Open Letter to the Free Software Foundation

Continuing the discussion from The injustice of the word "assaulting":

17 days passed since my resignation from the GNU project. I have received support from a few GNU people, and have sent recommendations to the FSF with regard to following up with the resignation of rms that was announced on September 16th, 3 days after my initial message and in the middle of a shitstorm of a Press coverage. Since I did not receive any reply to my recommendations message, I am sharing these with you here.

Recommendations to the FSF

Originally sent on September 17th. Rewritten for public use.

1. Communicating on RMS Resignation

The terse statement of the FSF regarding RMS’ resignation is insufficient.

Although there are ongoing initiatives to address the issue, from a group of GNU maintainers, or from sympathizers such as the Foundation, the lack of reaction is not well-perceived by the free software community at large, and especially by the younger hackers who adopted the GPL-3.0 or AGPL-3.0 for their software.

I think this is a very important step that will move younger hackers towards, or away from the FSF and the GNU project. Please do take care of this and make it a collective process, that the whole community can have their say – this should be a public process, this needs catharsis!

I would write a short blog article inviting the community to participate in some introspective reflection to help the healing process on some public mailing list.

2. Communicating on Sexism

The free software movement has been plagued with sexism. It is the moment to demonstrate that it won’t be the case anymore, that mimicking the leader’s wrong attitude is not going to be tolerated again. I’m not suggesting adopting a code of conduct, because words are not what’s needed: what’s required is concrete action, with recognition of women among free software developers and the creation of a community well-being team that can address sexist behavior in free software, and with actual power; you cannot create a welcoming community simply by stating your intention, you must put it into practice.

3. De-Americanizing GNU and the FSF

The story that led to RMS’ resignation should be a wake-up call that any step you take in our world, at this moment of history, bears the history of all people of all times. When children in school and autochtone people around the world are marching for systemic change, the free software movement should not be left behind in some marginal niche and feel defensive. Please embrace change by desolidarizing with the USA, giving more space to your members around the world. There are fantastic people in China, Iraq, Iran, and other countries struck by U.S. embargo, but there’s no reason for the free software movement to ditch them and break the bond of solidarity.

4. Sorting the Grain from the Straw

RMS does not need forgiving for his positions, he deserves blame, and the FSF and the GNU communities deserve as much blame for not having taken position earlier. But RMS does not need ostracism either, and it would be a mistake to leave him alone. On the contrary, he deserves to be helped, to be supported in understanding why this particular moment unleashed something that was already problematic years ago. RMS created the vision for a world where software could bring about a better world for all and devoted his life to it; in his own words he’s “an old man”, and he cannot simply go away and thrive. The message that needs to be sent is that we care for each other, we just don’t break things and do as if nothing had happened.

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