The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized

"It cannot be ignored that the people who set the standards for what reasonable and appropriate protest consists of are, inevitably, the exact fuckers who are being protested against."

After La Résistance and their Rebel Leader have defeated the existing government, they need to provide a new one.

The thing is, the audience came to the setting for a story of valiant rebels overcoming the jackbooted heel of the oppressor, not valiant administrators overcoming the jackbooted heel of dry rot in the rubber trees or a natural disaster in Mississippi... and frequently, so did the rebels.

The result is an administration which only a mother could love. Some rebels are genuinely good at government; but under others, it will not be long at all before the populace starts wishing for the good old days of The Empire, when many things were bad, but at least the trains ran on time. The odds of The Remnant coming back begin to increase, as do the odds of La Résistance adopting The Empire's methods in a probably-futile attempt to restore order. Compare Dystopia Is Hard.

The title of this article is a pun on The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron, in case you didn't know.


Anime and Manga

  • In Lawrence of Arabia, the Arab National Council that forms after the occupation of Damascus qualifies. The tribesmen who fought alongside Lawrence had no experience with technology, urban administration, or modern politics, and soon found themselves unable to oversee a modern city. For example, the city's damaged electrical generators could not be repaired because the tribesmen had no engineers. Also, the Damascus hospital was full of dead and dying Turks with no running water, as the Arabs had no doctors and insufficient technological training to restore the city's water pumps. To make matters worse, the tribal chieftains leading the council quickly descended into childish inflighting. The situation improved only when the English took over administration of the city.

  • Star Wars Expanded Universe novels that takes place after Endor frequently note that because of the sheer size of galactic bureaucracy, the Rebellion, as it becomes a formal government, often has to leave the bureaucrats in place, even when they try reworking the structure. And then, when they become the New Republic, they last about twenty-five years before merging with the only people in the galaxy who know how to run something more complex than a lemonade stand. Much of this is Borsk Fey'lya's fault, as the New Republic functioned fairly well for its middle decade, but when a hundred hostile star systems can paralyze a galactic government, there is something more fundamental going wrong.
    • Also, keep in mind that the New Republic actually did fare all right between the signing of the treaty with the Imperial Remnant and the beginning of the Vong War. The problem was that Fey'lya was elected Chief of State and many former rebels, competent administrators and military personnel, had long since been killed or had retired. A new generation of bureaucrats came to power and boy did they blow it. This can be traced to the fact that the New Republic was a much looser parliamentary republic than even the Old Republic, probably because of the high number of anti-militarists and former separatists that formed the initial rebellion. Secession was permitted and the Republic was very hesitant to put its foot down (even in the face of obviously evil enemies). The New Republic basically proved that the galaxy was no place for Wide Eyed Idealists.
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress has this happen.
  • Discussed in Guards! Guards!, where Lord Vetinari points out that the only thing the "good people" are good at is overthrowing the bad people. One day it's the joyous overthrow of the tyrant, then it's everyone complaining that ever since the tyrant was overthrown no one's delivering the coal anymore. Notably, in Night Watch when Sam Vimes gets a chance to re-live a revolution that occurred earlier in his life, he spends most of his time trying to keep things as stable as possible.
    • And then there's Reg Shoe, who tries so very hard to get a bureaucratic system set up where everyone gets a fair share, and is unilaterally told to shove off in the time-honored Ankh-Morpork way of "first come first to steal". Vimes tries telling him he's just not made to be a revolutionary, but Reg just pulls an I Reject Your Reality.
  • The later Wheel of Time books give this as a big part of the reason for the success of the Seanchan invasion: After years and years of noble Houses overthrowing one another and tearing down all reminders of their predecessors every time, the ordinary people of some countries leap at the chance of some order and stability.
  • Averted in the Red Mars Trilogy. Although it takes a while to get it working smoothly, a functional Martian Government does arise out of the revolution in 2128. Justified in that before the revolution took place, a great deal of the time was spent thinking out what kind of government and society would take over from the transnats.
  • Inverted in Vorkosigan Saga. The pressure of the Cetagandan invasion is one of the main reasons Barryar is able to bureaucratize efficiently by forcing increased improvement in the Barryaran millitary.

Live-Action TV
  • Played with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Bajoran government is often portrayed as cranky and incompetent and many former revolutionaries have trouble adjusting. Kira is an example of this and she often has problems doing such things as laying down the law (especially in situations where she thinks it unjust but not worth rebelling against, such as an old man having his property confiscated for a public infrastructure project), and cooperating with the federation, who are not as vicious as the Cardassians but are still in her mind an arrogant foreign power. It is not so much that Bajor has a problem bureaucratizing but that individual Bajorans do.


  • In Urinetown After the rebels overthrow Cladwell, Hope takes over. However, her father's awful policies were the ONLY thing keeping the water supply stable, and everyone dies

Video Games

Real Life
  • This trope is so common that it's faster to list the aversions.
  • The American Revolution was an Aversion, mostly because it was intended as a secession and not a complete overthrow of the existing system. What helped massively was the fact that the colonies were essentially self governing before the war, most of the rebels had experience working in that government at relatively high levels (Jefferson was a governor, Washington was part of the Virginia ruling class and house of burghesses) and most of that governing structure survived intact at the state level. However it still it took about fifteen years to get the whole country stitched together.
  • The Zionists were another Aversion. That is because they had already been a de facto protectorate of The British Empire for a long time, with all the institutions of state in place (the even had a parliament, a bureaucracy, a foreign ministry, and collected taxes).
    • Current Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has basically the same plan for Palestine, despite the fact that the Palestinian government has very little actual power (Israel controls most of its revenues and natural resources, and has military rule of over 82% the territory).
  • Much of India simply took The Raj and replaced its leadership. Even so there was a short period of lawlessness before the system got working again. The transition was made easier because India had in fact always been semi-independent anyway and had even undergone a similar transition from John Company rule to Crown rule after the sepoy rebellion.
  • The most infamous example is, of course, good 'ol Uncle Joe, who turned the Soviet Union into such a well-run bureaucracy that he could and frequently did run the country from his holiday dacha in the Crimea, hundreds of miles from Moscow, and was still well informed of the political situation. He ousted Trotsky and took over the Party via a mastery of the bureaucractic machinery, using his position as General Secretary to strategically lever many of his cronies into key positions of power in the years beforehand; though, despite Trotsky's later protests, he and Lenin had done a lot to bureaucratize the USSR already. Stalin merely took it to the next level, because that's what he was best at. It devolved into a rather less competent, if more open and fairer one following his death.
    • Even then, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government and had to set up a new bureaucracy and found the Red Army, they were forced to bring in a number of former tsarist officials and generals to help them run it.
      • "Bourgeois experts" were supposed to be carefully watched by the Cheka. Lenin consoled himself with the thought that most managers were of proletarian origin.
    • Because post revolutionary society was supposed to have no bureaucracy or officials, odd euphemisms like "apparat", "active party members" (or "activists") and, in China, "leading cadres" were invented.
  • Another, very different aversion is The New Russia. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the number of Russian bureaucrats increased tenfold, corruption skyrocketed and the country turned into a bureaucratic quagmire, forcing Putin to personally oversee anything that needed to be done pronto.
    • One of the notable changes is the abolishing of gubernatorial elections (though they were established again since 2012). All governors were assigned by the Kremlin. Then again, most of them were corrupt and made millions by embezzling government funds.
  • Nazi Germany, by contrast, was a bureaucratic nightmare since Hitler allowed, even encouraged, his minions to set up rival bureaucratic empires that often did the same job as each other; the Party, and later the SS, both competed with the German state to basically become the new government, or perhaps a "state within a state" in the case of the SS.
    • The Nazis billed their takeover as a kind of democratic revolution and they certainly sought to fundamentally change the very nature of society, but the "administrative mess" part was mostly due to Hitler's "divide and conquer" approach to leadership, though combined a bit with Nazi Social Darwinist philosophy.
    • Also like many ideological movements Nazis had a prejudice against the traditions of the old regime and its members. Adolf Hitler for instance hated his generals. Too many were old fashioned Prussian upper-class who had the audacity to care more about Germany then about him.
  • The French Revolutionary government could be looked at either way depending on things like which faction was in power at the time. At some times they were apt to put ideological purity before efficiency, at other times the bureaucracy was more efficient then that of the Ancient Regime. Some actually thought it too efficient; Upper Class Twits could be brutal but not all were and at least they did not make Conscription demands which could make a farm village into a ghost town if too zealously applied.
    • Furthermore, most of the actual revolutionary government, even during the Reign of Terror were relatively well-off, middle class, and more often than not had been lawyers before the revolution - they existed for bureaucracy. The ordinary Parisian people or sans-culottes who had actually made the revolution, on the other hand, were generally poor, working-class and often went without basic necessities during the revolutionary years and as a consequence of this they hated the bureaucratic tendencies of the government.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville argued that the French Revolution was a complete aversion of this trope. French kings spent a thousand years trying to sidestep unruly nobles and gain direct control over their kingdom through their own bureaucrats. After ten years' worth of upheaval and violence following 1789, all of France lay under direct control of Paris, through the national bureaucracy.
  • This trope gets double subverted by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. While extremely well-organized and with a long history of political activity, their extremely short reign was plagued by police brutality, human rights abuses, corruption, increasing instability, and tension between the presidency and almost every other official institution in the country.
  • This was averted when Norway got its independence from Sweden. After Norway lost the Swedish-Norwegian War, they were allowed to keep their own constitution and parliament, as well as pretty much run themselves. The only exception was foreign policy, which was run by Sweden. When they gained independence, all they had to do was establish a foreign ministry and decide if they should be a monarchy or a republic. (They opted for monarchy, and brought over a junior Danish prince to be king.)