Believe me Lady Wu I am aware that Cao Cao wasn't a communist by anymeans, I'm just more curious as to later portrayals of him having Communist sympathies
. Although, now that you mention those Marxist analyses of Cao, that does make me want to ask if you wouldn't happen to know if any actual articles or writing on that is available? I remember reading somewhere that one scholar attributed Guandu to class struggle- Cao facing off against the aristocrats, etc. etc. etc.
Dr. Crespigny's "Man from the Margin" article excellently covers the advancement of individuals from all sorts of family backgrounds. Although the article revolves mostly around Cao, it does make a great deal of reference to those you brought up, men who took advantage of the chaos of the times to break through the mold, essentially. It is true what you say, but I'm really curious why Cao is the man who gets singled out. I suppose it's just because of his "if a man has talent, I can use him" credo.
As for the popular references I was referring to, several manhua I've read, including Ravages of Time all feature Cao as desiring that "classless" society. Dynasty Warriors 6 makes the same mention, going so far as to suggest that he would retire from politics after achieving unification (I presume they derived that from his long winded excuse to holding power that he wrote after assuming...either the Dukedom or Kingship of Wei. Can't remember.) And Legend of Cao Cao Red Path (going off the translation mind you) has Cao mention that he would be perfectly happy to live in a society without Emperor's and Nobles. Obviously those statements are fictional, but I always thought it was interesting that they would portray him like that.
So far as calling him a Communist, that was just for shock affect
. Although if Obama is descended from Cao Cao....hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm