Che director Steven Soderbergh tells Politico why his new four-hour, two-part epic about Ernesto Guevara is relevant in 2008:
"We're certainly seeing the result of what happens when you make profit the point of everything, where money that's being earned doesn't represent any particular product or labor on anybody's part. That can't sustain, because it's magical thinking. It can't go on indefinitely, because eventually it crashes. Che's dream of a classless society, a society that isn't built on the profit motive, is still relevant. The arguments still going on are about his methodology."
Aye caramba. Yes, the real lesson to be drawn from a man who oversaw summary executions and ran Cuba's economy 20,000 leagues under the sea is that profits and capitalism are evil.
I didn't hate Kelly LeBrock because she was beautiful and I don't hate Steven Soderbergh because he's rich. There's no doubt that American foreign policy toward Cuba and all of Latin America has been disastrous, in large part due to the idiotic drug war that Soderbergh actually managed to valorize in many ways in his awful Traffic (far from critiquing drug prohibition, the movie actually signs off on any number of cliches about substance abuse and the role of the state in policing it; it's an After School Special with sex scenes).
No one can accuse Soderbergh of being a coherent or consistent thinker. In the same interview he (thankfully) argues that the U.S. should lift the embargo against Cuba. Why? To "flood that place with tourists. The people of the U.S. are the best advertisement for its ideals." And tourists, of course, and the people who serve them, never have any profit motive involved, right? Let's check back in when the Castro Brothers are eventually declared dead and the first Starbucks opens in Havanna, and see whether Soderbergh applauds or pouts.
As for the dream of a classless society, I'm not sure what the profit motive has to do with that per se (classes, as Marx would tell you, predate bourgeois society) or precisely how desirable such a thing is (I write as an arriviste whose parents grew up grindingly poor, needless to say). The U.S. has classes, for sure. What is different about this place is that class is not fixed on status or connections. It is not perfect, to be sure, but it's a much more fluid and forgiving place than the hierarchical societies that produced Fidel and Che and it's also a lot less stultifying than the open-air prisons they helped create.
And you've got to ask: Who precisely is still debating Che's methodology, other than, I don't know, Lynndie England and various al Qaeda cells?
More about Soderbergh, who is quickly draining the pleasure out of The Limey and Sex, Lies, and Videotape, here.