Americans and radicalism–such as: their involvement in the Lawrence general strike, Carlo Tresca, and Vito Marcantonio–are generally viewed as anomalous.(2) Other manifestations of Italian American connection to the left are misinterpreted. For example, biographies of Fiorello La Guardia usually represent him as a colorful ethnic reformer rather than a courageous effective left-populist leader.(3) Lastly, there are those associations of Italian Americans with the left that have been forgotten, overlooked, or erased.(4)  This paper explores a topic related to this last category, that is, the as-yet unrecognized large role Italian Americans played in the history of the American Labor Party (ALP).

In 1936 the leaders of the needle trades unions (David Dubinsky of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union [ILGWU], Alex Rose of the United Hat and Millinery Workers Union, and Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union) determined to provide a line on the ballot which would help ease the transition of its large contingent of Socialist-voting members in New York to vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Initially envisioned as the prototype of a national third party, the ALP remained a state party bearing many similarities with Wisconsin’s Progressive Party and Minnesota’s Farmer Labor Party.
Exceeding all estimates, in its first election the ALP polled 275,000 votes.(5)  On average from 1936 until 1950, the ALP polled almost 15 percent of New York City’s vote for the candidates at the head of the ticket: president, senator, mayor. However, the ALP frequently polled higher percentages for other offices. For example, in 1945, while the ALP attracted 13 percent of the New York City’s mayoral vote, it obtained 18.5 percent of the vote for the five borough presidential candidates, causing it to outpoll every other party except the Democratic in Brooklyn and the Bronx.(6) In 1937 it achieved its maximum vote when 21 percent of New York City’s votes pulled its lever to endorse La Guardia for a second term.  On a statewide basis, the largest number of votes cast on the ALP line were the 496,000 votes for Roosevelt in 1944, and the 510,000 votes for Henry Wallace in 1948.

Members of the ALP were elected mayor as well as to the state legislature and the city council. Most significantly, it held the balance of power so that the votes accumulated on its line often spelled victory or defeat for candidates of the major parties. Most often the ALP endorsed the candidate of the major party it considered most progressive, and it forwarded its own independent candidates when neither parties’ candidate met its political criteria. In a sense it embodied the best of all possible worlds: it created the possibility of influencing the nominating processes of the major parties as well as the possibility of forwarding independent candidates. In this way, the ALP enabled East Harlem’s radical congressman, Vito Marcantonio, to serve seven terms: he won elections as the coalition candidate of the ALP and one or both of the major parties as well as one election when he ran independently solely on the ALP line. It also allowed La Guardia to become a three-term mayor by providing 36 percent of his votes in both his second and third victorious mayoral elections. In La Guardia’s races, the ALP held the increasingly alienated Republican Party hostage. Warren Moscow, the New York state political correspondent of the Times, stated: “Had it not been for the existence of the ALP in 1937 and 1941, the Republicans would never have given La Guardia his second and third nominations.”(7)

All of this depended on New York States peculiar electoral laws that permitted: 1) candidates to enter primaries of parties in which they were not enrolled; and, 2) parties to enter their candidates on more than one line and have these votes merged. In 1947 the Wilson-Pakula Act essentially abolished the open primary of candidates by requiring candidates who entered primaries of which they were not members to first obtain the permission of the county committees of those parties.  In the postwar period the major parties increasingly refused to accept ALP endorsement for their candidates. Moreover, they turned the institution of cross endorsement, that had been at theheart of the ALP’s electoral success, against it. The Democratic, Republican, and Liberal parties began to cross endorse coalition candidates to defeat Leo Isacson, the ALP congressman from the South Bronx in 1948, Benjamin Davis the Communist City Councilman from Harlem who was also running on the ALP line, and Vito Marcantonio in 1950.

When it last contested elections in 1954, John McManus, its gubernatorial candidate–who concentrated on demands for a cease-fire in Korea and the repeal of the Smith Act–failed by approximately three thousand votes to attain the 50,000-vote threshold required to maintain legal ballot status. One month after the election, the State Legislature passed a bill outlawing the use of the word “American” in the name of a political party seeking ballot status in the state.(8) This body hastened to prevent a resurrection of the ALP, because during its eighteen years of active life it had, while moving the politics of New York City and State to the left, and reduced the two-party monopoly over New York State’s political life.

The ALP staked out a position to the left of the Democratic Party, which varied in its specifics depending on internal and external circumstances.  Its initial platform, reflecting the socialist ties of its founders, announced that “where private enterprise and capital have failed to meet public necessities adequately the people must rely upon their cooperative power, exercised through government agencies.”(9) The ALP viewed itself as the genuine New Deal party as opposed to the boss-ridden, backsliding regular Democratic Party. In the post-war period, the ALP focused increasingly on opposition to the bipartisan Cold War foreign policy and fighting for the rights of African Americans and other minorities. The ALP’s greatest successes included increasing the political participation of underrepresented groups: New York City’s African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Italian Americans.

The shifts in the ALP’s political positions reflected the varying strengths of the various forces that comprised this third party. Over time, the influence of the Communist Party grew. At every moment regardless of the degree of the Party’s influence, the ALP was denounced in the press and by political opponents as: “Communist led,” “Communist influenced,” simply “Communist,” or in the peculiar prose of the Hearst press, a party “backed by a coalition of Red Fascist front and Communist-controlled unions which is under complete control of the Communist Party and its Moscow policy-makers . . . .”(10) Consequently, at all times, affiliation with the ALP entailed some risk, and once the McCarthy period ensued potential loss of employment and worse.(11)

Within the much overlooked topic of the ALP, there has been an even more extreme dismissal, that is, the large role of New York City’s Italian Americans played in this phenomenon.  Throughout its history, Italian Americans voted for the ALP 50 to 100 percent more frequently than German or Irish Americans. While these percentages on average reached less than 10 percent of the total Italian American vote, when an Italian American headed the ALP ticket, their vote on the ALP line soared. In La Guardia’s 1937 election 23 percent and in 1941 when he ran for a third term almost 14 percent cast their ballots on Line C. In 1949, when Marcantonio ran for mayor, Italian Harlem gave him a secure majority of their votes and his vote reached as high as 30 percent in the City’s other Little Italies.(12) Comprising almost 20 percent of the City’s population, Italian Americans represented a major base of the ALP and a focus for its activities.

The ALP’s origins guaranteed an Italian American presence. The ILGWU, the ALP’s largest component, boasted a membership that was 51 percent Italian American.(13) Moreover, its largest unit, the forty-thousand-member Local 89, which conducted its business in Italian, enrolled eight thousand of its members in the new party in 1937. Its leader, Luigi Antonini, became the ALP’s first Chair, and Salvatore Ninfo, an ILGWU vice president, became the chair of the Bronx-county organization, which alternated with Brooklyn as the source for the highest percentage of ALP votes. In 1937, Ninfo was elected under the ALP banner for the City Council, where he represented one of two Italian Americans out of a total of twenty-six members.(14)

The ALP sustained a concerted effort to enlist Italian Americans. Specific Italian clubs were organized in all the major Italian communities. During every campaign, the ALP sponsored radio broadcasts in Italian (frequently featuring Antonini and Marcantonio). (15) The ALP routinely published flyers and other literature in Italian (as well as in Spanish, Yiddish and sometimes in German and other languages). Much of this consisted of translations, however, the ALP also created many individual pieces specifically designed for this audience.  In 1937, the radio broadcast by Antonini, “Fiorello La Guardia: Il Miglior Sindaco che New York abbia mai avuto” was published as a smartly illustrated pamphlet. Its front page featured a photograph of La Guardia in his air force uniform when he served on the Italian front during World War I. The text called upon the City’s Italian Americans to vote for him because: “Quello di rieleggere, come cittadini, un amministratore onesto ed esemplare,  e quello di onorare, come italiani, un uomo che piu di qualsiase altro italiano vivente ha apportato alla nostra razza, qui in questo paese, onore e decoro.” Antonini also confronted the much whispered about question of La Guardia’s actual ethnic identity. He noted that while La Guardia’s mother had a Jewish surname nevertheless she was “italiana nata in Italia.” Furthermore, he queried, would Italian Americans question the italianità of Guglielmo Marconi, because his mother was Irish? (16)In 1945 when the ALP endorsed the Democratic Party candidate, William O’Dwyer, it distributed 250,000 six-page, two-color leaflets entitled “O’Dwyer in Italy,” which related his work with the Allied Control Commission in Italy. (17) In 1948, the Brooklyn branch of the ALP distributed a bilingual pamphlet “It Seems Funny to Me/Sembra incredible che” intended to arouse and exploit Italian American resentments because there was no representation from their group among the candidates of the two major parties. The pamphlet led with the statement: “Funny, isn’t it–that there are six hundred thousand of us in Brooklyn, and not one ‘good enough’ to be a Congressman!” It then points out that in Brooklyn the ALP was running Congressional candidates like Longhi, Serri, Griesi and others [for other elective offices] like Navarra, Leone, DeOptatis, Conzo, Masso.”(18)

The scholarly work on the ALP–almost all of which is unpublished–presents the ALP as essentially a Jewish phenomenon. It is undeniable that New York City’s working class, lower middle class, and even middle class Jewish communities provided the mass base for the ALP. Comprising approximately 25 percent of the City’s population, the Jews accounted for one-half of its votes.(19) However, in the postwar period,  there was some decrease in the predominance of the ALP’s Jewish vote, and sharp increases in the numbers of ALP voters among African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Italian Americans.

The Italians could feel comfortable in this predominantly Jewish institution because relations between the two nationalities were unusually amicable. Neither nationality had come into political or economic competition. Consequently, there were few manifestations of anti-Semitism within the Italian communities. Indeed, the entire Italian American leadership, including the pro-Fascist publisher of Il Progresso, Generoso Pope, repudiated Mussolini’s anti-Semitic decrees.(20) Nonetheless, ALP gains in this community were limited by the reluctance of Dubinsky and his allies to share power. The ALP’s first state committee consisted of thirty Jews, three Italians (who were affiliated with either the ILGWU or the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union), and eight “Others.” (21) In part, the ethnic narrowness of the leadership of the ALP reflected the style of these trade union officers who had fought and won protracted battles with Communists for the control of their unions. After winning these battles, however, they acted in extremely high handed, undemocratic ways, which when challenged they insisted were required in order to hold the Communists at bay. In any case, while the constitutions of Dubinsky and Rose’s unions all but precluded any opposition, New York State’s election laws permitted Communists and others from joining the ALP and contesting its official candidates in the primaries. In the 1944 ALP primary, the left wing triumphed over Dubinsky and Rose, who then exited to form the Liberal Party (Hillman stayed in the ALP). Despite the ILGWU’s large Italian American membership, the major share of the party’s Italian American membership remained in the ALP and the Liberal Party never developed a discernable base in any of the City’s Italian American communities, following LaGuardia and Marcantonio’s lead New York City’s Italian Americans had been excluded from their share of political representation. For example, from 1922 to 1942, only four Italian Democrats from New York City served in the State Senate.(22) In 1935-1936, Italian Americans comprised approximately only 10 percent of the candidates of the major parties. Until 1936, no Italian American had ever contested a senatorial seat and New York City boasted only one Italian American Congressman. (23) Tammany Hall did not permit an Italian American to hold the position of assembly district leader until 1932, when Albert Marinelli assumed that office from a Lower East Side’s district that included Little Italy.(24)  By breaking the two-party monopoly, the ALP created a vehicle for Italian Americans as well as other underrepresented groups to escape this exclusion from the political system.(25)
The great breakthrough for the political empowerment of the City’s Italian Americans was the election of Fiorello La Guardia in 1933. Without exception, the very extensive literature recognizes the interdependence between La Guardia’s political successes and the political maturation of the Italian Americans in the City and also to some extent within the entire United States. However, what has gone almost entirely unrecognized is La Guardia’s involvement in, and dependence on, the ALP as well as the positive attraction this helped create between the ALP and the Italian American community.

The most salient fact is that La Guardia was an enrolled member of the American Labor Party from its first registration in 1937 until he died in 1947. In 1936, the first time the ALP ran candidates, La Guardia announced that he would cast his ballot on the ALP line.(26) And in 1937 when the ALP first accepted enrollees, he changed his registration from Republican to American Labor. Until 1954, New York State required annual voter registration. Hence, every September La Guardia publicly affirmed this affiliation–a fact duly noted in the press. For example, on December 17, 1938, the Times reported that: “The American Labor Party again counted Mayor La Guardia among its members.” (27)

A brief review of La Guardia’s career shows that his affiliation with the ALP represented a perfectly logical step. His deep sense of morality caused him to recoil from New York City’s archetypically corrupt Democratic Party. From 1922 to 1932, he had served East Harlem in the House, where his Republican Party designation contradicted his role as the country’s outstanding urban populist who eloquently advocated for the foreign born, labor, the small farmer, the consumer–all the outcast and forlorn–while he castigated the powerful and the rich.  In 1924 when his support for the Progressive Party’s presidential candidate Robert La Follette caused the Republican Party to withdraw its nomination, La Guardia ran and won as the Socialist party candidate. In his first race for mayor in 1933, there was a much greater sense of La Guardia as the candidate of the City Fusion Party (a good-government party which provided him with almost half his votes) than La Guardia the candidate of the Republican Party.(28) Furthermore, although at least once he publicly announced his adherence to the right wing of the ALP, in actual practice (with the exception of the period of the Stalin-Hitler Pact), he more frequently adhered to the left wing. La Guardia voted in Manhattan, which almost from the inception of the ALP and officially from 1941, was controlled by the left wing. Therefore when he pulled the ALP lever, he voted for those candidates for the House, the State Legislature, and the City Council, who had been endorsed by the left wing. Most conspicuously, La Guardia never failed to vote for Marcantonio, whom the press routinely characterized as pro-Communist.(29) La Guardia enrolled in the ALP from conviction, and the powerful support it provided for his re-elections. In 1945, the ALP was the only political party supporting La Guardia for a fourth term: the Republican Party repudiated the left-leaning reformer, the boss-ridden Democratic Party despised the Little Flower, and the Liberal Party would not forgive La Guardia’s support for the left wing in the 1944 ALP primary.

Vito Marcantonio provided another powerful attraction for the Italian American community to vote ALP. Italian Harlem had never failed to vote in overwhelming numbers for its native son. However, only approximately 20 percent of its vote was cast on the ALP line: the balance was tallied on one or both of the major parties lines. After 1947 the Wilson-Pakula Act (a law which Marcantonio said had his picture on it) limited Marcantonio to Line C. While he remained the undisputed leader of East Harlem, his presence was felt throughout the City.  In 1941, he was elected Chair of the New York County ALP, and in 1948 he became its State Chair. As the radical with the longest tenure in Congress, he assumed the title of titular spokesperson for the American left. His eloquent outspokenness earned him widespread notoriety. To some degree, however, most Italians were rooting for one of their own, especially because the press attacks against him became so completely unmeasured.(30)
Frequently, Italian Harlem’s support for Marcantonio is explained as a product of the prodigious service he provided his constituents and his deep roots in the community. In short, its residents are presented as apolitical nonideological simpletons who were attracted to handouts and motivated by primitive herd instincts. This view, however, fails to take into account that he presented his political views within the community as much as on the floor of the House or from the dais of forums sponsored by a leftist organizations. During a debate with his 1946 opponent held in the heart of Italian Harlem, Marcantonio insisted that he welcomed the support of Communists as much as “every other group that believes in the unity of the American working class.”(31) During his 1949 mayoral campaign, speaking in Italian at an outdoor rally in Bushwick he attacked the Marshall Plan for “[making the Italian] people, our mothers and fathers and blood-kin, slaves of Wall Street.”(32) Marcantonio built a loyal following throughout New York City’s Little Italys by combating the vilification of Italian Americans in the press and championing their interests in the House. (33)  In September 1941 at an ALP rally sponsored by the ALP’s left wing in Brooklyn, he confronted the widespread canard that Italian soldiers acted cowardly. He shouted: “Place the Italian soldier in the anti-fascist trenches and he will equal the best anti-fascist fighters of any other nation. His refusal to fight fascism and Hitler is a compliment of the courage and integrity of the Italian people.”(34) After the war, he urged Congress to declare Italy a full ally of the United Nations and be given representation at the San Francisco Conference called for the organization of the United Nations.(35)

The ALP”s outreach to the Italian American communities was extremely closely tied to Marcantonio. The Marcantonio Papers contain numerous invitations and other correspondence demonstrating the ALP’s continual involvement in New York City’s Italian American communities. In 1939, the chair of the ALP club situated in “the central and most important Italian community in the Bronx” asked Marcantonio to contribute a short article on anti-alien legislation for the first issue of the “Italian American Community Call.” In 1943, the Chair of the Borough Park ALP club in Brooklyn, wrote asking that he speak at a pre-Primary rally. Pointedly, the Chair reminded him that: “the three assembly district clubs in the Boro Park area include the largest section of the Italian population in Brooklyn.”  In 1944, the chair of an ALP club on the Lower East Side wrote Marcantonio to “confirm the date of our Italian meeting. . . .  We are sending out a special letter in Italian to all ALP enrolled Italian voters as well as a thousand additional [Italian American] registered voters of both Republican and Democratic parties.”  In 1945, Rocco Franceschini, the Treasurer of the Kings County branch of the ALP, sought a date for a public meeting in an Italian American community where “we held two successful rallies for Italian Relief and had over five hundred people each time.”   In 1948, the secretary of the Astoria ALP club in Queens wired Marcantonio requesting that he “fly up and back [from Washington D.C.] for two . . . mass meetings on the elections in Italy. Both [are] predominantly Italian communities. Wish to build both rallies around you as main speaker. Plans include distribution of 40,000 folders, 20,000 throwaways.”(36)

Immediately after the war, the ALP’s campaign to “Give a Can of Milk for the Children of Italy” met with great enthusiasm. Italian Harlem’s residents brought fourteen thousand cans of milk to a rally at Benjamin Franklin High School, which was addressed by Marcantonio and Leonard Covello, the Italian American educator. Within three weeks, ALP clubs throughout the city as well as in Syracuse and Rochester succeeded in raising the goal of fifty thousand cans first to 250,000 and then one million cans of milk for Italian relief. (37)

In 1946, the ALP concentrated on unseating a conservative Democratic congressman, James Rooney, whose district encompassed the primarily Irish Park Slope and the solidly Italian Red Hook districts of Brooklyn.  Through a series of back room trade-offs, the ALP obtained the Republican Party endorsement for its candidate, Vincent Longhi, who aspired to replicate Marcantonio’s feat. This darkly handsome, six-foot tall young lawyer was a “powerful operatic speaker.” Speaking to the longshoreman in the district, Arthur Miller describes him as: “Chopping the air like Lenin in October, as he expanded on his main theme, the degradation of honest sons of Italy by an unjust union machine.” He erected his election campaign on much previous work by left wingers to unseat the racketeering leadership of the International Longshoremen’s Union and replace the shape-up system with a union hiring hall. Longhi garnered 31,000 votes (24,051 on the Republican line and 6,895 on the ALP line) to Rooney’s 36,000–a remarkable showing for a left-wing challenger.(38)  The ALP continued to work in Red Hook. During a longshoremen’s strike, the ALP clubs distributed five hundred bundles of food to the striking longshoremen’s families. Others received free medical and dental care. The ALP club became an informal strike headquarters where two to three hundred strikers congregated daily. However, the intensification of the Cold War precluded an alliance with the Republican Party in 1948 and running solely under the ALP banner 1948 Longhi, was defeated.(39) Nonetheless, the strong response from this large working class Italian American community shows that the “Marcantonio phenomenon” did not necessarily have to be unique. Not so parenthetically, Red Hook greeted Marcantonio’s 1949 mayoral campaign with great enthusiasm.

The relatively strong response of New York City Italian American communities to the American Labor Party resulted from a number of causes.  There existed an avowedly leftist cohort within the Italian American community, which provided local leadership for the ALP. Actual membership of Italians in the Communist Party was fairly low.  In an internal Party publication, the district organizer for the area which included Italian Harlem reported in 1938 that Italian membership had grown to 150 members and that their turnover was unusually low.  This figure of course excludes members residing in the Lower East Side’s Little Italy and those scattered about in Manhattan’s numerous Italian enclaves.(40)  Nathan Glazer reports that in 1948, of Manhattan’s ten thousand members only three hundred were Italian Americans.(41) The Communist Party published a weekly, L’Unità del Popolo, which promoted the ALP in these communities. The International Workers Order (IWO), a fraternal organization with very close ties to the Communist Party, consisting of fifteen different ethnic components, included an Italian branch, the Garabaldi-American Fraternal Society, which boasted almost eleven thousand members nation wide in 1947.(42) Italian IWO lodges functioned in all the larger Italian American communities.  For example, in 1942 in East Harlem the Italian American La Progressiva Lodge of the IWO sponsored a rally attended by a standing-room-only crowd of 2,200 to support Marcantonio. Delivering his entire address in Italian, Marcantonio stated: “I want to see that . . . Italy will not only be liberated from the Nazis and fascists but will be free from all imperialist control. Italy must be once more the free Italy of Garibaldi.”(43)

Peter Cacchione, Communist Party City Councilman from Brooklyn, strengthened the presence of the left within New York City’s Italian American communities. A former railroad worker and leader of the unemployed movement, he was elected to three consecutive terms (in 1941, 1943, and 1945) with ever increased votes under the prevailing system of proportional representation.  Enormously popular because of his dedication to his constituents and his oratorical skills, in 1945 he topped the entire Brooklyn slate.  His election (as well as the election of a second Communist Councilman, Benjamin Davis, from Manhattan), in turn, depended on the creation of a left milieu, which the ALP was substantially responsible for. His sudden and unexpected death at age fifty on November 6, 1947 led to a massive outpouring of mourners. At his funeral Stanley Isaacs, Republican Councilman from Manhattan, praised him as “a valuable and intelligent member of the Council.” Speakers at his funeral services included: City Council President Vincent Impellitteri, who represented Mayor William O’Dwyer, Council majority leader Joseph Sharkey, Council minority leader Genevieve Earle and a host of other political and religious leaders.  Marcantonio paid tribute to Cacchione as a “people’s leader [who] . . .  so, so many small people will mourn for.  [He was] an integral part of their living flesh and blood . . his heart beat with them.”(44)

More general causes determined the Italian Americans willingness to join the ALP in such large percentages. No other white Christian ethnic group experienced as much discrimination. This is best illustrated perhaps by their extreme degree of political disfranchisement, a problem the ALP specifically and effectively remedied. It also reflected their uniquely high degree of  proletarianization among the City’s white ethnic groups. Connected to these external impediments, but also responding to other causations, New York City’s Italian Americans lived in self-contained communities to a degree unrivaled by the Irish or Germans. The Italian Americans’ strong group identity allowed them to act outside of the rules and regulations of the dominant society. In brief, their alienation from the dominant society  permitted many of them to deviate from the norms of American political behavior, that is, to vote for a third party. The Italian Americans relative immunity from the endless red baiting of the ALP reflects an as-yet unexplored territory, that is, their significantly weaker response to the prevalent anti-Communist ideology. In large part, this resulted from the reduced influence of the Catholic Church in this community. All of this cries out for further discussion and analysis, however, it is clear that the story of the role of New York City’s Italian American communities in the ALP undercuts the prevailing stereotype of Italian Americans’ political history and lends encouragement to those attempting to uncover and restore the full complexity of Italian American history.

By Gerald Meyer

Endnotes
1. See, for example: Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1965), p. 214; Richard Gambino, Blood of My Blood: The Dilemma of the Italian-Americans (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1975), p. 117.
2. As a major exception to the rule, however, see the pioneering work of Rudolph J. Vecoli, especially his “The Italian Immigrants in the United States Labor Movement from 1880 to 1929,” in Bruno Bezze, ed. Gli italiani fuori d’Italia. Gli emigrati italiani nei movimenti operai dei paesi d’adozione 1880-1940 (Milan: Angeli, 1983), pp. 257-306, and his “Italian Immigrants and Working Class Movements in the United States: A Personal Reflection on Class and Ethnicity,” in Journal of the Canadian Historical Association (1993), pp. 193-205.  See also the contributions of Paul Buhle, “Italian-American Radicals and Labor in Rhode Island, 1905-1930,” 17 (Spring 1978), 121-51; Nunzio Pernicone, “Carlo Tresca, Life and Death a Revolutionary,” in Richard Juliani and Philip Cannistraro, eds. Italians in Search of a Usable Past (American Italian Historical Association, 1989), pp. 216-35, and his “Luigi Galleani and Italian Anarchist Terrorism in the United States,” Studi Emigrazione, 111 (Sept. 1993), pp. 469-89; Bruno Ramirez, “Immigration, Ethnicity, and Political Militancy: Patterns of Radicalism in the Italian-American Left, 1880-1930,” in From Melting Pot to Multiculturalism: The Evolution of Ethnic Relations in the United States and Canada, ed. Valeria Gennaro Lerda (Rome, 1990), pp. 115-42; and Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).
3. See, for example: Lawrence Elliott, Little Flower: The Life and Times of Fiorello La Guardia (New York: Morrow, 1983); Thomas Kessner, Fiorello La Guardia and the Making of Modern New York City (New York: Penguin Books, 1989).
4. Of all the topics linking Italian Americans to the Left, The omission from standard works in Italian American Studies of Marcantonio, who was both an important figure in Italian American political life and an avowed radical, demonstrates the difficulty of scholars to acknowledge the part that radicalism, and especially radicalism associated with the Communist Party, played in the Italian  American experience. For example, there in no mention whatsoever of Vito Marcantonio in: Michael Musmanno, The Story of the Italians in America (New York: Doubleday, 1965); Joseph Lopreato, Italian Americans (New York: Random House, 1970); or, Richard Gambino, Blood of My Blood: The Dilemma of Italian AmericansThe Italian-American Who’s Who, Volume XII, edited by Giovanni Schiavo (New York: Vigo Press, 1948), published a nine-line entry under “Marcantonio” and a twenty-two-line entry for Samuel Marchio a “coal dealer” from Joliet Illinois. (pp. 262-63)  For a balanced treatment see: Jerre Mangione and Ben Morreale, La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience (New York: Harper Collins, 1992).
5. Unless otherwise noted, all election statistics are from The New York Red Books, which during –this period were published annually in Albany by the William Press, Inc.
6. “Tabulation of the Election Results in New York,” New York Times (Nov. 7, 1945), p. 4.
7. “Labor Party Split-Up Changes State Politics,” (April 2, 1944), p. 10B.
8. “ALP Can’t Use `American’ in Official Name Any More,” New York Post (Dec. 17, 1954).
9. “ALP Declaration of Principles” (1937). Deposited in American Labor Party Papers, Tamiment Collection, New York University Library.
10. Howard Rushmore, “Mead ‘Certain’ as ALP Choice,” Journal American (Sept. 1, 1946), p. L4.   One random example is the headline for a front-page article published in the New York Times (Jan. 8, 1948) reporting the exiting of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union from the ALP because it was about to endorse Henry Wallace’s presidential candidacy on a third party. It read: “Communists Take Full ALP Control.”
11. Despite its avowed leftism and its associations with the Communist Party, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, while maintaining a file of the ALP, informed its Albany field office in 1944 not to target it for on-going investigation because “it is a recognized political party.” By 1948, however, the FBI had begun to include registration in the ALP as negative evidence
in Loyalty Program reviews. In 1954, registration in the ALP or even the registration by family members in the ALP became cause for dismissal from government jobs. Evidence supporting the dismissal of teachers from the public schools included enrollment in the ALP. Nonetheless, similar to the Communist-led trade unions, the ALP was never placed on the Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations. Kenneth Waltzer, “The FBI, Vito Marcantonio, and the American Labor Party,” in Beyond the Hiss Case: The FBI, Congress, and the Cold War, ed. Antan Theoharis (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982), pp. 186-89, 194, 199, 213; Ralph Brown, Loyalty and Security: Employment Test in the United States (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958), pp. 276-78; Celia Lewis Zitron, The New York Teachers Unions, 1916-1964 (New York: Humanities Press, 1968), p. 237; John Adams, Without Precedent: The Story of the Death of McCarthyism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1983), pp. 71-72.
12.  Ronald Bayor, Neighbors in Conflict: The Irish, Germans, Jews, and Italians of New York City, 1929-1941(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988), pp. 41, 143.
13.  Robert Laurentz, “Social and Ethnic Conflict in the New York City Garment Industry, 1933-1960” (Ph.D.: SUNY Binghamton, 1980), p. 233.
14.  Starting in 1937, elections to New York City’s City Council were conducted under a system of proportional representation, which survived until 1949. During this period, the numbers of city councilpersons from each party almost exactly reflected the percentage of the vote their parties had received. In this way, ALPers (and also Communists, Liberals, and Republicans) helped govern the City.
15. Kenneth Waltzer “The American Labor Party: Third Party Politics in New Deal-Cold War New York, 1936-1954” (Ph.D. dissertation: Harvard University, 1977), p. 94. “Morris Assailed on Rent: Marcantonio Demands Statewide Freeze and Rollback,” New York Times (Sept. 25, 1949), p. 39.
16. Leaflets deposited in ALP Papers, Tamiment.  “‘The Best Mayor New York ever Had.’ As citizens you should re-elect him as an honest and outstanding administrator, and as Italians you should honor him as the man who, more than any other living Italian, has brought honor and dignity to our people in this country.”
17. The ALP also distributed a leaflet, entitled “Saved,” published in Yiddish and English, which described his work as chair of the War Refugee Board, and another, “Opportunity,” devoted to his statements on civil rights. “O’Dwyer Opens ALP Radio Drive on WMCA Tonight,” Daily Worker (Oct. 8, 1945). Charles Garrett, The La Guardia Years: Machine and Reform Politics in New York City (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1961), p. 295.
18. Deposited in ALP Papers (NY State 1940), Tamiment.
19. See Waltzer “The American Labor Party: Third Party Politics in New Deal-Cold War New York”; William Steward, “A Political History of the American Labor Party: 1936-1944” (Masters thesis: American University, 1959).
20. Bayor, Neighbors in Conflict, pp. 4, 5, 32, 46, 83.
21. “ALP Leaders Praise La Guardia’s Work,” New Leader€ (June 26, 1937), p. 1.
22. Bayor, Neighbors in Conflict, p. 35.
23. Marvin Weinbaum, “A Minority’s Survival: The Republican Party of New York County, 1897-1960” (Ph.D.: Columbia University, 1965), pp. 276, 278. Only East Harlem, which contained the largest Little Italy in the United States, was capable of consistently sending an Italian American to Congress. Indeed between 1922 until 1962, the district was represented by La Guardia, James Lanzetta, Marcantonio, again Lanzetta, then again Marcantonio, and finally.  Italian American control of this Congressional seat was only interrupted by James Donovan, who defeated Marcantonio in 1950 as the coalition candidate of the Democrat, Republican, and Liberal parties, which also secured victories for him in 1952 and 1954. In 1956 he was overwhelmingly defeated in the Democratic Primary by Alfred Santangelo, who went on to win the general election. Santangelo bowed to redistricting: in 1970 East Harlem was joined to the South Bronx to allow for the election of the first Puerto Rican, Herman Badillo. See, Gerald Meyer, Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician, 1902-1954 (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989).
24. Chris McNickle, To Be Mayor of New York: Ethnic Politics in the City (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 49.
25.  The ALP served mightily to aid African Americans’ political empowerment.  In 1941, it supported the election of New York City’s first African American City Councilperson, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.; and in 1944, it supported his bid to become New York City’s first African American Congressperson.  Its endorsements and independent candidates pioneered African Americans for borough president of Manhattan, judgeships, and other elected offices. The first Puerto Rican elected to high public office in the continental United States, Oscar García Rivera, was elected in 1937 as an Assemblyperson on the Republican and ALP lines, and in 1938 running solely on the ALP line.
26. “Communists Lose Status as Party: 300,000 for [ALP],” New York Times (Nov. 5, 1936), p. 1.
27. “Enrollment Drop of 80,085 Suffered by Democrats Here,” p. 4.  See also: “Mayor Still in ALP,” New York Times(May 26, 1945), p. 17.
28.  Bayor, Neighbors in Conflict, p. 130.  Significantly, New York City’s Italians were the only nationality to cast a majority (56 percent) of their votes for La Guardia on this line. This indicated their dual aversion: to the Republican Party for its conservatism, and the Democrat Party for its domination by Irish Americans. This vote also showed their willingness to step outside the two-party system. The Italian American vote on the City Fusion Party line presaged the Italian Americans’ attraction to the ALP.
29.  Even after being elected mayor, La Guardia continued to live within the boundaries of his old Congressional district in an East Harlem tenement at 23 East 109 Street. After his accession to the mayoral office, this district was then represented by Marcantonio. In 1937, he moved to modest but middle class housing at 1274-5th Avenue (between East 109th and East 110th Streets), which was still located within the district. In 1942 he moved to Gracie Mansion, the newly-created mayoral residence, which was located in Yorkville, a predominantly Irish- and German-American community south of East Harlem. In 1944, the State Legislature reapportioned the state, and Yorkville was added to Marcantonio’s district. “Mayor Loses Vote; Didn’t Shift Address,” New York Times (Aug. 12, 1942), p. 1. His endorsement of Marcantonio in 1942 created a considerable backlash. One example of this was an anonymous postcard that read: “Some Dagoes we can get along without–Mussolini and Congressman Marcantonio. And you, if you keep on backing this mug.” La Guardia Archive, La Guardia Community College, Queens, NY.
30. The most extreme examples of what can only be defined as vilification were published in the Daily Mirror, which prior to every election published a long series of anti-Marcantonio articles and editorials. In 1948, for example, among other things these articles stated that he was: “A political pestilence,” and someone who “seeks to destroy America so that it can fall easy prey to its Communist enemies . . . .  [Marcantonio is] a political rotter and traitor to the interests of his own country.”  “Maybe Marc Is Through” (Aug. 26, 1948), p. 23; “Bryan Leads Fight on Marc” (Aug. 23, 1948), p. 5; “The Big Burg Is Red, White, and Blue” Aug. 26, 1948), p. 120; and, “Defeat Marcantonio” (Oct. 19, 1948), p. 1.
31. [Frederick Van Pelt] Bryan [the III] in Debate with Marcantonio: “Communism Principal Topic as Rivals Debate–Forum Gets Big Police Guard,” New York Times
(Nov. 2, 1946), p. 9.
32. Michael Singer, “On This Corner 5,000 Hear Marc,” Daily Worker (Nov. 3, 1949), p. 2.
33. Meyer, pp. 121-22, 132-36.
34. “Aid to Nazi Foes First Line of U.S. Defense–Marcantonio,” Daily Worker (Sept. 13, 1941), p. 5.
35. “Stetinius Voices Tribute to Bloom,” New York Times April 7, 1946), p. 7.
36. F. Costantini to Vito Marcantonio, June 9, 1939. Marcantonio Papers (MP), Box 44 (ALP Clubs, AD 7, 1939); Harriet Keilson to Marcantonio, July 21, 1943.      MP Box 44 (ALP Campaign Invitations, 1941-45); Rocco Franceschini to Marcantonio, May 14, 1945. MP Box 44 (ALP Clubs, Kings 1945); Nicholas Wirth to Marcantonio, Mar. 14, 1944 (MP Box 44 (ALP Campaign 8th AD, 1944-45); Bernard Moss to Marcantonio. Mar. 24, 1948. MP Box 44 (ALP Campaigns and Clubs). Marcantonio’s Papers are deposited in the New York Public Library.
37. “ALP Drive Asks Milk for Italy,” Daily Worker (Jan. 3, 1945), p. 5; “ALP Goes All-Out to Aid Italy’s Kids: Milk Fund Drive Unites Parties, Races, and Religions,” Daily Worker (Jan. 28, 1945), p. 6; “ALP to Aid Italian Children,” New York Times (Dec. 15, 1944), p. 26; “For the Children of Italy: Please Help: Give a Can of Milk.”  Flyer.  Covello Collection, deposited in the Balch Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
38. Arthur Miller, Timebends: A Life (New York: Grove Press, 1987), pp. 146-55. This memoir recounts at considerable length and with much fascinating detail, Miller’s involvement in Longhi’s campaigns. (For example, Tennessee Williams contributed $500 to Longhi.)  Although Longhi was defeated, this experience introduced Miller to a world that he reproduced in his A View from the Bridge.
39. James Parlatore, “Red Hook ALP,” The Star (Nov. 2, 1948).
40. George Charney [George Blake], “The Party in Harlem, New York,” Party Organizer (June 1938): 14-20.
41. The Social Basis of American Communism (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961), p. 221.
42. Thomas J. E. Walker, Pluralistic Fraternity: The History of the International Workers Order (New York: Garland Publishing, 1991), pp. 15, 96-97.
43. “Republican Leader Backs Marcantonio,” Daily Worker (Aug. 8, 1942), p. 3.
44. “12,000 Bid Farewell to Peter Cacchione,” Daily Worker (Nov. 10, 1947), p. 3; “Notables to Attend Cacchione Rites,” Daily Worker (Nov. 9, 1947), p. 3; “Peter Cacchione Dies,” Daily Worker€ (Nov.  7, 1947), p. 1. The close ties between the ALP and the Communist Party is illustrated by Marcantonio’s endorsement of Cacchione in 1943 and the ALP’s endorsement in 1945. Marcantonio to Cacchione, Oct. 11, 1943; Cacchione to Marcantonio, Sept. 30, 1943, and other correspondence, MP Box 44 (ALP Campaign, 1943); “Kings ALP Endorses Cacchione, Sharkey,” Daily Worker (Sept. 14, 1945), p. 12. See also: Simon Gerson, Pete: The Story of Peter Cacchione New York’s First Communist Councilman (New York: International Publishers, 1976).
9/18/96

 

Chris McNickle, To Be Mayor of New York: Ethnic Politics in the City (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 49.

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