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Sun Dec 1 07:52:22 MST 2002
NY Times, Dec. 1, 2002
'The Loneliest Man in Congress'
By JIM O'GRADY
IT'S hard to believe, in this era of the Republican Party ascendant, that
there once dwelt in East Harlem a radical left-wing congressman named Vito
Marcantonio. But Marcantonio is remembered by many surviving New Yorkers,
most of them in their 80's and 90's, who passionately supported him during
his seven terms in office, from 1935 to 1937 and 1939 to 1951. (He also ran
for mayor in 1949.)
Some, like former Mayor Edward I. Koch, see him as a leader with a genius
for serving constituents but too closely aligned with American Communism.
(Radicals seldom inspire indifference.)
Next Sunday at 1 p.m., the Museum of the City of New York will celebrate
Marcantonio's centennial with a gathering of historians and others who
remember the congressman. Among them will be Annette Rubinstein, 92, who
worked closely with Marcantonio as a board member of the American Labor Party.
The other day, sitting in the modest apartment on West 71st Street that was
the scene of Marcantonio's last birthday party in 1953 (he died the
following year at 52), Ms. Rubinstein recalled her days with the maverick
known as "the loneliest man in Congress." Her memories of Marc, as his
inner circle called him, interwoven with those of other friends, colleagues
and political sparring partners, provide a broad-stroke oral biography of a
singular New York politician.
The Early Years
"His grandmother used to say to him: `Vito, either you'll be a gangster or
a great man. You better be a great man.' "
"He was born on 112th Street between First and Second Avenues and was
living on 116th Street between Second and Third Avenues when he died. He
lived and died within four blocks. I think that's part of why the people of
East Harlem loved him."
Gerald Meyer, professor of history at Hostos Community College in the Bronx
and author of "Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician, 1902-1954"
"Fiorello La Guardia spoke at Marc's graduation from high school. Marc was
the salutatorian and spoke about the need for old-age pensions. La Guardia
said, `I'm tearing up my speech and talking about the topic raised by this
young man.' Later, he told Marc to call him for a job after he graduated
from law school, which he did."
Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org
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