War is Peace
The splitting up of the world into three great super-states was an event
which could be and indeed was foreseen before the middle of the
With the absorption of Europe by Russia and of the
British Empire by the United States, two of the three existing powers,
Eurasia and Oceania, were already effectively in being.
The third, Eastasia, only emerged as a
distinct unit after another decade of confused fighting.
between the three super-states are in some places arbitrary, and in
others they fluctuate according to the fortunes of war, but in general
they follow geographical lines.
Eurasia comprises the whole of the
northern part of the European and Asiatic land-mass, from Portugal to
the Bering Strait.
Oceania comprises the Americas, the Atlantic
islands including the British Isles, Australasia, and the southern
portion of Africa.
Eastasia, smaller than the others and with a less
definite western frontier, comprises China and the countries to the
south of it, the Japanese islands and a large but fluctuating portion of
Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet.
In one combination or another, these three super-states
at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years.
is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the
early decades of the twentieth century. It is a warfare of limited aims
between combatants who are unable to destroy one another, have no
material cause for fighting and are not divided by any genuine
This is not to say that either the conduct of
war, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty
or more chivalrous.
On the contrary, war hysteria is continuous
and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the
slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery,
and reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying
alive, are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one's
own side and not by the enemy, meritorious.
But in a physical sense war involves very
small numbers of people, mostly highly-trained specialists, and causes
comparatively few casualties.
The fighting, when there is any, takes
place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only
guess at, or round the Floating Fortresses which guard strategic spots
on the sea lanes. In the centers of civilization war means no more than
a continuous shortage of consumption goods, and the occasional crash of
a rocket bomb which may cause a few scores of deaths.
War has in fact changed its character.
More exactly, the reasons for which war is
waged have changed in their order of importance. Motives which were
already present to some small extent in the great wars of the early
twentieth century have now become dominant and are consciously
recognized and acted upon.
To understand the nature of the present war - for in spite of the
regrouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war - one
must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be
decisive. None of the three super-states could be definitively conquered
even by the other two in combination.
They are too evenly matched, and their
natural defenses are too formidable. Eurasia is protected by its vast
land spaces, Oceania by the width of the Atlantic and the Pacific,
Eastasia by the fecundity and industriousness of its inhabitants.
Secondly, there is no longer, in a material sense, anything to fight
With the establishment of self-contained
economies, in which production and consumption are geared to one
another, the scramble for markets which was a main cause of previous
wars has come to an end, while the competition for raw materials is no
longer a matter of life and death. In any case each of the three
super-states is so vast that it can obtain almost all the materials that
it needs within its own boundaries.
In so far as the war has a direct
economic purpose, it is a war for labour power.
Between the frontiers of the super-states,
and not permanently in the possession of any of them, there lies a rough
quadrilateral with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hong
Kong, containing within it about a fifth of the population of the earth.
It is for the possession of these thickly-populated regions, and of the
northern ice-cap, that the three powers are constantly struggling.
In practice no one power ever controls the
whole of the disputed area. Portions of it are constantly changing
hands, and it is the chance of seizing this or that fragment by a sudden
stroke of treachery that dictates the endless changes of alignment.
All of the disputed territories contain valuable minerals, and some of
them yield important vegetable products such as rubber which in colder
climates it is necessary to synthesize by comparatively expensive
But above all they contain a bottomless reserve of cheap labour.
Whichever power controls equatorial Africa,
or the countries of the Middle East, or Southern India, or the
Indonesian Archipelago, disposes also of the bodies of scores or
hundreds of millions of ill-paid and hard-working coolies.
inhabitants of these areas, reduced more or less openly to the status of
slaves, pass continually from conqueror to conqueror, and are expended
like so much coal or oil in the race to turn out more armaments, to
capture more territory, to control more labour power, to turn out more
armaments, to capture more territory, and so on indefinitely. It should
be noted that the fighting never really moves beyond the edges of the
The frontiers of Eurasia flow back and forth
between the basin of the Congo and the northern shore of the
Mediterranean; the islands of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific are
constantly being captured and recaptured by Oceania or by Eastasia; in
Mongolia the dividing line between Eurasia and Eastasia is never stable;
round the Pole all three powers lay claim to enormous territories which
in fact are largely uninhabited and unexplored: but the balance of power
always remains roughly even, and the territory which forms the heartland
of each super-state always remains inviolate.
Moreover, the labour of the exploited
peoples round the Equator is not really necessary to the world's
economy. They add nothing to the wealth of the world, since whatever
they produce is used for purposes of war, and the object of waging a war
is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war.
By their labour the slave populations allow
the tempo of continuous warfare to be speeded up. But if they did not
exist, the structure of world society, and the process by which it
maintains itself, would not be essentially different.
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.
Ever since the end of the nineteenth
century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods
has been latent in industrial society. At present, when few human beings
even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not urgent, and it
might not have become so, even if no artificial processes of destruction
had been at work.
The world of today is a bare, hungry,
dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before 1914, and
still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people
of that period looked forward. In the early twentieth century, the
vision of a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and
efficient - a glittering antiseptic world of glass and steel and
snow-white concrete - was part of the consciousness of nearly every
Science and technology were developing at a
prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on
developing. This failed to happen, partly because of the impoverishment
caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because
scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of
thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society.
As a whole the world is more primitive today
than it was fifty years ago. Certain backward areas have advanced, and
various devices, always in some way connected with warfare and police
espionage, have been developed, but experiment and invention have
largely stopped, and the ravages of the atomic war of the
nineteen-fifties have never been fully repaired. Nevertheless the
dangers inherent in the machine are still there.
From the moment when the machine first made
its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for
human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality,
had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end,
hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated
within a few generations.
And in fact, without being used for any such
purpose, but by a sort of automatic process - by producing wealth which
it was sometimes impossible not to distribute - the machine did raise
the living standards of the average human being very greatly over a
period of about fifty years at the end of the nineteenth and the
beginning of the twentieth centuries.
But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened
the destruction - indeed, in some sense was the destruction - of a
hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours,
had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator,
and possessed a motor-car or even an airplane, the most obvious and
perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have
disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no
It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a
society in which WEALTH, in the sense of personal possessions and
luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while POWER remained in the
hands of a small privileged caste.
But in practice such a society could not
long remain stable.
For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all
alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by
poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves;
and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize
that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it
away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a
basis of poverty and ignorance.
To return to the agricultural past, as some
thinkers about the beginning of the twentieth century dreamed of doing,
was not a practicable solution.
It conflicted with the tendency towards
mechanization which had become quasi-instinctive throughout almost the
whole world, and moreover, any country which remained industrially
backward was helpless in a military sense and was bound to be dominated,
directly or indirectly, by its more advanced rivals.
Nor was it a satisfactory solution to keep the masses in poverty by
restricting the output of goods. This happened to a great extent during
the final phase of capitalism, roughly between 1920 and 1940. The
economy of many countries was allowed to stagnate, land went out of
cultivation, capital equipment was not added to, great blocks of the
population were prevented from working and kept half alive by State
But this, too, entailed military weakness,
and since the privations it inflicted were obviously unnecessary, it
made opposition inevitable. The problem was how to keep the wheels of
industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world.
Goods must be produced, but they must not be
distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by
The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives,
but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to
pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of
the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too
comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.
Even when weapons of war are not actually
destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending
labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating
Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build
several hundred cargo-ships.
Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete,
never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further
enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built.
In principle the war effort is always so
planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare
needs of the population. In practice the needs of the population are
always underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage
of half the necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage.
It is deliberate policy to keep even the favored groups somewhere near
the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the
importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction
between one group and another.
By the standards of the early twentieth
century, even a member of
the Inner Party lives an austere, laborious
kind of life. Nevertheless, the few luxuries that he does enjoy his
large, well-appointed flat, the better texture of his clothes, the
better quality of his food and drink and tobacco, his two or three
servants, his private motor-car or helicopter - set him in a different
world from a member of the Outer Party, and the members of the Outer
Party have a similar advantage in comparison with the submerged masses
whom we call 'the proles'.
The social atmosphere is that of a besieged
city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference
between wealth and poverty. And at the same time 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
War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but
accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it
would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by
building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up
again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting
fire to them.
But this would provide only the economic and
not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned
here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long
as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself.
Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious,
and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that
he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are
fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is
necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of
It does not matter whether the war is
actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does
not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is
that a state of war should exist.
The splitting of the intelligence which the
Party requires of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an
atmosphere of war, is now almost universal, but the higher up the ranks
one goes, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the Inner Party
that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest.
In his capacity as an administrator, it is
often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or
that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the
entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for
purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is
easily neutralized by the technique of DOUBLETHINK.
Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for
an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is
bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the
All members of the Inner Party believe in this coming conquest as an
article of faith. It is to be achieved either by gradually acquiring
more and more territory and so building up an overwhelming preponderance
of power, or by the discovery of some new and unanswerable weapon. The
search for new weapons continues unceasingly, and is one of the very few
remaining activities in which the inventive or speculative type of mind
can find any outlet.
In Oceania at the present day, Science, in
the old sense, has almost ceased to exist.
In Newspeak there is no word
for 'Science'. The empirical method of thought, on which all the
scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most
fundamental principles of
Ingsoc. And even technological progress only
happens when its products can in some way be used for the diminution of
human liberty. In all the useful arts the world is either standing still
or going backwards.
The fields are cultivated with horse-ploughs
while books are written by machinery.
But in matters of vital importance -
meaning, in effect, war and police espionage - the empirical approach is
still encouraged, or at least tolerated. 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. There are therefore two
great problems which the Party is concerned to solve.
One is how to discover, against his will,
what another human being is thinking, and the other is how to kill
several hundred million people in a few seconds without giving warning
beforehand. In so far as scientific research still continues, this is
its subject matter.
The scientist of today is,
either a mixture
of psychologist and inquisitor, studying with real ordinary minuteness
the meaning of facial expressions, gestures, and tones of voice, and
testing the truth-producing effects of drugs, shock therapy, hypnosis,
and physical torture
or he is chemist, physicist, or biologist
concerned only with such branches of his special subject as are relevant
to the taking of life
In the vast laboratories of the Ministry of
Peace, and in the experimental stations hidden in the Brazilian forests,
or in the Australian desert, or on lost islands of the
teams of experts are indefatigably at work.
some are concerned simply with
planning the logistics of future wars
others devise larger and larger rocket bombs,
more and more powerful explosives, and more and more impenetrable
others search for new and deadlier gases, or for soluble
poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the
vegetation of whole continents, or for breeds of disease germs immunized
against all possible antibodies
others strive to produce a vehicle that
shall bore its way under the soil like a submarine under the water, or
an airplane as independent of its base as a sailing-ship
even remoter possibilities such as focusing the sun's rays through
lenses suspended thousands of kilometers away in space, or
artificial earthquakes and tidal waves by tapping the heat at the
But none of these projects ever comes anywhere near realization, and
none of the three super-states ever gains a significant lead on the
What is more remarkable is that all three
powers already possess, in the atomic bomb, a weapon far more powerful
than any that their present researches are likely to discover. Although
the Party, according to its habit, claims the invention for itself,
atomic bombs first appeared as early as the nineteen-forties, and were
first used on a large scale about ten years later.
At that time some hundreds of bombs were
dropped on industrial centers, chiefly in European Russia, Western
Europe, and North America. The effect was to convince the ruling groups
of all countries that a few more atomic bombs would mean the end of
organized society, and hence of their own power.
Thereafter, although no formal agreement was
ever made or hinted at, no more bombs were dropped. All three powers
merely continue to produce atomic bombs and store them up against the
decisive opportunity which they all believe will come sooner or later.
And meanwhile the art of war has remained almost stationary for thirty
or forty years. Helicopters are more used than they were formerly,
bombing planes have been largely superseded by self-propelled
projectiles, and the fragile movable battleship has given way to the
almost unsinkable Floating Fortress; but otherwise there has been little
The tank, the submarine, the torpedo, the
machine gun, even the rifle and the hand grenade are still in use. And
in spite of the endless slaughters reported in the Press and on the
telescreens, the desperate battles of earlier wars, in which hundreds of
thousands or even millions of men were often killed in a few weeks, have
never been repeated.
None of the three super-states ever attempts any maneuver which involves
the risk of serious defeat. When any large operation is undertaken, it
is usually a surprise attack against an ally.
The strategy that all three powers are
following, or pretend to themselves that they are following, is the
same. The plan is, by a combination of fighting, bargaining, and
well-timed strokes of treachery, to acquire a ring of bases completely
encircling one or other of the rival states, and then to sign a pact of
friendship with that rival and remain on peaceful terms for so many
years as to lull suspicion to sleep.
During this time rockets loaded with atomic
bombs can be assembled at all the strategic spots; finally they will all
be fired simultaneously, with effects so devastating as to make
retaliation impossible. It will then be time to sign a pact of
friendship with the remaining world-power, in preparation for another
This scheme, it is hardly necessary to say,
is a mere daydream, impossible of realization. Moreover, no fighting
ever occurs except in the disputed areas round the Equator and the Pole:
no invasion of enemy territory is ever undertaken. This explains the
fact that in some places the frontiers between the super-states are
Eurasia, for example, could easily conquer
the British Isles, which are geographically part of Europe, or on the
other hand it would be possible for Oceania to push its frontiers to the
Rhine or even to the
Vistula. But this would violate the
principle, followed on all sides though never formulated, of cultural
If Oceania were to conquer the areas that
used once to be known as France and Germany, it would be necessary
either to exterminate the inhabitants, a task of great physical
difficulty, or to assimilate a population of about a hundred million
people, who, so far as technical development goes, are roughly on the
The problem is the same for all three
super-states. It is absolutely necessary to their structure that there
should be no contact with foreigners, except, to a limited extent, with
war prisoners and colored slaves.
Even the official ally of the moment is
always regarded with the darkest suspicion. War prisoners apart, the
average citizen of Oceania never sets eyes on a citizen of either
Eurasia or Eastasia, and he is forbidden the knowledge of foreign
languages. If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover
that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has
been told about them is lies.
The sealed world in which he lives would be
broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale
depends might evaporate. It is therefore realized on all sides that
however often Persia, or Egypt, or Java, or Ceylon may change hands, the
main frontiers must never be crossed by anything except bombs.
Under this lies a fact never mentioned aloud, but tacitly understood and
acted upon: namely, that the conditions of life in all three
super-states are very much the same.
In Oceania the prevailing philosophy is
called Ingsoc, in Eurasia it is called
Neo-Bolshevism, and in Eastasia it is called by a Chinese name usually
translated as Death-Worship, but perhaps better rendered as Obliteration
of the Self.
The citizen of Oceania is not allowed to
know anything of the tenets of the other two philosophies, but he is
taught to execrate them as barbarous outrages upon morality and common
sense. Actually the three philosophies are barely distinguishable, and
the social systems which they support are not distinguishable at all.
Everywhere there is the same pyramidal
structure, the same worship of semi-divine leader, the same economy
existing by and for continuous warfare. It follows that the three
super-states not only cannot conquer one another, but would gain no
advantage by doing so. On the contrary, so long as they remain in
conflict they prop one another up, like three sheaves of corn.
And, as usual, the ruling groups of all
three powers are simultaneously aware and unaware of what they are
Their lives are dedicated to world conquest,
but they also know that it is necessary that the war should continue
everlastingly and without victory. Meanwhile the fact that there IS no
danger of conquest makes possible the denial of reality which is the
special feature of
and its rival systems of thought.
Here it is
necessary to repeat what has been said earlier, that by becoming
continuous war has fundamentally changed its character.
In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or
later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat. In the
past, also, war was one of the main instruments by which human societies
were kept in touch with physical reality. All rulers in all ages have
tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they
could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair
So long as defeat meant the loss of
independence, or some other result generally held to be undesirable, the
precautions against defeat had to be serious.
Physical facts could not be ignored. In
philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make
five, but when one was designing a gun or an airplane they had to make
four. Inefficient nations were always conquered sooner or later, and the
struggle for efficiency was inimical to illusions.
Moreover, to be
efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past, which
meant having a fairly accurate idea of what had happened in the past.
Newspapers and history books were, of
course, always colored and biased, but falsification of the kind that
is practiced today would have been impossible. War was a sure safeguard
of sanity, and so far as the ruling classes were concerned it was
probably the most important of all safeguards.
While wars could be won or lost, no ruling
class could be completely irresponsible.
But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be
dangerous. When war is continuous there is no such thing as military
necessity. Technical progress can cease and the most palpable facts can
be denied or disregarded. As we have seen, researches that could be
called scientific are still carried out for the purposes of war, but
they are essentially a kind of daydreaming, and their failure to show
results is not important.
Efficiency, even military efficiency, is no
longer needed. Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought
Police. Since each of the three super-states is unconquerable, each is
in effect a separate universe within which almost any perversion of
thought can be safely practiced.
Reality only exerts its pressure through the
needs of everyday life - the need to eat and drink, to get shelter and
clothing, to avoid swallowing poison or stepping out of top-storey
windows, and the like. Between life and death, and between physical
pleasure and physical pain, there is still a distinction, but that is
Cut off from contact with the outer world,
and with the past, the citizen of Oceania is like a man in interstellar
space, who has no way of knowing which direction is up and which is
down. The rulers of such a state are absolute, as the Pharaohs or the
Caesars could not be.
They are obliged to prevent their followers
from starving to death in numbers large enough to be inconvenient, and
they are obliged to remain at the same low level of military technique
as their rivals; but once that minimum is achieved, they can twist
reality into whatever shape they choose.
The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is
merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant
animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of
hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It
eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the
special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs.
War, it will be seen, is now a purely
In the past, the ruling groups of all
countries, although they might recognize their common interest and
therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one
another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day
they are not fighting against one another at all.
The war is waged by each ruling group
against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or
prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society
intact. The very word 'war', therefore, has become misleading. It would
probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased
The peculiar pressure that it exerted on
human beings between the Neolithic Age and the early twentieth century
has disappeared and been replaced by something quite different.
effect would be much the same if the three super-states, instead of
fighting one another, should agree to live in perpetual peace, each
inviolate within its own boundaries. For in that case each would still
be a self-contained universe, freed for ever from the sobering influence
of external danger.
A peace that was truly permanent would be
the same as a permanent war.
This - although the vast majority of Party
members understand it only in a shallower sense - is the inner meaning
of the Party slogan: WAR IS PEACE.