Local Produce:  Yours: Your Place for Coffee and Anarchy

Local Produce: Yours: Your Place for Coffee and Anarchy

Yours, a workers co-op, cafe and creative hangout space, opened late last year on 43 Moray Place. Being anarchist and all, Yours does not place too much of an emphasis on financial quantitative transactions, instead opting for manaakitanga and relationship-building. Critic Te Ārohi sat down with a few of the people behind the co-op to understand how an anti-capitalist community space can thrive within the confines of capitalism.


Nothing in the cafe is priced; instead, there is a list of common price ranges for coffees, cakes and whatever else is on the menu that day and people can choose how much or little they want to pay. There are no bosses or managers and the decisions are made by those affected. Sol, who works in the kitchen, told Critic Te Ārohi that “the work is kind of directionless” and relies on self-motivation, self-delegation, communication and teamwork.


The organisation is essentially made up of a number of syndicates or groups, each responsible for making their own decisions. Ōtepoti Possibilities Cooperative manages the day to day running of Yours, and there are different syndicates for the bakery, kitchen, events, art, media and even farming. There is also a bookshop open in the evenings (conveniently named Evening Books) above the cafe.


The name “Yours” turned out to be the product of a lot of discourse amongst members. Carl, one of the members of the co-op, told Critic Te Ārohi that they spent a hot minute “puzzling over names”, but in the end they decided on “Yours” to create an inclusive sense of belonging and participation. And if you were wondering, yes, the name was designed to cause confusion. Get pranked.


Despite operating on a completely different playing field to most businesses, Yours has largely been successful. Carl said they’re “still open”, which apparently translates to “100% successful”. Good going. Meanwhile, Liam emphasised the importance of autonomy from the state and big funders, meaning that Yours is self-reliant and therefore resilient (a novelty in a society largely dominated by capitalist interactions).


The workers behind Yours were upfront about some of the challenges they’ve faced. Dylan told Critic Te Ārohi that the lack of a lead-in period meant they “hit the ground running very hard and fast.” Meanwhile Carl said, “We’re still working out how to collectively manage a space.” The members Critic Te Ārohi spoke with also acknowledged the “amount of privilege it takes” to engage and noted that most of their members are men.


The idea behind Yours is simply to “feed people” while putting the theory of anarchy into practice. According to the co-op members that Critic Te Ārohi spoke with, anarchy has a number of misconceptions, the most common being the conflation with “chaos”.


“Anarchism doesnt mean you can do whatever the fuck you want,” said Dylan. Rather, according to Dylan, a functioning anarchist collective requires a lot of organisation in which the needs of all the members are taken into account to achieve a better outcome. It follows that payment is on an individual equitable basis depending on the needs of the particular member. For Sol, he’s happy taking free kai as his dues and “not having to buy groceries.” Must be nice.


The workers were also quick to distance themselves from charities, social enterprises and NGOs, which, according to Liam, “end up becoming kind of politically agnostic,” as they just do the same thing as regular businesses but “tack on some good.” For Yours’ members, the means are the ends. “Anarchy is a verb,” said Dylan, adding that you can’t simply “achieve a state of anarchism,” but rather, it is a constant practice to “prevent systems of domination which will happen if left unchecked.” For many anarchists, revolution does not come hand-in-hand with a molotov. Instead, “revolution is the things we can do now in our own communities,” said Liam. Yours does not claim to be a model standard of ethical practice but rather strives towards less exploitative practices and better consumption by moving away from industrial food systems to more locally produced wholesale goods, according to Carl.


Carl noted the distinction between conventional market economy and gift economy, which brings with it a “sense of responsibility and trust.” Sebastian, a high school student, told Critic Te Ārohi that it was a “great idea but new to me.” Meanwhile, Yours has gotten its fair share of surprised, apprehensive and generally funny responses to payment. One person who was trying to buy a muffin apparently was outraged at there being no price on it and said, “No, you can’t do this to me.” As if you don’t know how much a muffin usually costs. Another said they “don’t have the brain capacity to choose right now.” Ceebs paying only a couple bucks for a coffee I guess.


Amidst the cost of living crisis, impending climate catastrophe and gross inequality, Yours has created a safe community for many. Carl said that it is “common knowledge that capitalism is failing us,” and Yours “demonstrates the possibility of other ways [to capitalism].” Yours welcomes everyone (except cops and fascists, according to a sign on the wall) and even if you can’t afford a coffee you can always give some veggies or do some dishes for it. You also “don't have to buy stuff to hang out here,” said Dylan.


You can find them on insta @yours_otepoti.

This article first appeared in Issue 4, 2023.
Posted 2:06pm Sunday 19th March 2023 by Zak Rudin.