Currently, humanity produces roughly $20,000 worth of value for each worker every year (this is global GDP divided by a reasonable estimate of the number of workers in the world). Of course, we know that there are many workers in imperialist countries who make more than $20,000 a year in wages. What this means plainly is that many U.S. workers (and indeed most workers in the imperialist core in general) are net-exploiters, because the only way for a portion of the population to be making more than this “abstract value of labor” is if workers somewhere else are making less. To illustrate this, let’s consider a model of only two workers. Let’s assume this model has the same level of productivity that our world does today.
These two workers together produce $40,000 of value. But in this example, one worker is being paid $30,000 in wages, which is above the abstract value of labor ($20,000). The only way Worker 1 to be paid this high wage of $30,000 is if Worker 2 is only making $10,000. The existence of Worker 1 is predicated upon the subjugation of Worker 2.
Of course reality is more complex than this. A more accurate microcosm for the world today would look something like this:
Four workers are low-wage workers in the peripheries, and one worker is a high-wage worker in the imperialist core (the specific wage levels here do roughly approximate the real-world situation). Once again, our workers are producing at the same level of productivity that they do in the real world today, so together they produce $100,000 worth of value. What portion of that is not paid out in wages to the workers is appropriated by the capitalist.
In this example, it is less immediately obvious that the living standards of Worker 1 are dependent upon the subjugation of Workers 2-5, but this is still the case. Suppose a revolution were to occur and we removed the capitalist from the equation. If Worker 1 is to keep hir wages, the best possible scenario is the following:
Even with the overthrow of the capitalist from the last example, if Worker 1 is still to make $30,000 a year, Workers 2-5 have to make $17,500. In short, the living standards of Worker 1 clearly depend upon the subjugation of the other workers. Therefore, if genuine socialism is to be established — a society that would move towards the elimination of exploitation of oppressed nations — then Worker 1 in the imperialist core would have to effectively take a wage cut.
What we can see from this is that if socialism were to be instituted today in imperialist countries, anyone making more than the abstract value of labor ($20,000 a year) — that is to say, the majority of the population in the imperialist world — would see a decrease in their material living standards.
We can also see this if we approach from an altogether different perspective. The conception of “socialism” that many self-proclaimed Marxists in imperialist countries have amounts basically to the extension of middle-class living standards to the whole population, indeed eventually to the whole world’s population. This is frankly impossible, however. If the entire world consumed at the level that the average U.S. American does, we would need several Earths’ worth of resources to sustain the current population.
Any way you slice it, if socialism were to take hold in imperialist countries today, the material living standards of the vast majority of the populations in those imperialist countries would decrease. And you can see why this kind of invalidates the strategy of most first world communist organizations. We simply cannot expect a majority of people in imperialist countries in the current state of the world to rise up, fight, and potentially die for the institution of a society that would in a very real sense decrease their access to resources and privileges.