salami tactics

A strategy for gaining power that involves slicing away opposition slowly, gaining power without the opposition realizing until it is too late. It is also known as the salami-slice strategy.

The unusual name comes from 1940s Hungary, where Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi described his consolidation of power as “cutting [opposition] off like slices of salami.”

This strategy is most commonly associated with the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. In both, leaders slowly created laws giving themselves more power, while simultaneously demonizing opposition groups. The gradual change eventually led to authoritarian regimes.

A quote by economist Thomas Schelling, found in the Washington Post gives a metaphor for how this works: “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 put of sight, wondering whatever happened to all our discipline.”

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