Olga Domanski, 1923-2015

January 7, 2016
Olga Domanski speaking at meeting for the centenary of Raya Dunayevskaya, Detroit, Mich., Sept. 18, 2010.

Olga Domanski speaking at meeting for the centenary of Raya Dunayevskaya, Detroit, Mich., Sept. 18, 2010.

The world has lost a great fighter for liberation. Olga Domanski, who joined the socialist movement as a youth at the time of World War II, quickly found her way to the Johnson-Forest Tendency. She identified with what would become Marxist-Humanism from the moment she heard Raya Dunayevskaya speaking for the Tendency and established a political-philosophic-organizational relationship and friendship with Dunayevskaya that would last the rest of their lives. Domanski recognized a quality of leadership in her that Dunayevskaya would later develop under the name “philosophy as leadership.” Domanski took on as her life’s work the task of helping the development and projection of what became Marxist-Humanism—well before Dunayevskaya created her philosophic moment in 1953—and ensuring the life and growth of its organizational expression as News and Letters Committees.

Beginning with her activity as a founding member of News and Letters Committees in 1955 at the height of McCarthyism, she made contributions central to the development of Marxist-Humanism and its organization for the next 60 years. Together with Andy Phillips, Domanski maintained the vibrant West Virginia Local in the 1950s, which was an important part of the development of the first Marxist-Humanist book, Marxism and Freedom, from 1776 until Today.

Moving to Detroit at Dunayevskaya’s request in order to be a vital part of the functioning of the organization’s Center, she subsequently served as the secretary to Dunayevskaya for over 25 years as Dunayevskaya worked out Philosophy and Revolution, from Hegel to Sartre and from Marx to Mao; Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution; Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution: Reaching for the Future; and all her other writings. Others served as secretaries along the way, but it was Domanski who was central to helping Dunayevskaya with so much of the writing of her books, articles, minutes of meetings, and letters, as well as organizing her notes and writings and communicating her ideas and views to others. Always at the forefront of Domanski’s mind was the crucial role of an organization based on the Marxist-Humanist body of ideas. She was the organizational person par excellence, who, as well as engaging in those kinds of tasks, did not shy away from or look down on the nuts and bolts work of keeping the national office and the organization running.

For a quarter of a century, Domanski as national organizer was essential to continuing News and Letters Committees and Marxist-Humanism after the 1987 death of its founder, Dunayevskaya. Thanks to Domanski, News and Letters Committees still functions, and has had opportunity to demonstrate Marxist-Humanism’s historic right to exist in turning points like the struggles in Bosnia in the 1990s and in Syria today, even as other revolutionaries outside and even within the organization were failing that test. Her fidelity and principled commitment to the vision and philosophy of freedom developed by Dunayevskaya never wavered.

Domanski was instrumental in establishing the Raya Dunayevskaya Memorial Fund in 1987 to preserve and present Dunayevskaya’s papers to her Archives, to assure that her published writings remain in print, and to encourage research into her works and ideas. She served as one of the Fund’s founding Trustees until 2015.

Domanski was a founding member of Women’s Liberation—News & Letters Committees in 1971, contributing to Notes on Women’s Liberation: We Speak in Many Voices in 1970 with “Pages from a Shop Diary” of her experiences as an autoworker at GM in Flint, Mich. Dunayevskaya, determined that Domanski’s writings be recognized, included two articles she wrote in Women’s Liberation and the Dialectics of Revolution: Reaching for the Future.

Her powerful leads and editorials, her activity articles and articles that she elicited from workers, including miners, and others speaking for themselves, helped maintain and shape News & Letters as a Marxist-Humanist newspaper that met the objective situation with a philosophy unseparated from the movement from practice. At times she served on the Philosophic-Technical Committee that produces the paper, and for decades she edited the Readers’ Views section.

Domanski’s friendships and correspondence with a wide array of activists, revolutionaries and critical thinkers—including members of News and Letters Committees—have included over the years Adrienne Rich, Gloria Joseph, Phyllis Jordan, Narihiko Ito and Laszlo Gati. Domanski will be missed greatly not only by all of us in News and Letters Committees, but by so many others whose lives she touched.

Let us honor Domanski by continuing the organization, projecting the body of ideas so dear to her, preparing for the revolutions to come, and holding out a banner of the new human society to which she dedicated her life. Look for the January-February 2016 issue of News & Letters, which will carry an In Memoriam and more remembrances of the revolutionary life of Olga Domanski.  Your own remembrances will be appreciated.

–Franklin Dmitryev, for the Resident Editorial Board of News and Letters Committees, Jan. 7, 2016

See also “In memoriam Olga Domanski, 1923-2015” in January-February 2016 News & Letters.

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