The stage scenery was invented by the Founding Fathers of the United States,with the very clearly expressed intention of keeping electoral democracy from becoming an instrument that could be used by the people to call in question the social order based on private property (and slavery!). With that in mind, their Constitution was based on (indirect) election of a president (a sort of "elective monarch") holding in his hands some essential powers. Presidential election campaigns under these conditions naturally gravitate to "bipartisanism," which tends progressively to become what it is now: the expression of a "single party." Of course, ever since the end of the nineteenth century this has represented the interest of monopoly capital, addressing itself to "clienteles" that view themselves as having different interests.
That's a mostly fair summary of Bipolarchy, though Amin may go to far to describe the Framing as a conspiracy to suppress an agitation against private property that hardly existed outside the Framers' imaginations at their most feverish. There's a certain ideological bias in Amin's protest against this system's exclusion of "a real alternative," since he doesn't really conceive of socialism as an alternative but as an imperative, but the system's exclusionary tendencies should be obvious enough to any objective observer. His Marxist bias muddles Amin's analysis. It's unclear whether the American "democratic fraud" systematically excludes radical change or simply expresses a cultural bias against it. In any event, "democracy" as practised in the U.S. and allied developed countries is simply too individualist for Amin. He prefers a state of perpetual "democratization" that can (and perhaps must) be initiated by vanguard minorities -- an "intelligentsia" as opposed to a mere (albeit demonized) "elite" like that of the U.S. Democratization as Amin means it may best be understood as democracy without constitutional constraints.
Democratization ... considered as full and complete -- that is, democratization involving all aspects of social life including, of course, economic management -- can only be an unending and unbounded process, the result of popular struggles and popular inventiveness. Democratization has no meaning, no reality, unless it mobilizes those inventive powers in the perspective of building a more advanced stage of human civilization. Thus, it can never be clothed in a rigid, formulaic, ready-to-wear outfit.
Democratization entails revolution, the seizing and use of political power. Amin thus has no use, but plenty of scorn, for those radicals who renounce "power" as an evil unto itself -- Antonio Negri is singled out for insult frequently. Democratization can also encompass a period of decentralization, though the thought may seem to go against the Marxist grain, if it means carving out a zone for revolutionary action. For instance, "There is no need to wait for permission from the actual laws to start setting up institutionalized systems (informal, maybe 'illegal'), by permanent and de facto compulsory employer/employee negotiation, for example, to impose equality between men and women, or to subject all important public or private investment decisions to thorough environmental review." In such settings, "truly meaningful elections can take place," but "only after victory, not before." Throughout, we may presume, the vanguard minority will inform us if democratization is actually happening, or if the masses are perpetrating another fraud upon themselves.
I don't propose to dispute Amin's notion that democratization may require coercion, that it may require that "the capitalist monopolies are to be expropriated, nationalized in order to be socialized." But I do worry about the heavy implication that democratization can't be a democratic process in the moral sense of the term, that the people in a capitalist economy or bourgeois culture can't be trusted to democratize themselves without guidance from a minority gifted with definitive and exclusive knowledge of what democracy looks like. Amin himself acknowledges that vanguardism is problematic, that "maintenance of centralized power in the hands of these 'vanguards' was far from uninvolved in the subsequent derailment of the 'socialist' systems that they claimed to have established." But if we can't even begin democratization without a vanguard initiative, how are we ever to know when we won't need the vanguard anymore? If democratization is "unending and unbounded," who's to say it'll ever be time for the vanguard to stand down? But before I end up looking too much like a liberal, let me close with the suggestion that we won't have to wait for a dictatorship of the proletariat to test these premises. History arguably never does without vanguards, and the democratic farce Amin deplores may well be just another case of a vanguard not knowing, even after centuries, when to step aside.