May First Movement Technology has joined free software organizations and activists in calling for the resignation of Richard Stallman and the rest of the Board of the Free Software Foundation.
Clearly, we need to explain a bit about why we did it and, as important, why we are announcing it this widely.
The concept of free software has guided our organization and is at the center of our technology politics and policies. We believe that software should not cost money and should be free and open (its source code available to anyone so it can be changed and improved. We’ve argued this for many years. It’s what best reflects how software is developed, what serves humanity best and what best demonstrates how collaborative economy can work.
In the movement that supports that idea, Richard Stallman is a towering figure. He is one of the founding developers of the concept, led the Free Software Foundation for many years and first developed the GNU operating system and suite of software programs. He is one of the main advocates of free software and one of its most visible defenders. He writes extensively and speaks on the issue all over the world.
He is also, in the opinion of many who work with him, a difficult person. He can be very combative, abrasive, arrogant and dismissive. He’s prone to insensitive and sometimes destructive comments. He displays sexist and even abusive attitudes towards women. Most of all, he doesn’t seem to recognize the importance of movements and communities often playing a weakening role in their development.
Stallman and his supporters contend that his disregard for decency and diplomacy in pursuit of objective truth is simply misunderstood. We believe this is wrong. It matters how you make people feel and the ability to recognize and atone for how your words and actions hurt others is imperative for any movement leader.
For some time, there has been a storm brewing around Richard Stallman, his role and his behavior and it came to a head when he made comments defending the actions of former MIT computer scientist Marvin Minsky, an associate of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. Many felt Stallman’s comments were offensive and amounted to defense of rape. The ensuing controversy and denunciations led to his being removed from the FSF Board. Here’s is a description of that controversy:
Recently, Stallman announced that he had returned to the FSF Board and, in a video statement, appeared almost defiant. Here’s that video:
Because Richard Stallman’s initial resignation was a product of the outcry and movement response to his statements, his return to the Board so quickly, without explanation, announcement or, as might have been most appropriate, a public discussion of whether such a return was appropriate, outraged those who had mobilized to get him off the Board in the first place.
A large group of those organizations and activists have an open letter urging Stallman’s removal and the resignation of the entire FSF Board.
Here’s the letter:
Our Board has discussed this action and approved joining the signers.
We do this pursuing our mission which is to join the politics of the movements for change with the technology work our movements do and benefit from. This means many things but, chief among them, is the intentional support of the leadership of women in the technology movement and community. We believe that and we have acted on that belief.