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I Would Have Supported the Coup (Under Very Different Circumstances)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 4:02 am by Guest Editorial Team

2020 figosdev


Train coupe
Chapter 13: I Would Have Supported the Coup (Under Very Different Circumstances)

Summary: Richard Stallman’s (rms) ordeals are showing us how not to deal with a founder; this is how power transition could be done instead, according to figosdev

I was not involved in the coup against rms, though I would have participated in it — if it had been very different in its nature.

I will outline a better coup here, which is close to what I originally called for and much farther from what happened instead.

“These days, the FSF only listens to money — and only to big money at that.”The coup took most people by surprise, including me. The one I’d proposed was as much of a rhetorical device as anything. It’s true that I predicted rms being ousted, though it happened much sooner (and it was much dirtier in its tactics) than I had thought likely.

The coup I would have liked would have two primary objectives:

1. Choose / Acclimate a successor for rms (this was a goal of mine)

2. Get the FSF to listen to its members

In hindsight, this coup was somewhat pointless because:

1. It wasn’t my intention to choose a successor, but rather to let everyone already in charge do so. My list of suggestions included the person (Alex Oliva) who actually stands in place of rms now. It also included some other people on the board. It did NOT include John Sullivan, who I have long said was too middle-of-the-road for a leader, but good for the position he already had. In light of the years events, I retract the latter part of the statement.

2. The FSF has never cared what its members think, and now it never will. The idea of getting the FSF to listen to its members was a naive fantasy. These days, the FSF only listens to money — and only to big money at that.

3. Corporations did it first.

Techrights has traced the FSF’s “love of money” all the way back to 2014. It’s interesting to note that 2014 is also the year when I stopped believing in Debian — and the year that I have long considered the point or past the point of “Peak Freedom” in terms of software.

Other important differences between my plan and their coup include:

1. I would have supported a coup that was Honest, which existed primarily to help the FSF, not primarily to screw over and devastate rms.

2. The only goal regarding rms was to get him to step down (even gradually) as FSF president — not to be silenced as a speaker, not to be removed from GNU, not to resign from the board. The way it was done instead was completely asinine, unless the goal was to do harm to the FSF and the movement.

3. It would have protected the legacy of the FSF, including that of its founder.

And here is what happened instead:

The coup was completely dishonest, and was NOT against only rms.

The coup was (as I predicted nearly a year before it happened) against both rms and his supporters — against the Free Software movement itself, and designed to weaken its position against monopolies that don’t care about your freedom. It has done exactly this.

It has removed rms (with NO GOOD REASON) from the board of directors, which in my opinion makes the remaining board itself illegitimate, fraudulent and next to useless. Any action from a board which loses its most prominent founding member under false pretenses is not worth taking seriously — nor is the organisation.

The fraudulent reorganisation and actions taken in bad faith have put the FSF against its own mission, and in practical terms have turned the FSF itself into a scam, asking for money to support a cause which the new organisation has itself worked to dismantle. Throwing money at corruption fixes nothing.

If that work was over and being reversed, that would be one thing. But that is not what has happened.

Between what did happen and what I proposed, one commonality is that Alex Oliva was one of the people I thought might manage to lead the FSF in good faith — someone who understands the movement and its founder.

“Between what did happen and what I proposed, one commonality is that Alex Oliva was one of the people I thought might manage to lead the FSF in good faith — someone who understands the movement and its founder.”As he is a former employee of IBM, I had mixed feelings about that — but I still think he is probably closer to the founder than anybody else who might take over, and if my plan had been implemented it would have most likely led to Oliva being chosen as the new president.

I wanted someone who was not afraid to speak out (and Oliva has indeed spoken out about the coup) because speaking out is something Free software must do, and if the president can’t do that, then the organisation is impotent. Instead of being made president, however, the FSF chose to make Oliva one of TWO VPs — right, just like Michael and Jim in The Office. If you need a sign to let you know just how fake the “new” FSF is, this wasn’t the one that convinced me though it ought to be enough.

“The Open Source Initiative has long worked to co-opt Free Software, to the point where their own co-founder resigned in protest of them doing so.”Plans to remove rms aren’t a new thing — rms has long stood in the way of corporate hegemony. The Open Source Initiative has long worked to co-opt Free Software, to the point where their own co-founder resigned in protest of them doing so.

After the coup, OSI co-founder Bruce Perens mentioned that OSI had its own plan many years ago to depose rms, but that he never supported it. I would note the similarities between the old plan (because looking back, parts of it were clearly deployed) and the more recent one.

“After the coup, OSI co-founder Bruce Perens mentioned that OSI had its own plan many years ago to depose rms, but that he never supported it.”All versions of this plan involve creating new rules and stressing new priorities for Free software that just happen to cut rms and his supporters out of the picture. To give a quick breakdown of events over the past couple years, this theme is easy to illustrate:

December 2018

A petition was created during or after LibrePlanet 2018 (an FSF-hosted and FSF-organised event) calling for rms to be held to LibrePlanet’s safe space rules.

No matter what the rules are called, conflating a lack of “safety” with whether the host organisation’s own president is allowed to override the emcee to make a comment or ask the speaker a question is exactly the sort of inflexible, zero-tolerance stupidity that makes reasonable people hate these sorts of rules.

This is supposed to be a meeting of “hackers” — people who change the world in clever ways. LibrePlanet does this group of revolutionary thinkers no justice. If they simply dealt with real problems and serious disruptions when they arose, nobody would think much of it. Instead, they want a set of rules that guarantees absurd overreactions and puts those over handling disruption in a way that is sane, constructive or reasonable.

Since this happened a year before the rest of the events, it would be reasonable to treat it as separate from the coup. However, the themes in common (a year is also not really very long as far as political strategies are concerned) are more than enough cause to include this — without it, some context is missed.

September 2019

The coup swings into gear, with reactions to comments rms made on the MIT CSAIL mailing list. Since then he has been DEFENDED by prominent feminists, activists and even the former (and female) head of the ACLU, but this has not stopped people from implying that rms is a misogynist and defender of pedophiles, including Jeffrey Epstein (he never did defend Epstein, quite the contrary).

One of the pieces of “evidence” circulated online against rms was a photo of his MIT office door, where someone else had scribbled a joke about women, which rms removed.

The executive director of GNOME (who had also signed the LibrePlanet petition) used the GNOME blog to attack rms in light of these events. The Software Freedom Conservancy issued a statement calling for his resignation.

Stallman “voluntarily” resigns on Sept 16, less than a week after people called for him to. Based on what I’ve been told, I believe the information he was given leading to him stepping down was not given in good faith. RMS DID NOT NEED TO RESIGN either when or how he did — he was scammed out of his position, and with that everyone supporting the FSF was scammed.

Late 2019, duration unknown

The FSF mailing list was censored to remove or even prevent statements that supported rms after his resignation.

September 2019

Stallman.org is defaced to make it look like rms has resigned from the GNU project.

October 2019

Developers from Guix and the GNU Project (also an FSF staff member and a former FSF staff member) call for rms to resign as head of the GNU Project. I find their opportunism and timing disgusting and I note the number of corporate employees and sympathisers with monopolistic companies (including IBM, Microsoft and Google) who were involved with this.

Late 2019 and/or early 2020, Ongoing

The GNU wiki hosts a call for a “social contract” for the GNU Project, not unlike the safe space rules that led to the LibrePlanet petition, with a list of supporters / endorsements that overlaps mostly with the list of people on the Guix petition.

This coup did not start in response to events in September, it used every opportunity it had to latch onto the smallest and most insignificant drama as justification (the questions and comments rms made at LibrePlanet were not controversial, apart than stating his right as FSF president to make them, rather than letting the emcee dictate to him) and even when the FSF had already lost rms from his position as well as the board, the traitors demanded to strip him as well as supporters of even more.

The FSF is not a functional organisation, it is being sabotaged from the outside and within, and the people responsible have not ceased to undermine the founder as well as the community.

“The FSF is not a functional organisation, it is being sabotaged from the outside and within, and the people responsible have not ceased to undermine the founder as well as the community.”What’s more is that (as Techrights has argued in great detail over the past 10-11 months since the resignation) a lot of what happened was based on distortions and lies that have not been rectified. RMS was not merely deposed, he was assassinated. Absolutely nothing has happened to resolve the corruption, apart from Oliva saying that it was in fact dishonest and a coup.

RMS says he is still the head of the GNU Project and to support the FSF, but the FSF is a corrupt organisation that lies to its members. Supporting it is not the solution in light of all we know.

Support Free software, not the FSF which dismantled itself in an attack on its own mission.

Support rms — not the traitors who assassinated him.

Support GNU — but know that some of the projects are run by traitors, who don’t care about your freedom.

If you are new to all this, perhaps you’re thinking: “Why would I support a movement that has elements as dysfunctional as this?”

That’s a perfectly reasonable question. If you feel that way, definitely DO NOT give any money (time is one thing — people will give time to their own television, I don’t think giving it to Free software is likely worse) to the FSF or even to Free software until you are more comfortable with doing so. I’m very selective about that myself.

The reason I would recommend you support Free software is that the alternative is worse, and Free software (as a movement) is still good. Yes, it has a few too many people working against it, but it has had that for years. The FSF (including rms himself) failed to protect us or itself from this coup — the narrative constantly (and either erroneously or dishonestly) is written as though this happened solely to rms.

“The best possible response is to rebuild Free software in a way that does justice to its core principles (particularly the Free Software Definition) both in rhetoric (as the FSF cloyingly soundbites these days) and in practice (as the FSF does not) as well as justice to its history, including the legacy of its founder.”It happened to the FSF, it happened to the new VP, it happened to the board, the GNU Project and all the people who have given time and money to these things. This was a great fraud and a terrible scam.

The best possible response is to rebuild Free software in a way that does justice to its core principles (particularly the Free Software Definition) both in rhetoric (as the FSF cloyingly soundbites these days) and in practice (as the FSF does not) as well as justice to its history, including the legacy of its founder.

No, I did not support the rms assassination. As it happened, the whole thing is a giant lie and a terrible injustice, and those responsible are traitors to Free software. Those who support them are either just as bad if they know better, or manipulated to under false pretenses and by outright lies.

The movement deserves far better than these scoundrels. If you trust the people that did this, they will (continue to) do the same to you.

As to what to do about those who are both within and against the movement, the previous chapter still holds — we need more people, more autonomy — and as Oliva called it one article of his, a “New Dawn” for this movement.

Free Software itself — founded by Richard Stallman — was a shock to all narcissist developers and monopolists. Now that they have taken control of the movement that affronted them, the best way forward is to rejuvenate both our defenses and the good work we can do — and to work (to reroute) around the projects that continue to sell us out to monopolies.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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