Olga Domanski: Part of ‘a generation of revolutionaries’

From the March-April 2016 News & Letters

Revolutionaries aren’t easy to memorialize. They become part of our shared historical memory, their lives gathering ever-new meaning as the fight for freedom cuts deeper and becomes more concrete. They are above petty “last words,” and will converse with unborn generations as they did with us. This is the light in which I think of Olga.

Olga Domanski with poet Adrienne Rich in 1994. They maintained a correspondence until Rich died in 2012. Photo: News & Letters

Olga Domanski with poet Adrienne Rich in 1994. They maintained a correspondence until Rich died in 2012. Photo: News & Letters

Olga had tremendous strength of character. Her responsibility to Marxist-Humanism was her responsibility to struggling humanity, with no hint of condescension, vanguardism, or academicism. A discussion with a worker or refugee could open a window or door to a new, more human world. State power or bourgeois honors meant nothing in comparison.

This attitude to life is powerful in itself. The miracle of human creativity is that a generation of revolutionaries (Raya Dunayevskaya, Olga, Charles Denby, Andy Phillips, a handful of others) managed to embody it in organizational form. A “philosophic moment” became a world-historic revolutionary tendency.

In my experience as a member of News and Letters Committees, which has sometimes been fraught, Olga was always encouraging of philosophic questioning and development. Her loyalty to Raya’s body of ideas wasn’t (and couldn’t be) a dogmatism. It was at one with her confidence in human beings.

Olga loved music and culture. She sang in choir. She enjoyed attending the Lyric Opera. When I worked there it was fun discussing my conversion to Verdi with her. You could discuss most things with her; we once had an interesting conversation on the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The kind of discussions people will still have after the revolution.

She wasn’t just an influence on my own life. By taking responsibility for the organizational expression of the idea of freedom, by making that exist, Olga made my life possible. What can one say? We miss you, comrade, and we’ll pay it forward.

–Gerry Emmett


For more on Olga Domanski, see also:

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