Olga Domanski: Taking organizational responsibility

March 11, 2016

From the March-April 2016 issue of News & Letters

Ever since first working with her in Detroit in the 1970s, Olga Domanski impressed me as one of the warmest and most caring persons I’ve known. Along with Olga’s unassuming, amiable manner came a steely resolve, what she called taking organizational responsibility.

When the ailing Thurgood Marshall, who had risen as a voice in the legal arena for the great Civil Rights Movement to be the first African American on the Supreme Court, decided to step down, Olga was furious. She exclaimed, “That’s not taking organizational responsibility!” George H.W. Bush’s choice to take this African-American “slot” was Clarence Thomas, who continues to be the most reactionary justice on an increasingly reactionary Court.

Olga’s total commitment to organizational responsibility never stopped as she grew older and frail. Greater than any individual’s life is the power of the idea of freedom that needs to be cherished even in the makeup of the Court.

Olga’s incredible talent came out in her many lead articles for News & Letters. In her self-effacing manner, she repeatedly said the leads “wrote themselves.” Any who write leads for News & Letters know that is not true, but Olga was saying that, when one is disciplined by the idea of freedom, facts emerge in a way that illuminate whatever issue one is taking on.

Olga reminded us in various ways that, as important as is catching the power of the Idea as it emerges in and transforms the world, that is only the beginning. Crucial then is to capture the power of the Idea “explicitly” to overcome the ever-present risk of the movement “‘sinking back’ into ‘immediacy,’” as Olga put it in her 1995 essay, “Revolutionary Feminism, ‘Private Enclaves,’ and Hegel’s Notion of Life.”

In that philosophic dialog and elsewhere, Olga made it clear that organization has to begin from an organization of thought, namely, Absolute Method, Hegel’s idea of freedom as a self-moving process, which could itself make a difference when humans realize in our heads and in life the self-determining Idea of freedom that spans “generations.” Though something of Olga’s organizational responsibility lives on in those she left behind, nothing will replace her presence, which will be sorely missed.

–Ron Kelch

For more on Olga Domanski, see also:

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