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The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized

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Det. Preston: The Governor intends to form a committee to look into the problems facing the District residents.
Cmr. Sisko: So what you're telling us is that nothing is going to change.
Preston: I wouldn't say that. But change takes time...
Sisko: You've run out of time.

After La Résistance and their Rebel Leader have defeated the existing government in The Coup or a revolution, they need to construct a new government.

The thing is, the audience came to the story for tales of valiant rebels overcoming the jackbooted heel of the oppressor, not valiant administrators overcoming the jackbooted heel of dry rot in the rubber tree farms or administering tax-collection in Mississipi... and frequently, so did the rebels.

The result is an administration that only a mother could love. Some rebels are genuinely good at running government; but under others who focus more on the "stick" than the "carrot", it will not be long 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 the new government adopting the old one's repressive methods in a misguided (and often futile) attempt to restore order. Compare Dystopia Is Hard and Won the War, Lost the Peace.

The trope name is a pun on Gil Scott-Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: After Lordgenome's defeat, the main cast is left with rebuilding aboveground civilization. Unfortunately, it turns out Hot-Blooded determination and piloting giant robots that run on enthusiasm works well in combat, but not in administration. Rossiu is left as the Only Sane Man and ends up having them man the phones during a crisis, which works as well as you'd expect. On top of that, Rossiu's comparative sanity manifests as cynical realpolitik in a setting where giant robots run on enthusiasm, meaning his decisions, which run on I Did What I Had to Do, are never the correct ones for the situation.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In the take on the Discworld by A.A. Pessimal, Reg Shoe makes many cameo appearances as a theoretical revolutionary. He meets another misfit who joins the City Watch, in this case a former revolutionary idealist from Far Überwald. Irena Politek is saved from being a Soapbox Sadie by first having undergone Witch training in Lancre, where she discovered stolid Lancre farmers are not impressed by talk of forming soviet collective farms and punch great holes in her ideals. Irena then meets Reg Shoe, and people like the strident activist Estessa Partleigh, where she realises that while people like her could win a Revolution, it would be people like Reg and Estressa, stuffed full of theory and ideals, who would then try to win the peace afterwards and make the New Order actually work. Irena saw the little problems with this and is no longer a whole-hearted communist revolutionary.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Referenced (although ultimately averted) at the beginning of Invictus when Mandela and his bodyguards read a newspaper headline by a supporter of the ousted government.
    Mandela: [reading the headline] "He may win an election, but can he run a country?"
    Jason Tshabalala: Not even your first day on the job, and they're already after you.
    Mandela: It's a legitimate question.
  • 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 infighting. The situation improved only when the English took over administration of the city.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens seems to indicate that the Rebel Alliance actually managed to avert this trope during its transformation into the New Republic. In fact, the revolution may have become too bureaucratized, with most of the Republic's senators generally considering the people who still fight against the Empire's remnants to be little more than alarmist warmongers.

  • Star Wars Expanded Universe novels from the old Star Wars Legends continuity that take 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 of course to give the heroes something to do the New Republic has frequent crises and political problems but lasts around twenty five years before merging with the Imperial Remnant to form the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, which of course had it's own problems. However, the New Republic does remain a largely stable entity due to the fact that most of the Rebellion's most influential leaders are politicians themselves and remember how the original Republic operated.
  • Implicitly averted in ColSec Rebellion. Bureaucrats like Director Galtry are actually the most willing Organization higher-ups to listen to reason and agree to bargain with the rebels.
  • Discworld:
    • 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.
    Havelock Vetinari: ... the only thing the good people are good at is overthrowing the bad people. And you’re good at that, I’ll grant you. But the trouble is that it’s the only thing you’re good at. One day it’s the ringing of the bells and the casting down of the evil tyrant, and the next it’s everyone sitting around complaining that ever since the tyrant was over-thrown no one’s been taking out the trash. Because the bad people know how to plan. It’s part of the specification, you might say. Every evil tyrant has a plan to rule the world.
    • In Night Watch when Sam Vimes gets a chance to relive 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". This is largely because he tries organizing to endure a famine at a time when merchants are just giving steak away to get rid of it before it goes bad. Vimes tries telling him he's just not made to be a revolutionary, but Reg just pulls an I Reject Your Reality.
    • The strident activist Estressa Partleigh is depicted as a woman with extreme ideas about social and personal equality in a multi-species society and is a typical Soapbox Sadie, who uses her energies campaigning for Equality for Dwarfs - a people who find her to be a bit of an embarrassment. She spends her time agitating for social equality and trying to impose an extreme form of statistics-based egalitarianism on a people who at best look at her with tolerant bemusement.
  • 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 military.
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: Defied by the Badass Bookworm Elend after Vin kills the Lord Ruler; he researches the logistics and theory of governance to the point that he needs a few lessons in assuming The Chains of Commanding and forcing people to adhere to a more equitable model of rule.
  • High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World: Although the Republic of Elm is established after a revolution against the Freyjagard Empire, it's clear that the residents have no experience working with a democratic form of government and many of the officials are either former Freyjagard nobles or Elm village leaders. Additionally, despite having nukes, they start with no respect or trust from other nations, who see them as naive upstarts with no idea how to run a government. Despite their best efforts to learn, they would have lost a trade war with the Freyjagard Empire and would have had their election hijacked by a malicious actor if it weren't for the Luminaries bailing them out. As a result, Tsukasa refuses to go back home until the Luminaries can help the republic get its act together, creating tension between him and Masato, who wants to return to Earth ASAP.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Very realistically dealt with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, as Bajor has just emerged from half a century of brutal occupation, and is ruled by a 'provisional government' made up of former self-described terrorists. Kira, who's spent her entire life as a revolutionary, starts the series more interested in fighting authority than working with any government. On the other hand, hard-line elements see the provisional government as too weak, and plot to take control to impose greater order. Dealing with these issues is an ongoing problem, particularly in the early seasons.
  • In Babylon 5, Sheridan led a successful insurrection against the despotic Earth government. But he did it by seizing military property (including a BIG space station) and making unauthorized alliances with alien governments. It doesn't help that he makes everyone else at Earthgov look bad (they were going to overthrow Clark first but the "time was never right", etc.). He's forced to resign when he returns to Earth, and future historians paint him as a 'loose cannon' at best.
    President Luchenko: The bitch of it is, you probably did the right thing, but in the wrong way-the inconvenient way. Now you have to pay the penalty for that.


  • A central theme in Hamilton: Act I is set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War, while Act II is about the first decade or so of American independence from Britain. At one point, Hamilton finds crafting unpopular policy to be more difficult than risking his life on the battlefield, to which George Washington responds "Winning is easy, young man, governing is harder."
  • In Urinetown After the pro-free flushing rebels overthrow Cladwell, Hope takes over. However, while her father's awful policies made using water an expensive privilege, they were the ONLY thing keeping the water supply stable, and everyone dies after they start freely and wantonly using up their reserves.
  • In Pippin, Pippin kills his father Charlemagne at the end of Act 1 and is crowned emperor in his place, in the hope of improving the lot of the common people by abolishing taxes and the military. However, at the beginning of Act 2, Pippin finds that these things are easier said than done, and he has to make repeated concessions until his regime is really no different from his father's. He asks the Leading Player for a Retcon, and it actually works, with Charlemagne brought back to life and Pippin left to look for meaning elsewhere.

    Video Games 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, and it happens so often ("Be reasonable — demand the impossible." was the slogan of the soixante-huitardsnote ) that it's faster to list the aversions.
  • The American Revolution was an aversion, mostly because it was closer to a secession than a complete overthrow of the existing system. 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 burgesses) and most of that governing structure survived intact at the state level. However, it still took about fifteen years to get the whole country stitched together. They also had the luck of having long borders of an ocean between them and any counter-revolutionary forces and the luxury of time to decide on the nature of the Constitution. That said, they still had a false start, as the Articles of Confederation that preceded the Constitution gave too much autonomy to the individual states, resulting in a federal government that was powerless to enforce what little authority it had, particularly with regard to taxation.
  • 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 (they even had a parliament, a bureaucracy, a foreign ministry, and collected taxes).
    • 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% of the territory).
  • India derives from the bureaucracy of The Raj. The period of transition included partitions and resulting communal violence, merging nominally independent Princely States into new governments and constructing states and provinces when before there were none. India retained the Civil Service (now called the IAS) and the Army built by the English and this allowed them to effect a transition while at the same time extending and lengthening the bureaucracy from the Civil Service (intended largely to govern so as to exploit its resources for the benefit of its rule) to a proper government (elected to represent, empower and govern all Indian people).
  • Red October inherited a government from the Provisional Government which in turn inherited the bureaucracy of the Tsar. Vladimir Lenin himself proposed a program of democratic centralism to oversee and merge the Soviets so as to introduce revolutionary professionalism. This did lead in practice to bringing in a number of former Tsarist officials and generals to help them run the army and bureaucracy. "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 a post-revolutionary communist 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.
  • Josef Stalin is an odd example. The general image projected by both Communist and Western propaganda, based solely on his ability to institute The Purge and rapid industrialization, was that Stalin turned the Soviet Union into a well-run bureaucracy. Researchers into Stalinism after the opening of the archives found out that at the height of Stalinism, Moscow had not yet set up effective communication to the Eastern points of the Soviet Union, and that such measures as collectivization and its famines or The Gulag were less an example of totalitarian evil as slapdash criminal incompetence at instituting forced modernization. The Gulag forced labor camps were attempts to forcefully migrate and industrialize different parts of the Soviet Union. It would only be in the final decades of the Soviet Union, right around the time it started to fall, that bureaucracy became efficient.
  • 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 abolition of gubernatorial elections (though they were established again in 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. This rivalry forced party members to start "Working Towards the Fuhrer", i.e. mixing their proposals and careerist goals with extreme suggestions intended to appeal to Hitler's piques.
    • 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 than about him.
  • The French Revolution began as a bureaucratic crisis. The Ancient Regime under Louis XVI had a decent bureaucracy but were politically handicapped to fix a financial crisis on account of clashes between the King and other noblemen who stonewalled the King into helping him stave off bankruptcy. This led him to convoke the Estates General, which put into power the middle-class professionals (largely lawyers) who successively installed a constitutional monarchy and then later a republic (after killing the King).
    • Most of the actual revolutionary government, especially during the Reign of Terror, were middle class, and more often than not had been lawyers before the revolution — they existed for bureaucracy. This created some tension between the Jacobin leadership (whose goals were representative democracy and centralized authority) and the Parisian street radicals, most famously the sans-culottes (a mixed group that included shopkeepers, actors, unemployed youth and the proto-working class) who wanted "direct democracy". The Jacobins adopted some of the radical demands but asserted control of the government institutions and through its wide network of clubs across France and a command of 500,000 members, they built a centralized republic that was far more powerful and bureaucratic than the Ancient Regime, one which was consolidated and exploited by ex-Jacobin Napoléon Bonaparte, as noted by Alexis de Tocqueville.
    • Anti-revolutionaries like Edmund Burke felt that the French Revolution by radically overturning centuries-old monarchical government had no traditions to appeal to, in order to create its institutions. This meant that when the Revolution tried to actually govern, it was seen as foreign and alienating to the traditional regions, especially the Vendee, who resented the state confiscating church properties while still extracting feudal rents and cancelling church charities for the poor, and then demanding conscription. This created a violent revolt in the Vendee which invited an even more violent clampdown by the republican government, who decided to Make an Example of Them by showing how much stronger its bureaucracy was.
  • 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).
  • Double subverted with The Confederate States of America. Their constitution was largely the same as the United States and most states just used their existing governments. The problem came in that the CSA gave way more power to the States than the United States did. As a result, the central government of the CSA was unable to get the states to cooperate and had The American Civil War continued, they faced the possibility of some of their states seceding from them!
  • This was the main reason Italian unification encountered so much trouble in spite of the troubles experienced by most of its opposition: while the governments of the various Italian states were for the most part weak and the Austrian Empire, which held territories in the north, was mostly preoccupied with Prussian expansionism and Hungarian nationalism, the Carbonari were little more than a loose collection of revolutionaries that could not coordinate with each other, and its offshoot Young Italy, while better organized, was unable to get any significant support in the existing bureaucracy. Tellingly, as soon as the House of Savoy-led Kingdom of Sardinian took over the unification movement the goal became realistic, coming extremely close to success in 1848 after forty-four years of Carbonari and Young Italy failures and leading to the unification of most of the peninsula in 1861.
  • In a slight bit of karmic irony, less than two years after returning to power in Afghanistan, many Taliban are sick of the grind of 9-to-5 desk jobs that running a country demands and pine for the time when they were free-ranging "freedom fighters".
  • During the United States' occupation of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, virtually all current and former members of Hussein's Baath Party were permanently barred from Iraqi government positions. At the same time, the entire Iraqi army and police force were disbanded in an attempt to completely erase Hussein's influence. This meant that the US had to rebuild Iraq's entire government and law enforcement structure from scratch, while at the same time, disgruntled Iraqi politicians and army veterans had nowhere to go but anti-US militant groups. This was widely considered to be one of the biggest reasons why the rebuilding of Iraq became such a mess.