Salami slicing tactics, also known as salami slicing, salami tactics, the salami-slice strategy, or salami attacks, 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. Noting that "salami, an expensive food, is not eaten all at once, but is cut one slice at a time," Rákosi claimed he destroyed Hungary's leading, center-right, party by a "step-by-step approach ... known as the 'Salami tactic,' and thanks to it we were able, day after day, to slice off, to cut up the reactionary forces skulking in the Smallholders' Party." 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.
Salami tactics, we can be sure, were invented by a child […] Tell a child not to go in the water and he’ll sit on the bank and submerge his bare feet; he is not yet ‘in’ the water. Acquiesce, and he’ll stand up; no more of him is in the water than before. Think it over, and he’ll start wading, not going any deeper; take a moment to decide whether this is different and he’ll go a little deeper, arguing that since he goes back and forth it all averages out. Pretty soon we are calling to him not to swim out of sight, wondering whatever happened to all our discipline.
In Los Angeles, in October 1998, district attorneys charged four men with fraud for allegedly installing computer chips in gasoline pumps that cheated consumers by overstating the amounts pumped.
In 2008, a man was arrested for fraudulently creating 58,000 accounts which he used to collect money through verification deposits from online brokerage firms a few cents at a time.
In 1996, a fare box serviceman in Edmonton, Alberta, was found guilty of stealing from the city's transit agency by stealing coins from the fare box. Over 13 years, he walked away with 37 tonnes of coins with a face value of nearly CA$2.4 million, having used a magnet to lift the coins one at a time out of the fare boxes (all coins of the Canadian dollar at that time being made primarily of steel or nickel). He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and was eligible for parole after 18 months.
In Buffalo, New York, another fare box serviceman stole more than US$200,000 in quarters from the local transit agency over an eight year period (2003 through 2011). Blaming a gambling addiction for his crime, he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
China's salami slice strategyEdit
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. Indeed, this is cited in Amazon Prime X-Ray (1:07:50).
Salami slicing has played a key role in the plots of several films, including Hackers, Superman III, and Office Space. In the last-named film, the characters reference Superman III as inspiration.
In a 1972 episode of the TV series M*A*S*H, Radar attempts to ship an entire Jeep home from Korea one piece at a time. Hawkeye commented that his mailman "would have a retroactive hernia" if he found out. The 1987 TV movie Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam features a murder trial involving the transfer of fractional cents by bank employees.
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- Salami tactics - Central and Eastern Europe 1945-8