However Marx didn’t completely support the theory of absolute equality. This is evident in the theory of needs satisfaction where rewards should be distributed “to each according to his needs”. Here Marx shows recognition that humans have the same basic needs - however some need more than others. A young male's needs, for example, would be less that of a disabled child's. Thus, because their needs are inherently different, it would be unjust to give them the same allowance of wherewithal to achieve a similar standard of living. So, despite the need satisfaction theory, Marxists are still committed to equality of outcome. Although some may have more complex basic needs than others, everyone receives enough to maintain an equal quality of life.
Secondly, equality of outcome has been interpreted as ‘relative equality’ by social democrats and the Labour party, created in 1900. Relative equality focuses on narrowing the economic gap between the richest and poorest in society. This is achieved via a system of progressive taxation - wealth is then distributed thorough the welfare state within programmes such as the National Health Service (NHS) created in 1948. Whilst Social Democrats believe in a form of equality of outcome, they don’t believe in absolute equality. This is because, as revisionists they don’t wish to abolish capitalism, conversely to fundamentalists, they believe in a free market with a managed economy.
However, Labour’s 1918 Clause IV emphasised a “most equitable distribution” of the “fruits of...industry”. This supports the Marxist principle of absolute equality. On the other hand, Labour goes on to recognise that full equality, although perhaps desirable, could only be realised via a communist revolution by the proletariat; such as the October Revolution in Russia in 1917. Be that as it may, Labour was never a communist party - reflected as such in the same 1918 Clause IV that supported absolute equality - but instead saw to see equality of outcome persuaded only as far as "that may be possible" in a Parliamentarian context. Meaning that they did not regard some inequality as undesirable, as a means of motivation perhaps, and that they wished to achieve their goals through evolutionary means; not revolutionary ones.
Finally, equality in the old Marxist sense has all but been abandoned by New Labour and the Third Way. When we speak of equality in terms of Marxism, we refer to absolute equality. New Labour's approach to this issue can be summed up neatly by Peter Mandelson when he said, "the Labour Party is intensely relaxed about people getting filth rich as long as they pay their taxes." In essence, an unequal distribution of wealth has no negative effects for the Third Way; as long as it is 'justifiable'. Egalitarianism is therefore scaled down to a belief in equality of opportunity and meritocracy. The Gap between the rich and the poor actually increased under Tony Blair.
The case can be made, however, that the Third Way is still committed to equality through their pledge to 'social inclusion'. The 1995 Clause IV reflects this remodel of equality with the devotion to make sure "wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many" - the gap between the rich and the poor may have increased under New Labour, but it is justifiable as the poor became richer during the same period. Welfare was instead targeted on the 'socially excluded' when in 2006 Tony Blair issued his "work is good for you" message. This was a Modern Liberal approach of helping people to help themselves, the rebranding of Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance was part of this new ethos.
Overall then, the remarkable history of socialism over three century's has not been without its changes and controversies. The socialist commitment to equality has however suffered a 'rebranding' in recent, Third Way, times that it cannot recover from. The Marxist principle of absolute equality can still be seen to survive relatively unadapted in the 1918 Labour constitution, but no mention of it is made in the 1995 one - in short social inclusion has been substituted in for the traditional socialist commitment to equality in modern times. The modern socialist commitment to equality, dragged through the mud by the Third Way, is now not a commitment to true equality at all.