Salami tactics

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Salami tactics, also known as the salami-slice strategy or salami attacks,[1] 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 it realizes, usually too late, that it is virtually 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.


It was commonly believed that the term salami tactics (Hungarian: szalámitaktika) was coined in the late 1940s by Stalinist dictator Mátyás Rákosi to describe the actions of the Hungarian Communist Party in its ultimately successful drive for complete power in Hungary.[2][3] Rákosi claimed he destroyed the non-Communist parties by "cutting them off like slices of salami."[3] 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 center, then most of its left-wing, so that only fellow travellers willing to collaborate with the Communist Party remained in power.[3][4]

However, no verified source for the origins of the "salami tactics" term has ever been discovered. According to historian Norman Stone, the term might have been invented by the leader of the Hungarian Independence Party Zoltán Pfeiffer, a hardline anti-communist opponent of Rákosi.[5]

China's salami slice strategy[edit]

Cultural references[edit]

In television[edit]

Salami tactics are discussed by the British Chief Scientific Adviser in the Yes, Prime Minister episode, "The Grand Design".[6]

In film[edit]

In the 2016 film Arrival, Agent Halpern mentions a Hungarian word meaning to eliminate your enemies one by one. It is thought that this alludes to szalámitaktika.[7][8] Indeed, this is cited in Amazon Prime X-Ray (1:07:50).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Slantchev, Branislav. "Deterrence and Compellence" (PDF). University of California at San Diego. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 9, 2018. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  2. ^ Bullock, Alan, edited by Alan Bullock and Oliver Stallybrass The Harper dictionary of modern thought Archived 2017-04-19 at the Wayback Machine, Harper & Row, 1977.
  3. ^ a b c Time Magazine. "Hungary: Salami Tactics" Archived 2008-12-01 at the Wayback Machine Time Magazine (April 14, 1952). Retrieved March 15, 2011
  4. ^ Safire, William, Safire's Political Dictionary Archived 2016-12-08 at the Wayback Machine, Oxford University Press, 2008 (revised), p.639, ISBN 0-19-534334-4, ISBN 978-0-19-534334-2.
  5. ^ Stone, Norman (2019). Hungary: A Short History.
  6. ^ "Yes, Prime Minister - The Grand Design". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  7. ^ Béni, Alexandra (20 November 2016). "A Hungarian expression is mentioned in Arrival, the sci-fi movie of the year". Daily News Hungary. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Arrival - Trivia". IMDb. Archived from the original on 8 April 2018. Retrieved 10 June 2018.

Further reading[edit]