Free Software Under Attack, an OFFDEM Manifesto

« C’est l’ensemble de ces tentatives pour perpétuer le colonialisme sous couvert de “libertés” que l’on appelle le néocolonialisme » [1]
— NKWAME NKRUMAH Le Néocolonialisme: dernier stade de l’imperialisme, Paris, Présence Africaine [1965] 2009, p.245

This is a first version if you have any suggestion feel free to comment, we would like this to be a shared process

We[2], as a group of free software activists, have decided in 2020 to organize OFFDEM, an intersectional gathering around collective practices and free technology productions. Our reasons have been explained in a friendly post on p.s.: forum: Why OFFDEM?

It now seems about time to voice our feelings towards the astonishing preemption of the developers communities by surveillance capitalist corporations. While there has been large social movements to claim “Fuck Off Google”, and protests against Amazon burst all over the world, large protests in India against Facebook, those companies and other GMAFIA brands are promoted by our “community” events.
We find unacceptable that our communities be associated with such companies: this is crossing a picket line. If free technology producers do not stand up to surveillance capitalist corporations, who will?

OFFDEM is open for freedom, desire, emancipation, meaning. It was a first, necessary step to affirm the existence of free software outside of the reach of surveillance capitalism. Someone had to do it. We took the risk, and all the people who attended with us[3].

We want to affirm the possibility of gathering differently, in conviviality, comfort, benevolence and welcome ; we want to remind that this form of convivial gathering reflects our community values much more than any bullet train style corporate events such as what FOSDEM became over the years, shaped by the surveillance capitalist and Silicon Valley mentality. This is not us, we won’t let them crash our party.

  • Do we need such large events, OFFDEM vouches for decentralization, as most people only have one life and can achieve a limited number of projects, we do not need to be all at the same time at the place, let’s organize and promote smaller and more focused meetings on different topics aiming at practical achievements for the communities they support.

  • Do we need GMAFIA money? Organising smaller events can be done with lower costs and in better conditions than amassing ourselves outnumbered in university corridors. One way is to work in conjunction with local community organisations, this helps developer communities to reach out to a more diverse crowd and open-up to real world issues.

  • Do we need GMAFIA support, well actually no: it’s them who need our support and it is about time to be conscious of this – and to refuse to give it. As we can see we are numerous, and we still do not reach out to countries where many developers are (India for example), let’s be confident on our strenght and capacities and say no to the world they are proposing.


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  1. “All these attempts to perpetuate colonialism under the guise of “freedoms” are called neo-colonialism.” ↩︎

  2. OFFDEM was organized by a group of different collectives based in Brussels, such as le HCKLABXL, les, Neutrinet, la Voix des Sans Papiers, la Maison des Migrants, Source radio show, the Hashët collective, and Petites Singularités.
    We thank Instant City Harbor, HSBXL, EDri, ActivityPub SocialHub, the Tor Project, CCC and all the collectives who enjoyed the gathering. ↩︎

  3. including some who came to OFFDEM who were not attending FOSDEM. ↩︎


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