As a grim satire, it is aimed at Stalinism (and perhaps also British Labour, whom Orwell detected authoritarian-totalitarian pre-crime). The novel's attack is partly manifest in the material conditions in which its characters live: grimy, squalid, hairy (there's a shortage of razorblades), munching paltry chocolate rations that don't taste right. It is implicitly a planned economy, and one thing it produces in abundance is lies about how much it is producing.
Mark Harrison, examining the Soviet economy in the 40s and 50s, writes:
Soviet managers worked from day to day within a target-driven culture. The Politburo set overarching priorities. From these, planners set ministerial and regional production quotas or “plans.” Ministries and local authorities distributed the plans to factories, farms, and offices. In industry, construction, and transport, quotas were usually in rubles at “fixed” plan prices. Procurement quotas for foodstuffs and timber were in units of weight or volume. The ratio of performance to plan formed the rewards and reputations of most officials and managers. [...] Did managers hide plan failure? That this was commonplace is suggested by the emergence of a specialized Soviet-era jargon. Everyone understood the verb pripisyvat’, literally “to add on” fictional goods to the report of plan fulfillment. The noun pripiska (plural pripiski) was the value of “add-ons,” the fictional goods included in the plan report [...]Orwell reviewed F.A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom in 1944, and found much to like in it. He seems to approve of Hayek's thesis that by bringing "the whole of life under the control of the State, Socialism necessarily gives power to an inner ring of bureaucrats, who in almost every case will be men who want power for its own sake." But, Orwell adds, Hayek refuses to admit "that a return to ‘free’ competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them."
The traditional nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons' is scattered throughout the novel in scraps and strains. The lyrics almost seem to soak up the novels themes and yet fail to articulate them; obfuscating and mystifying, instead of clarifying.
The malleability of human life in Nineteen Eighty-Four sets it within a tradition of posthumanist literature. The posthumanist connotations of 'last man' in the last line -- at one point Orwell's protagonist Winston is mockingly addressed as the 'last man' -- is perhaps one reason for its strange weightiness. Either way, the nursery rhyme threads the themes of money, debt, and religion right through the novel like a seam of gold:
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,And there's one other bit of another ditty that is perhaps worth mentioning:
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chip chop chip chop, the last man is dead.
Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me