The Free Software Movement – Anarchism in Action

I wrote this essay back in 2003 and it was originally published on Indymedia UK back in December 2003 (see that link for some discussion of the piece). It was also published in Freedom newspaper sometime in 2004.

For some reason, I did not get around to posting here on my site till April 6, 2007. I edited it’s time stamp so it appears on my site in correct chronological order.

I wrote a follow a second article that is the logical sequel called, “The Limits of Free Software.”

by Asa Winstanley

What are the implications of the free software (called ‘open source’ by business leaders) movement for anarchists and activists in general? Could things be learned from it? Just how anarchist is GNU/Linux and other such projects? Little analysis or debate has been had on this. My article intends to stir some.


The free software movement has been around in at least since 1984, but there is little awareness or debate about it in anarchist or general activist circles, beyond a vague awareness of “Linux”. A theoretical anarchist analysis of the movement and the lessons we can learn from it seems to be conspicuous only by its absence. Yet this is a movement which is currently affecting a revolution in the way individuals, groups and companies use and create computer systems. I intend this piece to stimulate further debate, as there is currently little. Also, I am no expert in anarchist history or theory, so would be happy to receive criticism of the inevitable shortcomings in my comparisons.

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