Salami tactics, also known as the salami-slice strategy, is a divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition. With it, an aggressor can influence and eventually dominate a landscape, typically political, piece by piece. In this fashion, the opposition is eliminated "slice by slice" until one realizes (too late) that it is gone in its entirety. In some cases it includes the creation of several factions within the opposing political party and then dismantling that party from the inside, without causing the "sliced" sides to protest. Salami tactics are most likely to succeed when the perpetrators keep their true long-term motives hidden and maintain a posture of cooperativeness and helpfulness while engaged in the intended gradual subversion.
The term was coined in the late 1940s by the orthodox communist leader Mátyás Rákosi to describe the actions of the Hungarian Communist Party (Hungarian: szalámitaktika). Rakosi claimed he destroyed the non-Communist parties by "cutting them off like slices of salami." By portraying his opponents as fascists (or at the very least fascist sympathizers), he was able to get the opposition to slice off its right wing, then its centrists, then the more courageous left wingers, until only those fellow travelers willing to collaborate with the Communists remained in power.
This strategy was also used in the majority of eastern European countries in the second half of the 1940s.
The term is also known as a "piecemeal strategy", as used by the Nazi Party, and Adolf Hitler to achieve absolute power in Germany in the early months of 1933. First, there was the Reichstag fire of February 27, 1933, which rattled the German population and led to the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended many civil liberties and outlawed the Communist Party and the Social Democrats. An estimated 10,000 people were arrested in two weeks, soon followed by the Enabling Act on March 24, 1933, which gave Hitler plenary power, allowing him to bypass the Reichstag and further consolidate power. Hitler and the Nazis continued to systematically establish totalitarian control by eliminating potential opponents, such as trade unions and rival political parties. They also established organizations with mandatory membership, such as the Hitler Youth, Bund Deutscher Mädel and Arbeitsdienst. The Enabling Act was renewed in 1937 and 1941. Finally, on April 26, 1942, the Reichstag passed a law making Hitler the oberster Gerichtsherr, the supreme judge of the land, giving him power of life and death over every citizen and effectively extending the Enabling Act for the rest of the war. This gradual process of amassing power and control, was called Gleichschaltung by the Nazis, but is now referred to as Salamitaktik (salami tactics).
Business and satire
The term is also used in business, where it means that someone presents problems or solutions in pieces, making it hard to see the big picture.
The term "salami tactics" was used in the British political satire, Yes Prime Minister in Series 1, Episode 1, "The Grand Design". In this episode, the prime minister's chief scientific advisor opines that the Soviets won't suddenly invade western Europe, but will annex areas slice by slice and thus Prime Minister Jim Hacker realizes he will never get to push the nuclear button to stop the Soviets.
Examples of salami tactics can also be found in the consumer marketplace, for example the planned obsolescence of automobile makers, in which newer vehicle models are introduced every year. In consumer electronics hardware and software, frequent small changes are often made to lure customers into purchasing intermediate products. Another well-known exponent of salami tactics in product pricing is perhaps the Irish airline Ryanair, which has become infamous for its headlined cheap fares to which arrays of additional costs are added slice by slice: fees are charged for baggage check-in, issuance of boarding cards, payment by credit card, priority boarding, web check-in, etc.
- Salami slicing
- The "boiling frog" metaphor
- The Les Miserables number "Master of the House", which details the innkeeper narrator's use of salami tactics to cheat customers and maximize profits
- Lingchi, better known by the English-language descriptive names "slow slicing" and "death by a [or 'one'] thousand cuts"
- Bullock, Alan, edited by Alan Bullock and Oliver Stallybrass The Harper dictionary of modern thought, Harper & Row, 1977.
- Time Magazine. "Hungary: Salami Tactics" Time Magazine (April 14, 1952). Retrieved March 15, 2011
- Safire, William, Safire's Political Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2008 (revised), p.639, ISBN 0-19-534334-4, ISBN 978-0-19-534334-2.
- William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Touchstone Edition, Simon & Schuster, New York (1990)
- Evelin Gerda Lindner, "Humiliation and Reactions to Hitler’s Seductiveness in Post-War Germany: Personal Reflections" (PDF) Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies. Retrieved March 15, 2011
- Lisa Bachelor and Nicholas Watt, Guardian, Friday 23 December 2011, Ryanair defiant over credit card surcharges crackdown
- Horvath, John. 2000. Salami Tactics, Telepolis, at Heise.de online. Retrieved July 11, 2005.