Thoughts on GNU and Richard Stallman

September 17, 2019

Richard Stallman has resigned as president and from the board of directors of the Free Software Foundation. I welcome this decision.

As a co-maintainer of GNU packages (including Guix, the Guix Workflow Language, the Guile Picture Language, etc), and as a contributor to various other GNU software, I would like to state that while I'm grateful for Richard Stallman's founding of the GNU project and his past contributions to GNU, it would be wrong to continue to remain silent on the negative effects his behaviour and words have had over the past years. His actions have hurt people and alienated them from the free software movement.

When I joined GNU I used to think of Richard as just a bit of a quirky person with odd habits, with a passion for nitpicking and clear language, but also with a vision of freeing people from oppression at the hands of a boring dystopia mediated by computers. Good intentions, however, aren't enough. Richard's actions over the past years sadly have been detrimental to achieving the vision that he outlined in the GNU Manifesto, to benefit all computer users.

GNU's not Unix, but Richard ain't GNU either (RAGE?). GNU is bigger than any one person, even its founder. I'm still convinced that GNU has an important role to play towards providing a harmonized, trustworthy, freedom-respecting operating system environment that benefits all computer users. I call upon other maintainers of GNU software to embrace the responsibilities that working on a social project such as GNU brings. The GNU Manifesto states that "GNU serves as an example to inspire and a banner to rally others to join us in sharing". Let us do that by welcoming people of all backgrounds into GNU and by working hard to provide a healthy environment for fruitful collaboration.

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