The Cultural Revolution was a nightmare for lower caste families. The CCP expressed an unprecedented interest in the family political status of Chinese citizens during that traumatic period. "Class" origin and "class" struggle were stressed by Chairman Mao Zedong and his loyal followers. 1 If necessary, Red Guards would trace at any costs the family tree of a person to uncover his or her caste status. They would organize an investigation team going all the way to the person's hometown to retrieve information about the "class" background of his or her parents.
Thus, using ambiguous "class" labels to sidestep a person's real family political status identity became difficult and risky. Before 1966, some lower caste people in urban areas maintained that their caste label was "staff member" (zhiyuan) or "department store clerk" (dianyuan). It was revealed during the Cultural Revolution that these people's "class" label was actually "capitalist". They were punished accordingly for deceiving the government.
The Red Guards' interest in caste origins was motivated by the rationale that although the upper caste middle class people might have become "capitalist roaders within the CCP" or "bourgeois academic authority figures", they could be reformed as revolutionaries again because of their good caste standing. In contrast, the 1949 Communist victory took away the political and economic power of the exploiting class, people of the lower caste must loathe the socialist regime and were reactionaries by nature.
As a matter of fact, before 1966, the CCP already carried out the "class struggle" policy against the "five bad elements" (people of the lower caste lower class) as mentioned in Chapter 5. What is unique about the Cultural Revolution was the Red Guards' interest in the "class" origins of the lower caste middle class people. The Red Guards believed that the lower caste middle class people had "disguized" themselves as revolutionaries or academic authority figures. The Red Guards asserted that because of their official posts in the civil service and the education sector, the lower caste middle class people were in a good position to reclaim their "class" power and privileges and to restore capitalism in China. To the Red Guards, family political status counted for everything, occupational standing did not.