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An Open Letter to Richard Stallman

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux at 11:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By figosdev

Gear on neutral

Summary: “It’s past the time for the official cornerstones of the Free software movement to return to their full operational capacity, and to take the gear out of neutral.”

Hello again, we spoke a few weeks ago.

This is just a letter about the people willing to stand up for you, and for your inclusion in the very movement you started. We already know that you were treated unfairly. Some of us were actually warning people this could happen even before it did — the LibrePlanet letter was a pretty big hint to a few of us.

I’ve told people that you want them to stay with the FSF, and why you don’t want them to leave but that it’s better to make certain they continue to promote the core ideals of Free software. That’s what the FSF should be doing. Unfortunately, the FSF is not very good at listening to its members. The way it is structured, (according to someone who used to work for the FSF) an associate membership does not give anybody much influence or ability to hold the FSF accountable. I know this first hand, I was a member years ago.

For what it’s worth, I agree with you on people staying. I don’t believe the FSF is likely to get better if all the pro-Free software, pro-Stallman people leave. And if the FSF were ever to let members influence it more, it would be important for it to do that much differently than OSI did.

“We already know that you were treated unfairly. Some of us were actually warning people this could happen even before it did — the LibrePlanet letter was a pretty big hint to a few of us.”In the past 10 years, OSI became even more subservient to monopolies than it was to begin with. There was an effort to make OSI more open to members — I don’t think that’s a terrible idea, but I think there are a greater number of problematic ways to accomplish that task than beneficial ways. For the FSF to care what members think, to the point where they ever had the ability to change anything, would be perilous to Free software if it were done the wrong way.

More organisations are forming now, most of them with smaller missions than the FSF’s mission. There are things the FSF can’t afford to focus on, such as education, that other organisations can. There is one organisation, Free Software Force, whose primary mission appears to be defending you. I applaud this, but I will be pushing them to do more than just talk about you. I think they are most interested in promoting Free software along the lines that you did — I think that’s a good idea for an organisation.

I’m personally concerned about how many mainstream free projects are currently hosted on Github. Getting these projects away from the clutches of the most Free software-antagonistic company there is, seems like a good idea. This is a company that puts backdoors in its own software. Given their penchant for spyware (telemetry) and the precedent of SourceForge adding spyware to their repos, I don’t like thinking about the future of Github unless there are more people willing to move away from it. Along with the Linux Foundation, Github is bringing all sorts of projects closer to the Microsoft mothership. This doesn’t bode well.

“Along with the Linux Foundation, Github is bringing all sorts of projects closer to the Microsoft mothership. This doesn’t bode well.”The main reason I have for writing you however, is to tell you that in many different ways an unofficial Free software organisation is developing. I don’t mean any of the new organisations, I don’t necessarily even mean the “Free Software Federation” but there is a very broad community with supporters everywhere. I don’t expect you to find them all and talk to everyone, but I recommend you try talking to them. To some degree you do already.

With or without the FSF, and preferably with of course, I recommend you start talking with more of these people as soon as it’s possible to do so. Some of them can act as liaisons, or ambassadors, to help get things between you and everybody else.

This is an unofficial way of doing things, but the fact that this sort of meta-community welcomes you just as much now as before is relevant. Instead of one leader there are several, but what these people have in common is recognition of the fact that you founded the Free software movement, and thus are a key figure — one extremely important to what they do. I’ve spoken with several of these people and some of them are more supportive of you than I realised. Dyne.org for example, is one organisation that has put out an official statement in support of you.

“Dyne.org for example, is one organisation that has put out an official statement in support of you.”My feeling is that you do not wish to retire. If you do, you’re certainly entitled to it. But if you don’t, these are people who will help keep you informed and who you can help keep informed, and who you can rely on to carry your ideas even further. I realise you can do a lot of this on your own, and I realise (and I’m grateful) that you still have supporters in your own organisation. By no means is any of this exclusive or intended to stand in place of that.

I guess what I’m saying is, we won’t let you retire until you’re ready to do so. Most of us can’t afford to fly you around the world, but we do live around the world, and we are eager to continue helping Free software succeed.

Whatever you choose to do next, I hope you will consider this. And I hope we will all hear much more from you in the future.

The reasons for the silence from the FSF are publicly known, but it has stretched out too long. There is no benefit left to this ongoing silence, it is just as pointless for the FSF to keep the lights out like this as it is for them to have an Internet outage. It’s past the time for the official cornerstones of the Free software movement to return to their full operational capacity, and to take the gear out of neutral.

Long Live Stallman, and Happy Hacking.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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