Based on a critique of the history project titled “Oral History of Peasants’ Ordinary Life in the Revolutionary Era of China,” this article provides an analysis of class ideology production from Land Reform Movement to the Cultural Revolution in China. Thirty years of socialist construction in China was based on the craft of making the Homo Socialist. The focus here is on how personal experiences were transformed into state-endorsed conduct via the discourse of class and class struggle. Over the course of the sociopolitical transformations leading to the Cultural Revolution, “class” changed from a socioeconomic designation to a political behavioral metaphor, and in the end a purely symbolic gesture; personal experiences were transformed from hallmarks of class privilege to virtual identification with imagined class struggle. And the peasants went from being “owners of bitterness” to “debtors of bitterness” on the way to becoming “sinners of the revolution”—who gradually submitted themselves to the regime in the name of revolution, liberation, and redemption. These transformations were realized through discursive practices connecting personally embodied experiences with the abstract Marxist theory of class and class struggle. Examining the shifting nature of class ideology production helps to explain how the Chinese Communist Party understood the effects of its governance and how people found class ideology meaningful to them, even when it reached the point of absurdity.

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