GNU Project Maintainers Move to Oust Richard Stallman from Leadership

GNU Project maintainers are working to oust Richard Stallman from his position as head of the organization. In a joint statement published yesterday morning, a collection of 22 GNU maintainers and developers thanked Stallman for his work and declared that he can no longer represent the project:

We, the undersigned GNU maintainers and developers, owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Stallman for his decades of important work in the free software movement. Stallman tirelessly emphasized the importance of computer user freedom and laid the foundation for his vision to become a reality by starting the development of the GNU operating system. For that we are truly grateful.

Yet, we must also acknowledge that Stallman’s behavior over the years has undermined a core value of the GNU project: the empowerment of all computer users. GNU is not fulfilling its mission when the behavior of its leader alienates a large part of those we want to reach out to.

We believe that Richard Stallman cannot represent all of GNU.

Stallman’s personal website continues to prominently display his intentions to remain in the leadership role. He added the header to his site, following the publication of remarks he made regarding a 17-year old victim of sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, which precipitated his resignation from both MIT and the Free Software Foundation:

The Stallman saga has continued to grow stranger in the aftermath of his resignations, as many were concerned that he would be homeless after his website featured a notice that he was “Seeking Housing,” accompanied by a link leading to his specific requirements for a temporary residence. His personal site was also reportedly vandalized nine days ago with a message that he was stepping down from the GNU.

The defacement with the false GNU resignation message was reverted shortly thereafter on September 30, and replaced with the header saying he continues to be “Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project” with no intention of stopping soon. Stallman has not yet publicly acknowledged the statement from the GNU maintainers. He has also not yet responded to our request for comment.

Yesterday the Free Software Foundation (FSF) published a statement indicating it was re-evaluating its working relationship with the GNU project, which has provided some of its technical infrastructure, fiscal sponsorship, and copyright assignment:

GNU decision-making has largely been in the hands of GNU leadership. Since RMS resigned as president of the FSF, but not as head of GNU (“Chief GNUisance”), the FSF is now working with GNU leadership on a shared understanding of the relationship for the future. As part of that, we invite comments from free software community members.

Stallman responded the next day, indicating he wanted to work with FSF on restructuring the relationship between the two organizations:

I recently resigned as president of the FSF, but the FSF continues to provide several forms of crucial support for the GNU Project. As head of the GNU Project, I will be working with the FSF on how to structure
the GNU Project’s relationship with the FSF in the future.

The FSF maintains some critical responsibilities in that it currently holds the copyrights to enforce the GPL. Stallman has recently called on people to continue supporting the FSF’s work, despite his resignation from the organization.

The small contingency of GNU project maintainers who penned the statement published yesterday seem to be on the same page with FSF in its rejection of Stallman’s leadership. Their message concludes with their intention to overhaul the leadership of the free software movement to be more inclusive of the people who have been alienated by Stallman’s behavior over the years:

“We think it is now time for GNU maintainers to collectively decide about the organization of the project. The GNU Project we want to build is one that everyone can trust to defend their freedom.”

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11 Comments


  1. Richard Stallman is, by all normal human standards, a complete lunatic. He also happens to be a genuine genius. And more to the point, by every sane human standard, Richard Stallman has done nothing wrong. He has not committed any crime.

    These maintainers are trying to get him fired, and make him homeless. Total scum.

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    1. In what world do you believe that committing a crime is necesarry to lose your job? No, a person is losing their job that they otherwise do well die to their behavior. Happens every day, and the idea that immediate homelessness is a result is alarmist and ridiculous.

      Person loses job, news at 11. Live goes on.

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      1. Nothing by RMS recently or before makes him unfit for his position. In fact I can sign my name under every word he wrote.

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    2. Richard Stallman has plenty of ways to make a living. Losing his current job should not make him homeless.

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      1. I think he should step down. He is 66 years old. Not that that is an impediment for a person to perform their duties, of course (the president of the world’s most notorious country is 74 years old), but on the same page, there is nothing wrong with retiring around that age. Why can’t he live a quiet and peaceful life away from the project? I think it is stubborn from him to try to grapple to a position that he is clearly not wanted in anymore. A smooth respectful move would be to admit wrongdoing, accept resignation and move on with his life. That said, I see little to no chance of him being able to realistically keep any kind of power. At the end of the day, foundations and organizations are a representation of their members. If a majority (or a significant minority, say 40%) of the FSF (and SFC and GNU and similar groups) don’t want him as their leader, why should he insist so fiercely? I get it is a harsh change in his life to suddenly turn away from the thing he has been doing for so long, but let’s face it, this is no world for old men. He can continue to travel and make Q&A sessions and give speeches, just now as an “important figure in the history of Free/Open Source software, GNU and tech”, instead as “chairman of this big organization”. Come on, Mr. Stallman. If you are reading this, come to your senses. Be reasonable just this once. Everyone will thank you. Wish you a good peaceful retirement life.

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    3. …but he committed word crimes that cancel culture can’t ever get over and thus they must work tirelessly, in mob fashion to make him pay for his high crimes of having thoughts become words and then sharing them however disturbing they may be.

      Sane individuals would either counter with stronger arguments in disagreement, agree with him or otherwise remain neutral. We call this civil discourse but that’s old and some say racist, nowadays, if you’re not for “us” you’re against us, there is no middle ground or grey areas and thus if you’re not on board with “us” that makes you worthy of the nastiest labels society has to offer irregardless the label actually fits.

      People, haven’t you learned yet, keep your opinions to yourself, that’s the kind of world we want to live in now.

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  2. While I don’t think Richard Stallman should be fired I think he should probably step back from being the FSF and GNU frontman. At least for the time being.

    His actions and behaviour are not compatible with a person in a leadership position.

    That said nor is Trump and he also refuses to resign. So we have multiple lunatics with behavioural disorders running various organisations. What a world we live in.

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  3. I don’t exactly care for Stallman but I hope he remains in GNU leadership for as long as he wants. The behavior of the FSF in this case is truly despicable, trying to leverage GNU to complete the removal of him from public life.

    Stallman very smartly offered to “help” FSF and GNU revise the nature of their working relationships. The relationship is fine. Stallman simply knows that the comment about “revising relationships” is a veiled threat, not anything people are truly interested in doing.

    Want to eliminate “cancel culture” overnight? End anonymous internet usage. Like magic, I have a feeling the vast majority of people would suddenly get real careful about what they said and who they said it about.

    Seriously though, i think a lot of “cancel culture” gains its power from fears of a vocal minority. Companies fire people because they think a smattering of twitter loons represent a larger critical mass of consumers or public. Maybe a non-profit can be formed that has the stated goal of accurately estimating the extent and nature of group opinion in cases where someone is “called out”. Instead of the knee-jerk reaction of getting rid of a person or thing to eliminate negative opinion, corporations can be educated about the value in waiting, and the extent to which vocal minorities on twitter vastly warp actual public opinion.

    We are actually living in a world where any judgment, statement, or action can have devastating life effects if placed in the wrong context. We are even judging people for opinions they held in the past! The only judgment that is safe to make is negatively judging what everyone else is.

    “The best lack all conviction, while the worst. Are full of passionate intensity.”

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    1. The keyboard warriors working at these orgs don’t help matters either by skewing data in the favor of their ideologies.

      So you have the initial problem of the presumption by non-techies in the business sector and then feeding fuel to that fire is the manipulating of that data that helps move that presumption along making the outrage seem much larger than it actually is in the real world.

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  4. At the end of the day, GNU is Stallman’s project. But if contributors so choose they can fork the code. Best for everyone to compromise. And time to stop the Cancel Culture of punishing people accused of Wrongthink by destroying their lives and careers. The keyboard bombadiers hiding behind their screens should show up in person and make their accusations to his face or STFU.

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  5. I have better things to worry about than Richard…to the person that said above that if 40% want Richard out……….so the minority (40%) should dictate over the majority (60%)?

    If you don’t like people involved in a product…fork it.

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