Long ago, open source and Linux are deemed as communist. This impression can be bad (see the following picture, from mikeely’s blog, but he/she doesn’t seem to oppose open source anyway. :-P)
On the other hands, people in Russia and China rather like the idea. Search on google picture for examples.
Back to our question.
Is open source communism?
According to Communism wikipedia page, ideally, communism wants to achieve:
- Egalitarianism: All people should be treated as equal.
- Classlessness: Everyone was equal and carried out the same work.
- Stateless society: A society without a government.
- Common ownership: assets of an enterprise or other organization are held indivisibly rather than in the names of the individual members or by the government.
- Control of the means of production and property.
Is open source qualified as communism? Let’s see:
In term of software development, there are two classes of people: developers can commit to source; while users can only read. But on the other hand, usually it is relative easy for users to join the development team or fork project.
Moreover, developers are also users of other projects.
So it is not absolute egalitarianism.
As said before, at least two classes are needed.
However, can’t say which one is higher, because developers need to do all the hard work,
yet they have the power to allocate development resources.
Stateless society: Mostly
If the project is developed for a company,
then the project is considered governed and thus not stateless.
But even that, people can still fork the project for their own need if the license is open enough. So I scored it as MOSTLY.
Common ownership: Doesn’t matter
Mmm, open source is seen as communism usually because of this. But contrary to common beliefs, in term of the software usage, ownership does not matter.
Do you own Windows when you paid for it? No, it still belongs to Microsoft, and it is illegal if you copy it to other machine without the proper license. Open source is actually the same. Even as permissive as BSD, you cannot claim the ownership of FreeBSD, but you can do nearly everything you want with it.
So, does open source provide common ownership? No, but it give you the freedom to use it.
Control of the means of production: No
It’s solely depended on developers.
Control of the property: Depends on the license
For the permissive license, there is no control of the property.
GPL on the other hand, does control the property, but it is just a measure to ensure the work and its deviant can be freely redistributed.
To sum up, open source does not yet fill the bill of communism.