After the chocolate ration is reduced from 30 grammes per week to 20, the Ministry of Truth puts out the claim that it has been increased to 20 grammes (its supposed previous level is not stated).

Later on, Winston hears a reporter/newsreader on the telescreen claiming that spontaneous gatherings of people have formed and demonstrated, purely to thank Big Brother for this:

For the moment he had shut his ears to the remoter noises and was listening to the stuff that streamed out of the telescreen. It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be REDUCED to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it.

Now, at first, this seemed like more fake news of the sort Minitrue routinely puts out. However, it seems odd that this is talking with approval about spontaneous activity which was ostensibly not done at the instigation of the Party. The Party doesn't want people thinking for themselves, or making decisions for themselves, even if they decide to enthusiastically express support for its policies. (Note as an example Syme and his eventual fate. And, I suppose, Parsons as well.)

Thinking about it, I seem to remember somewhere reading an article - or a very old interview with Orwell - or the script for some adaptation of the book - in which some more backstory to this was given:

  • Factory workers, angry at the reduced chocolate ration (the loss of one of their few comforts under the Party regime) had downed tools and stormed out into the streets to protest against this.

  • They certainly weren't fooled, or cowed into doublethink, by the use of the word "increase". Partly because the Inner Party hadn't put as much effort into controlling and intimidating the so-called "proles" as it had into making the lives of the Outer Party miserable.

  • "In-universe", the decision was made by someone working at Minitrue to mention the demonstrations in a telescreen broadcast, but to make a false claim as to their nature, to get the Party version of events out to anybody who'd witnessed the demonstrations. Which would be rather hard to ignore if you'd walked into the middle of one!

  • Out-of-universe, this was Orwell's way of showing that however beaten-down, obedient and doublethinking Winston's peers might be, the "proles" would not so readily accept having the Party "p*ss on their leg and tell them it was raining". So an uprising originating from the working class, as opposed to someone like Winston, might still occur in the future. They'd probably put up with several impositions of hardship like this, but this straw temporarily broke the camel's back.

I've been googling and I cannot find this article, if indeed it ever existed. Does anyone know if Orwell did indeed say these things, or commit them to print? I might just be misremembering a critic giving their opinion on that section of text.


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