But, as loud as their voices were, they were not people with any direct role with the FSF today. When Red Hat announced it would no longer be financially supporting the FSF, their words were heard.
Red Hat stated:
Red Hat is a long-time donor and contributor to projects stewarded by the FSF, with hundreds of contributors and millions of lines of code contributed. Considering the circumstances of Richard Stallman’s original resignation in 2019, Red Hat was appalled to learn that he had rejoined the FSF board of directors. As a result, we are immediately suspending all Red Hat funding of the FSF and any FSF-hosted events. In addition, many Red Hat contributors have told us they no longer plan to participate in FSF-led or backed events, and we stand behind them.
While Red Hat has not revealed how much it donated to the FSF, the amount is believed to be significant. According to the FSF’s latest publicly revealed financial documents, a 2019 Form 990, which was filed on Aug. 14, 2020, showed $708,016 came from membership dues, while the bulk of its income, $1,383,003 came from other contributors such as Red Hat.
Red Hat’s not the only company that’s had enough of Stallman’s FSF. SUSE CEO, Melissa Di Donato, tweeted: “We are better than this. The world deserves better. As leaders, there is a time to speak out and take a stand when abhorrent decisions are made. That time is now. I am disappointed by the decision of the FSF and stand firmly against all forms of misogyny and bigotry.”
Ironically, RMS has some support, in a letter on the Microsoft-owned GitHub site. But, as Miguel de Icaza, co-founder of GNOME and now a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer, tweeted: “‘RMS should resign’ signatories list that contains many significant contributors to free software — people that have had to interact with him and have advanced the cause. The RMS support list seems to be mostly users with few credentials-likely fans that never had to deal with him.”
De Icaza added: “RMS failed to grow as the movement grew. And has been an anchor dragging the project ever since. The ideas survived and flourished elsewhere. He is still a drag on every project under his direct influence.”
The free software community is also backing away from RMS. Nathan Sidwell, a senior GCC developer, perhaps the most important free software program RMS is associated with, called for RMS to be removed from the GCC steering committee. Sidwell wrote, “In the before-time, I had heard that RMS was ‘difficult’, or ‘socially awkward.’ I had ignored the true toxicity he engenders. I’m sure you have, too. It didn’t directly affect me. I didn’t need to interact with him. I’m not a woman. It diminishes all of us to ignore it.” And, for those who prefer to ignore such issues and who believe that all true value depends on the code produced, Sidwell noted that Stallman “is no longer a developer of GCC, the most recent commit I can find regards SCO in 2003.”
John Sullivan — who has worked for the FSF for 18 years, most recently as the executive director — has resigned. The FSF president Geoffrey Knauth has also announced that “I commit myself to resign as an FSF officer, director, and voting member as soon as there is a clear path for new leadership assuring continuity of the FSF’s mission and compliance with fiduciary requirements.” Later, after announcing that, for the first time, a member of the FSF union staff would be on the board, Ian Kelling, Knauth also released the news that FSF board member Kat Walsh has resigned. Walsh has not been replaced.
With internal dissent, harsh external criticism, and reduced financial resources, it’s hard to see the FSF continuing in any kind of meaningful fashion so long as Stallman remains on the board or in any other leadership position.