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.


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]

Later usage[edit]

The People's Republic of China has been found to use the Salami slicing strategy for territorial expansion against its neighbors like India, Japan and countries in the South China Sea region. Annexation of Tibet, Aksai Chin and Paracel Islands are examples where China is said to have successfully used the salami slicing strategy.[5][6][7]

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".[8]

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.[9][10] 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, Harper & Row, 1977.
  3. ^ a b c Time Magazine. "Hungary: Salami Tactics" Time Magazine (April 14, 1952). Retrieved March 15, 2011
  4. ^ Safire, William, Safire's Political Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2008 (revised), p.639, ISBN 0-19-534334-4, ISBN 978-0-19-534334-2.
  5. ^ Dutta, Prabhash K (7 September 2017). "What is China's salami slicing tactic that Army chief Bipin Rawat talked about?". India Today.
  6. ^ Chellaney, Brahma (25 July 2013). "China's salami-slice strategy". The Japan Times.
  7. ^ "China's salami slicing overdrive". Observer Research Foundation.
  8. ^ "Yes, Prime Minister - The Grand Design". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  9. ^ Béni, Alexandra (20 November 2016). "A Hungarian expression is mentioned in Arrival, the sci-fi movie of the year". Daily News Hungary. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Arrival - Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved 10 June 2018.

Further reading[edit]