The Many Political Hats of Andrew Dobbs

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one-time liberal, one-time warmonger… always opportunist

Many know Dobbs as a “left wing” activist. Many more know him as a prominent NGO person in the Austin scene. While we could write an entire article about the backwardness of professional NGO “activists” this article will focus on Dobbs’ perceived status as a “leftist” and his lesser known past as a shill for US imperialism and a warmonger during the early part of the US Iraq war.

Dobbs’ father is a wealthy US military contractor (employed by DynCorp, which receives 96% of its 3 billion dollar annual revenues from the US government) who has a vested material interest in “spreading US democracy” in the Arab world. While we have no interest in passing the sins of the father onto the son, it interests us greatly that in both left wing as well as right wing journals, newspapers, and blogs the younger Dobbs came rushing to the defense of the senior. Like his father, Dobbs is a crafty and astute businessman—only his business is politics. This should be understood clearly as opportunism.

Charting Dobbs’ political trajectory over the last decade or so would take up more pages than this brief article can contain. However, let’s start with student activism at the University of Texas which Dobbs still brags about to this day. What he omits consistently is his work for the right wing. Staring to build his brand as a “progressive” Democrat, he campaigned for Howard Dean’s presidential bid in 2004. He is fairly open about this fact but forgets to mention that during this time be became an ardent supporter of the Iraq War and even penned articles against the left.

Supporters brought it to our attention that Dobbs worked on a conservative paper called Contumacy (inside the liberal classroom). The title, like the paper itself , could be considered a far right libertarian slanted propaganda work.  It amounted to a precursor of staple alt-right ideology—stringently anti-abortion, pro-war, sexist, and jingoist (anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia). Dobbs’ role in the paper was not “a voice of reason” as some optimists might hope, on the contrary he wrote articles in which he compared anti-war left wing activists to al-Qaida, anti-Zionist activists to Hitler. He even declared his “love and support” for the Iraq War in no uncertain terms with headlines such as “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the War”. In what most resembled the commonality with the alt-right Dobbs declared “claiming that the US somehow brought 9/11 on itself is the academic equivalent of saying a girl deserved to be raped.” This kind of demented false equivalence is the fuel in the engine of the alt-right, which to this day still compares the people of the third world to rapists and invokes  the specter of rape when convenient to make a political point.

Dobbs’ work was not purely think-pieces either—he took the time to slander and denounce organized efforts led by Palestinian students of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee to educate the student body on their national liberation struggles. He criminalized these student activists by calling them anti-Semitic and comparing them to terrorists, an old tool in the Zionist grab bag of tricks. He would warn that the left was just “too slow to notice the evil of the terrorist menace when it is bearing down upon them” in his efforts to whip up war hysteria, presumably to increase public opinion for his father’s business (war) which he still stands to inherit profits from. These profits should be understood as derived from the mass murder of innocent people whom Dobbs casually labeled “terrorists”.  He even insisted that a defeat of US imperialist at the hands of the Jihadists would spell the “end of our republic.” An unsurprising position for a white guy who is desperately trying to make his writing career take off by switching from center left to right wing war monger.  He summarized the ideals of the United States as “a commitment to liberty, an unflinching willingness to fight for what we believe in, courage in the face of great evil and hope instead of the nihilism of the left”

While Dobbs did manage to offer up a halfhearted apology for his work in right wing organs and even claimed to have changed his stance on the war, this was framed in a way that indicates Dobbs’ belief that war itself, or the Iraq War in particular, is unable to accomplish the lofty ends he desired. In his phony apology he conceived of the war as bad but the ideas behind it as good when stating “I have come to oppose war in general, to see it for the sham that it is.  No matter how holy the cause, how decent the aims, you simply cannot achieve a moral end with immoral means.”

In regard to seeing the stated purpose of the war as “holy” with “decent aims” we seriously disagree and want to highlight the fact that this apology appears totally performative—a political move to further his career. It even includes a statement of purpose to get active again in his old leftist circles. Moralizing aside it is evident that even in apology Dobbs was a supporter of US imperialism, even if  a bit skeptical of its means. With this apology we are supposed to sweep it all under the rug—forget and forgive. There is no holy cause or decent aims behind US foreign policy, yet this is what he passed off as an apology!

We do not speculate whether or not Dobbs actually believed anything he said during this period. We do however doubt that he believes much of anything he says now. While he takes no issue with deeming those in our movement “ultra-leftist”, we can only take this as a compliment coming from someone who spent so much time producing right wing trash in service of racism and US imperialism. His about-face on the matter did not come with any kind of accountability (we do not count that bullshit apology as accountability).

We see no real effort to change his actual approaches to organizing either, as he attempts to bully and boss his way into leftist circles like those that mobilized against the Islamophobic rally in Austin on June 10th organized by ACT for America. Dobbs was not invited to take part yet he took it upon himself to goad others into distrusting their fellow organizers using an old FBI tactic called red baiting by insinuating that fellow organizers were dangerous members of Red Guards Austin—which is only a danger to fascists and the ruling class but nonetheless a group which said organizers are not members of.  Once again, old habits die hard and he just couldn’t help himself from comparing leftists to terrorists, invoking the specter of communism in what amounted to a failed attempt to scare others into accepting his domineering presence and influence.

While we do believe that individuals can change their views and develop politically, we feel that these changes, if genuine, should also include accountability in the movement. These matters and positions, especially regarding Dobbs’ attempt to insert himself in every left wing space he can, should be regarded cautiously. Dobbs no longer claims to be a liberal or a democrat and now takes to calling himself a socialist. He has gone so far as to become a public face of the Austin Social(fasc)ist Collective, talking on their behalf and ironically leading “anti-war” demonstrations, though there is no evidence  that this is not just another jacket he wears to make himself seem more interesting to his readers, friends, and employers.

Early this year on January 20th (in response to the inauguration) our collective refused to work with a coalition called “One Resistance ATX” due in no small part to their collaboration with the police. The coalition included Andrew Dobbs as one of its most vocal advocates and organizers. Dobbs wasted no time proclaiming the event a great victory even though it completely collaborated with the police from start to finish (with or without a permit). We instead formed our own Antifascist bloc as we deemed being anti-Trump was not enough and our politics should be made clear. Our action and involvement was rebuked by Dobbs on several occasions from his social media accounts. While Dobbs and his supporters circled the wagons to do damage control when people got upset that he was on a police collaborationist coalition we would do well to revisit his attempts at whitewashing and hiding his shilling for US Imperialism. Dobbs stated in his “apology” that “I think that my father’s work—as a trainer of Iraqi police officers—was a noble one.” This is telling and helps us grasp why he stuck around in the coalition which decided officially beforehand  to work with the police—is the work of Austin police department also noble? Move over Danny Fetonte you’ve got competition here!

It is to be expected that a long time political opportunist who has made a lot of money from jumping from cause to cause and who has family money tied to the US imperialist project  would lack principles and provoke panic at the thought of encountering actual revolutionary organizers. Dobbs has even made requests that RGA and our supporters promise not to “wig out”—meaning that we promise to stay within the bounds of bourgeois law and order, and that it is wrong to rebel. We have no interest in taking the advice of someone so shady, who went from being a vague leftist to being a shill for the far right to claiming to be a socialist with no real accountability.  Relationships between our collective and ASC have steadily worsened with the increase in Dobbs’ participation in ASC. While we have always had major disagreements with ASC, relations had remained cordial up until the point of May 1st when members used the fact that fascists attacked a communist led rally as political ammunition against the Maoist movement. Not surprisingly Dobbs was one of the main antagonists. On May 1st Dobbs safely waited at the Capitol, refused to confront the fascists he knew were on the march, and then jumped on the chance to celebrate what he understood as a victory for fascists against Austin’s non-liberal antifascist movement.

We would like to take this opportunity to call ASC to task in addressing why they would work so closely with someone who has in recent memory been a right wing propagandist. What political epiphany or world event or collective rectification effort took place to truly transform Dobbs? Is he even transformed? Our position is that Dobbs, like many others in the Austin left, is a careerist and opportunist trying to make a buck and a name for himself through phony half-hearted activism, and that he and others like him will go to whatever length to carry on their role. Their role is clear: they are the trusted and reliable servants of the ruling class, and their task is to manage the affairs of the workers in such a way as to be amicable to the status quo.  To us this seems to be a fitting partnership between Dobbs and ASC, as both share this attitude toward the cause of the working class. We insist that these charlatans are not worth being even temporarily confused with socialists, let alone communists or revolutionaries.  People who take on such titles should expect to be held accountable for their actions and their words. It is not as if Dobbs’ love affair with the right came before his political activism;  one of his main bragging points was how he changed from a leftist to a supporter of the imperialist war against the Iraqi people, only to make an apology which was in essence still shilling for imperialism from a chauvinist and jingoist perspective.  We need leaders from among the people who serve the people themselves if revolutionary and progressive movements are to grow and spread. What we do not need is more opportunists and swindlers like war-brat Andrew Dobbs.