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Barron's Booknotes-1984 by George Orwell-Free Book Notes
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Chapter 3 - WAR IS PEACE

Goldstein describes a world in which Russia has absorbed all of Europe to make Eurasia. The U.S. has absorbed the British Empire to form Oceania. Eastasia has emerged as the third power after decades of fighting. It is made up of China and countries to the south, Japan, and "a large but fluctuating portion of Manchuria, Mongolia and Tibet." These three superpowers are permanently at war, but it is a strictly limited, frontier war conducted by a small number of specialists, either at sea, around Floating Fortresses, or "on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the ordinary man can only guess at." These boundaries keep changing as each side enjoys a temporary victory.

Reading any current issue of a newspaper or news magazine, you'll be surprised at how many news stories recreate this very same scenario. None of the three superpowers, Goldstein says, can be totally conquered, even by the other two in combination. They're too evenly matched, and protected by their geography and resources. Between their frontiers are stretches of territory that keep changing hands: equatorial Africa, certain Middle Eastern countries, Southern India and Indonesia, which are rich in resources and heavily populated, providing "a bottomless reserve of cheap labor." The fighting flows back and forth in these areas.


"The primary aim of modern warfare [in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party] is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living." Why is this so?

According to Goldstein, the opening of the machine age in the early 1900s should have ended human drudgery and therefore created human equality. In a world where everybody had enough to eat and a comfortable place to live, inequality would disappear and wealth would confer no distinction. What would happen to power then? A literate society would sweep it away.

To protect itself, the High order mentioned in Goldstein's first chapter had to keep the masses in poverty and ignorance. The most efficient way to do this was to wage war. "The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor," Goldstein says.

The war effort engages people and resources that might otherwise be directed toward making life too comfortable for the masses. War:

1. Eats up any surplus. This means luxury goods are reserved for the Inner Party, a fact that underscores the high position of the High order. The few goods that filter down to Outer Party members separate them from the proles. The hierarchy is enforced.

2. Encourages the people to hand authority over to a hierarchy. "The consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival."

The Party fosters a wartime mentality. This means fear of the enemy (whomever the enemy is at any given time); hatred of the enemy; love for the Party, and the joy of triumph at Party victories.

According to Goldstein this wartime mentality is strongest in Inner Party members. Although these members may know that certain news is false, or that there is no real war, through doublethink they believe in the war anyway, even as they believe in victory when no real victory is possible.

To keep this system in operation, the Party turns to technology to refine methods of thought control and to develop new ways to kill great numbers of people efficiently, because "The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of independent thought."

It is aiming to Goldstein that the world remains unchanged, even though all three superpowers have the atomic bomb (it first exploded in 1945, two years before Orwell began this book). The powers have concluded that dropping the bomb would spell the end to organized society and therefore to their power. We don't have to look beyond U.S.-Soviet SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) negotiations to find modern parallels.

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