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The Devil and Mr Casement tells of Roger Casement’s campaign to end the horrific treatment of Huitoto, Andoko and Bora indigenous peoples along the Putumayo river, a remote area nominally in Colombian territory but under de facto Peruvian control.
Jordan Goodman details a system of inhuman extortion and the geography of extraction. The devil of the title is Julio César Arana, a Peruvian trader who established a network of collecting stations run by his agents, who forced local peoples to go into the jungle and bring back wild rubber. The Indians had to carry crushing loads to river posts, from where the rubber was transported downriver to join the Amazon, and on again to Liverpool as a raw material to the motor vehicle boom.
Arana recruited from Barbados a team of black overseers who were obliged to hunt down, beat and kill Indians who failed to meet the required production targets. Arana set up the Peruvian Amazon Company, with a London address, which, together with the fact that the Barbadians were British subjects, allowed an official investigation of reported atrocities, appearing in the British press from 1909 onwards.
Casement, a career consular official of the British empire with a pronounced humanitarian streak, had already shown exceptional qualities in his investigation revealing atrocities in Belgian King Leopold’s private empire in the Congo, also fuelled by rubber profiteering. Goodman brings out how Casement’s Irish sympathies sensitised him to colonial oppression and exploitation. Casement was determined and incredibly resourceful. He persisted against all manner of difficulties to seek out and interview the Barbadians in Putumayo, documenting irrefutably the huge crime against humanity that was taking place.
Casement’s aim was to reconstitute the Peruvian Amazon Company on a reformed basis. He won allies both within the company and the Foreign Office for his project of a more enlightened operation. But Arana had everything stitched up on his home patch, where he used his wealth and a range of dirty tricks reminiscent of present-day Colombia to guarantee impunity.
Casement’s report was finally published as an official UK government Blue Book in 1912, and he was knighted. Yet Casement was wary of receiving this honour, his attention drawn to the pressing claims of Irish sovereignty.
Where the account is disappointing is in failing to reflect on the significance of Casement’s homosexuality, which Goodman believes was ‘irrelevant … to this story’. The converse possibility is not investigated – that Casement’s homosexual identity may have been, with his Irish nationalism, integral to his personal quest for humanitarianism.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns