Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Free Software’s Radical Past

Filed under
GNU

Something is absurd about the idea that free and open source software (FOSS) is apolitical. How could a movement that changes the way software is produced and alters conventional notions about the rights of users not be political in the broadest sense? Admittedly, though, FOSS in 2019 seems less political than it used to be.

Still, the idea remains widespread. Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman, for example, researched the Debian project, in the past one of the most radical FOSS communities, yet describes FOSS as a whole as “politically agnostic.” Similarly, many programmers would insist that what matters is the technology. Nor is it difficult to find left and right wingers working together in FOSS although not always harmoniously.

The reasons for believing FOSS to be apolitical are not hard to find. For one thing, the foundations that govern many larger projects are often registered charities, and need to be cautious about political involvement so as not to lose their tax-free status. For another, after being condemned by Microsoft as “communism,” few FOSS participants were willing to declare any open political stance. That is especially true in the United States, where, decades after the cold war, coming out as a socialist has only started to become acceptable in the last year or two. Under some circumstances, keeping your head down and coding was only sensible.

Moreover, how political free software appears depends very much on the communities with which you interact. To give an obvious example, The Apache Foundation with its permissive licenses is far less political than the GNU Project, with its advocacy of copyleft licenses and its connection to the Free Software Foundation.

When examined, the idea that FOSS is apolitical is one of those generalizing half-truths — it contains bits of insights, but in the end is incomplete. While never the major focus of free software, political activism remains close to the heart of the movement. Sometimes, this activism is only a generalized and often naive mistrust of corporations and the profit motive, but frequently it has been more influenced by radical thought than most people –even participants — believe.

Read more

More in Tux Machines

Events: SREcon19 Americas, Scale, FudCon and Snapcraft Summit Montreal

  • SREcon19 Americas Talk Resources
    At SREcon19 Americas, I gave a talk called "Operating within Normal Parameters: Monitoring Kubernetes". Here's some links and resources related to my talk, for your reference.
  • Participating at #Scale17x
    Everytime somebody asks me about Scale I can only think of the same: Scale is the most important community lead conference in North America and it only gets better by the years. This year it celebrated its seventeenth edition and it just struck me: with me being there this year, there have been more Scales I have attended than I have not. This is my nineth conference out of 17. The first time that I attended it was 2011, it was the edition followed by FudCon Tempe 2010 which happened to be my first Fedora conference and it was also the first time I got to meet some contributors that I had previously collaborated with, many of which I still consider my brothers. As for this time, I almost didn’t make it as my visa renewal was resolved on Friday’s noon, one day after the conference started. I recovered it that same day and book a flight in the night. I couldn’t find anything to LAX -as I regularly fly- so I had to fly to Tijuana and from there I borrowed a cart to Pasadena. Long story short: I arrived around 1:30 AM on Saturday.
  • Snapcraft Summit Montreal
    Snapcraft is the universal app store for Linux that reaches millions of users and devices and serves millions of app installs a month. The Snapcraft Summit is a forward-thinking software workshop attended by major software vendors, community contributors and Snapcraft engineers working at every level of the stack.

today's howtos

Draw On Your Screen with this Neat GNOME Shell Extension

Ever wish you could draw on the Linux desktop or write on the screen? Well, there’s a new GNOME Shell extension that lets you do exactly that: draw on the Linux desktop. You may want to point out a bug, highlight a feature, or provide some guidance to someone else by sending them an annotated screenshot. In this short post we’ll show you how to install the add-on and how to use it. Read more

Fedora 31 Preparing To Start Removing Packages Depending Upon Python 2

Python 2 support will formally reach end-of-life on 1 January 2020 and Fedora 31 is preparing for that by working to drop packages (or parts of packages) that depend upon Python 2. Fedora has been pushing for a Python 2 to Python 3 migration for many cycles now -- as most Linux distributions have -- while with Fedora 31 they are planning a "mass Python 2 package removal" if necessary. They are planning to closely track the state of packages depending upon Python 2 to either drop the packages or allow packagers to easily abandon Python 2 parts of programs. Read more