The International Situation and the Red Army

V. Building the Air Fleet

Aviation and the Metal-Workers

From Report to the Moscow Provincial Conference of Metal-workers’ June 5, 1923

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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In the period immediately ahead, the basic technical need of the Red Army is for aircraft. We shall have, this month, Red Aviation Week, and the comrade metal-workers who are engaged in machine-building must concern themselves first and foremost with aircraft. The aeroplane is the greatest weapon of the future, as I recently wrote in Pravda. Both in the sphere of the economy and in the military sphere the destinies of peoples will increasingly depend on aviation. Already today we can imagine theoretically a raid from some base situated on our Western frontier against our Red Moscow, a raid which could in a few hours reduce to ruins the most solid governmental, trade-union and industrial institutions in Moscow. Aviation is now in a period of feverish growth. The development and perfection of aircraft, their carrying-capacity and the destructive power of the dynamite and bombs that aeroplanes take up with them, are all increasing not daily but hourly. If we assume the maximum speed as being 300 versts per hour – the best aeroplanes can do that – a squadron starting from our Western frontier could be over Moscow in a very short time, in two or three hours.

There, comrades, you have the terrible threat from aviation. There are various means of defence in the form of artillery, anti-aircraft batteries, but all these means of defence are as nothing compared with aircraft themselves. Aircraft can be fought only by aircraft. It is possible for us to develop the production of aircraft much faster than any other branch of industry, the economy or the armed forces. The aircraft industry belongs to the lighter type of industry: an aeroplane costs 12,000 gold roubles or perhaps 20-25,000, depending on the size and quality of the engines and the horse-power of these engines. The development of aviation calls neither for surfaced roads nor for railways, its realm is the air, and, despite all our poverty and backwardness, our air is in no way worse than the air over America, France or Britain. Aviation must become a truly popular, workers’ and peasants’ idea and programme, for our salvation in themiitary sense, our safeguard, lies in aviation. We need it, too, for the development of our culture. With our expenses it is hard for us to reach the peasant with literature, with newspapers: many years will pass before we can lay down railway tracks everywhere, but in an aeroplane we can reach the peasant in the remotest spots, bringing him newspapers, books – and soon. And even for transport tasks, for the carrying of heavy freight, aviation will play a colossal role. This is why I ask you to include among your concerns in your industry a concern for Red aviation, and to bring forward from among your young metal workers not only Red engineers but also Red proletarian airmen.

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Last updated on: 30.12.2006