In Nineteen Eighty-Four, society is made up of three distinct social classes: the elite Inner Party, the industrious Outer Party, and vast numbers of uneducated proles. When Winston reads Goldstein's book, he learns that the history of humankind has been a cyclical struggle between competing social groups: the High, the Middle, and the Low. This theory was originated by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 19th century and became known as Marxism. Marxists believe that the aim of the Middle group is to change places with the High, which they do by enlisting the support of the Low group. After the Middle group seizes power in a revolution, they become the High and thrust the Low back into servitude. Eventually a new Middle group splits off and the cycle begins again. At various points in the narrative, Winston entertains the hope that the proles will become conscious of their oppressed state and initiate a revolution. At other times, he despairs that since the proles cannot rebel until they become conscious, and cannot become conscious until only after they have rebelled, such a development is extremely unlikely.
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Class Struggle Quotes in 1984
Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.
That, [Winston] reflected, might almost have been a transcription from one of the Party textbooks. The Party claimed, of course, to have liberated the proles from bondage. […] But simultaneously, true to the principles of doublethink, the Party taught that the proles were natural inferiors who must be kept in subjection, like animals, by the application of a few simple rules.