Ben Dobbs

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Template:TOCnestleft Ben Dobbs 1912 - 1993, was a prominent California socialist and lawyer.


Born in the old Jewish neighborhood in East L.A., Ben Dobbs joined the Young Communist League during the early days of the Great Depression. He rose to become a leading organizer in the Southern California district of the Communist Party USA. After serving in the U.S. Army infantry during the Second World War, he came home and went back to his political work in the Communist Party. During the McCarthy era he and thirteen other California defendants (including DSA Vice Chair Dorothy Healey) were convicted under the Smith Act of conspiring to advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. This historic trial, and the eventual gutting of that verdict by the U.S. Supreme Court, was a watershed event in U.S. history.[1]

Communist/socialist activism

Ben Dobbs continued to be active in the 1960s, running unsuccessfully for Congress as a Peace and Freedom Party candidate. In the early 1970s Ben's long fight to democratize the CPUSA ended with his resignation. He did not skip a beat, however, and joined the fledgling post-New Left organization called the New American Movement. He was elected several times to NAM's national leadership, and played a key role in helping to bring about the 1982 merger of NAM with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to form DSA.[2]

Leaving the Party/NAM

In the early 1970s, Dorothy Healey, Dobbs and a group of their former California comrades, including housing and civil-liberties activist Frank Wilkinson and attorneys Ben Margolis and John McTernan left the Communist Party USA. They later joined the New American Movement and eventually Democratic Socialists of America.[3]

New American Movement

In the late 1970's Ben Dobbs was a Los Angeles, California, contact for the New American Movement.[4]

Socialist Community School

In 1978 was a non-committee teacher at the Los Angeles Socialist Community School[5].

As at Feb. 1, 1980, Ben Dobbs was a member of the Socialist Community School Committee.[6]

New American Movement

As at Feb. 1, 1980, Ben Dobbs was listed as a member of the steering committee of the New American Movement.[6]

Old NAM communists

Kathie Sheldon ‎New American Movement, July 5, 2009


Herman Rosenstein, Milt Cohen, Ben Margolis, Dorothy Healey, Saul Wellman, Ben Dobbs

Photo by Scott Van Osdol, NAM convention 1981.

DSA Contact

Circa early 1980s Ben Dobbs was listed as an at large Los Angeles Council member for the Democratic Socialists of America. At the bottom of the list was the statement, "Change the USA, work with DSA!".[7]

Friend of the New American Movement

In 1981, Ben Dobbs and Ada Dobbs were listed as friends of the New American Movement.[8]

Tribute to Ben Dobbs

On Sunday, June 7, 1981, the Los Angeles Chapter of the New American Movement sponsored a Tribute to Ben Dobbs for "His lifelong commitment to socialism". The event was held at the Miramar-Sheraton Hotel, Santa Monica, California. Ben Dobbs was present at the event.[9]

Los Angeles DSA

In the early 1980's Ben Dobbs was a leading member of Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America[10].

In 1985, Ben Dobbs served as Chair of the Advisory Committee of Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America.[11]

"Survival Day 84" "benefactors"

The Federation For Progress' Survival Fest 84, "Survival Day 84" "benefactors" included Ben Dobbs.

Los Angeles DSA Executive Board 1989

According to Los Angeles Left October 1989, Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America's Executive Board consisted of Ben Dobbs, Brad Jones, Barbara Hooper, Claire Kaplan, Bob Niemann, Paul Schimek, Harold Meyerson, Steve Tarzynski.

Upton Sinclair Club

In the early 1990s, Dobbs and Ada Dobbs of Los Angeles were executive members of the Upton Sinclair Club, of Democratic Socialists of America. The club consisted of wealthy Californians able to contribute significant donations to DSA.[12]

California DSA “Key” list

In 1993 Ben Dobbs of Los Angeles, California was on a list of “Key’ California Democratic Socialists of America contacts.[13]



  1. Dem. Left MAY/JUNE. 1993 page 15
  2. Dem. Left MAY/JUNE. 1993 page 15
  4. undated NAM contacts list Tarzynski papers Southern California Library for Social Change
  5. SCC Non-school Committee Teachers list, Spring 1978
  6. 6.0 6.1 Socialist Community School Committee list, Feb. 1, 1980
  7. DSA contacts sheet
  8. 10th Anniversary Booklet for the New American Movement, 1981
  9. Tribute to Ben Dobbs program, June 7, 1981
  10. LA DSA membership list, undated Steve Tarzynski papers
  11. LA, DSA, letterhead January 28th, 1985
  12. Sinclair Club membership list, Steve Tarzynski papers
  13. CA DSA Key list January 24 1993