The World remains far from the ideal. Income and wealth inequality are probably the most talked about today, but are not necessarily the most serious. There is also status, power, gender, and racial inequality.
Capitalism in its contemporary form concentrates wealth in a capitalist elite, sometimes referred to as the 1%, while incomes for the majority of the population, sometimes referred to as the 99%, remain stagnant with increasing unemployment. This situation is not sustainable, a situation which is obvious even to advocates of capitalism.
Consciousness of inequality
The Occupy Wall Street mass protests and the Occupy movement focused attention on inequality resulting in increased attention to inequality in the United States by both the general public and critical commentators.
In a poll of 1,166 adults in the U.K. conducted by Research Now in October 2013, `some 67% agreed that "the rich have too much influence over where this country is headed" - 37% saying that they agreed "strongly" with the statement - against just 10% who disagreed, 2% of them strongly.' (Reported by Graeme Wearden in The Guardian, 20 January 2014).
Socialism will be a system of society based on the common ownership of the means of production. Common ownership will be a social relationship of equality between all people with regard to the control of the use of the means of production. This establishes a classless society. Socialism does not mean equality of income or reward, nor does it mean equality by a re-distribution of personal wealth.
Contrary to popular myth, Marx and Engels did not frame their arguments for socialism in terms of material equality. In fact they rejected demands for levelling down as "crude communism". As Allen Wood has pointed out, they did not criticise capitalism because poverty is unevenly distributed, but because there is poverty where there need be none, and that there is a privileged class which benefits from a system which subjects the majority to an artificial and unnecessary poverty. And in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), Marx argued that communism would run along the lines of "From each according to ability, to each according to needs". This is not an egalitarian slogan. Rather, it asks for people to be considered individually, each with a different set of needs and abilities.
Economic inequality data
- The World's richest 85 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3½ billion. (Source: Oxfam, 2014)
- The World's richest 1% have 65 times as much wealth as the World's poorest 3½ billion (Oxfam 2014).
- The wealth of the World's richest 1% is $110 trillion, which is more than half of total wealth (Oxfam 2014).
- In the United States, the wealthiest 1% captured 95% of post financial-crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90% became poorer (Oxfam 2014).
- Page 12, Basics of Marxist-Leninist Theory
- "We have to do better on inequality" opinion by Lawrence Summers in The Financial Times November 20, 2011
- "Survey Finds Rising Perception of Class Tension" article by Sabrina Tavernise in The New York Times January 11, 2012
- "Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor" Report by the Pew Research Center, January 11, 2012
- An A to Z of Marxism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Graeme Wearden, `Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world'. The Guardian, January 20, 2014. 
Oxfam, 2014, Working for the Few. oxfam.org (6 pages).
World Top Incomes Database.  Accessed 2014.