The Anarchist is a “proudly anti-capitalist” coffee shop and “radical community space on stolen land” that recently opened in Canada, a minor nation best known for its proximity to the United States. Touted as the ideal gathering spot for people who enjoy their coffee “served with a side of revolution,” the cafe also sells a variety of anti-capitalist merchandise for profit.
They sell stuff? That seems awfully capitalist to me. Why don’t they give their coffee and merchandise away?
For example, the cafe sells “People Over Profit” T-shirts for $31.40 ($40 CAD). The same item sells on Etsy for $26.81 ($34.15 CAD). The shop recently started selling “People Over Profit” sweatshirts for $39.19 ($50 CAD), according to the cafe’s Instagram account. When one Instagram user asked about “the proceeds” from selling the anti-capitalist merchandise, the cafe responded defensively: “It’s not a charity, it’s a business.”
So the owner isn’t against capitalism for himself, just other people.
The Anarchist sells a wide variety of merchandise, including tote bags emblazoned with epic mantras such as “Abolish the Police,” “Queer Anarchy Now,” and “Eat Vegetables, Ride Bikes, Be Nice, Hail Satan.” Customers who really hate the Washington Post can purchase a “Fuck Bezos” sticker for $5.10 ($6.5 CAD). The same item is available on Etsy for $4.55 ($5.80 CAD) and includes free shipping. While enjoying their Marx & Engles [sic], a “single espresso and piccolo, made with the same beans,” patrons can peruse the cafe’s collection of other stickers bearing radical slogans such as “Destroy Capitalism,” “Abolish Prisons,” and “Be Gay Do Crimes.”
The cafe’s founder looks exactly like you’d expect him to look. Gabriel Sims-Fewer set up shop in Toronto “after leaving Vancouver due to its unwelcoming sense of classism.”
He envisions his for-profit enterprise as one that is impervious to “the inherently oppressive parts that small businesses absorb from their capitalist surroundings.” The bathroom code, 1312, is a numerical rendering of the acronym ACAB, meaning “All Cops Are Bastards.”
So I’m wondering, is Mr. Sims-Fewer going to object if I were to enter the Anarchist Cafe and just start taking stuff. On what basis could he object since he is supposedly against capitalism. What if I identify as a Black, transgender lesbian who is also a First Nations person? (that’s Canadian for Indian.) Wouldn’t my shoplifting be a form of reparations? Would he call the police? Being an anarchist, shouldn’t he be against any form of government coercion, including the police, which he describes as bastards anyway.
I’d really like to see this guy put his money where his mouth is so to speak. If he believes in anarchism and is against capitalism, why is he acting like his capitalist neighbors? Why doesn’t he set up some sort of co-op where everyone shares their goods? Why not try to create an anarchist community somewhere? Instead, he is working to make a profit, like everyone else.
It seems to me that Gabriel Sims-Fewer is just a poseur. He talks the talk about revolution and anarchy but won’t walk the walk. I feel somehow disappointed.