After five or six days Rubashov faints during an accusation as they’re talking about his motives. A few minutes later he comes to as the doctor is pouring water on his face, recommending that he be taken outside. Expressionless, Gletkin orders Rubashov back to his cell, and then he’s taken to the yard to exercise. Rubashov feels intoxicated by the fresh air, and he marvels at how he’d taken this for granted before.
Rubashov hasn’t yet fallen as a result of his low-level physical torture, but here his body itself gives out, regardless of Rubashov’s attempts to conquer it. Gletkin recognizes that if Rubashov is to be useful to the Party, he has to remain alive long enough for a public trial.
Rubashov walks next to the peasant again, who says he hasn’t seen Rubashov for a while. He muses on memories of his village, and how happy he once was there. Then, Rubashov asks if the peasant remembers the story in the Bible about the tribes in the desert crying that they should return to Egypt. The peasant nods eagerly, but then they’re brought back inside.
Rubashov has grown increasingly interested in relating the current-day situation to an earlier Biblical framework: here, he implicitly suggests that he wishes the Party could turn back the clock, and that the revolution perhaps wasn’t worth it.
Rubashov is taken back to Gletkin’s room, and he realizes it’s only been an hour. This question of motive is the final one, Gletkin says: afterward Rubashov will be able to rest. Rubashov, though, says that Gletkin knows his motives. Rubashov wasn’t in the service of a foreign power or subject to a “counter-revolutionary mentality.” He acted according to his own conscience. Gletkin pulls out Rubashov’s diary from his drawer, reading what he wrote about how the person in the wrong must pay, and the person in the right will be absolved. Rubashov asks why everything he’s signed and said isn’t enough: after all, he himself is a piece of Party history that Gletkin is now defiling.
Rubashov makes a final case for himself, admitting that he was part of the opposition in terms of his thoughts and ideas, but that this very independence of conscience should convince Gletkin of his innocence with regard to the charge against him. Rubashov also brings up the importance that he places in history. Like Kieffer, he still cares about the trajectory of the Party over time, so much so that he still finds it difficult to believe that the new leadership is willing to simply wipe out this history.
Gletkin again cites from Rubashov’s diary, saying that repetition and simplification is necessary for the masses. Gletkin tells him that his trial testimony will be his last service to the Party. For the first time in history, a revolution will keep, not just conquer power. They thought that the rest of the world would follow them, Gletkin says, but a wave of reaction ensued: they’ve had to liquidate the adventurers who wanted to risk everything to promote the revolution abroad, like Rubashov. For now, the leader recognizes that the Party’s only duty is to preserve itself. They’ve had to betray friends and compromise with enemies to do so: only aesthetes and moralists fail to understand this.
Rubashov, unlike Gletkin, is able to hold contradictions and tensions within his mind without driving towards crushing them under the foot of power: Rubashov has indeed written some things with which Gletkin would agree, but he’s also strayed far from the official Party line. Gletkin’s next words recall in some ways Ivanov’s statements about this revolution’s staying power, and all the sacrifices that must be made in order to ensure that it does survive.
Gletkin continues that Rubashov’s faction is destroyed, and now the Party can continue united. Rubashov’s task is to avoid awakening sympathy for the opposition, and to make himself seem contemptible with the Party, rather than to try to explain his complicated motives. Rubashov says he understands. Gletkin reads from Rubashov’s diary that if he is right, he has nothing to repent of, and if he is wrong, he’d pay: he’s wrong and must pay, Gletkin says. The Party only promises that one day, long after the victory, the secret archives will be published, and sympathy will be granted to the old guard.
Now Gletkin begins to coach Rubashov on how he should act during his trial, what precisely his role should be in serving the Party even up to his execution. Ironically, Gletkin claims to know that Rubashov was “wrong and must pay,” when the very conclusion of Rubashov’s notes were that only the arc of history, beyond any one person’s life, will be able to reveal that.
Rubashov signs the statement, and looks up to the portrait of No. 1, remembering the look of knowing irony he’d given him the last time they’d met. Gletkin says Rubashov won’t be bothered until the trial, and asks if there’s anything else he wants: just sleep, Rubashov answers. When Rubashov leaves, the stenographer congratulates Gletkin. Gletkin says that the lamp, plus lack of sleep and exhaustion, is all that was necessary.
Rubashov finally capitulates. Fittingly, this happens under the watching eyes of No. 1, whose portrait’s pervasive presence underlines the leader’s grip on total power. It does seem that the new tactics have succeeded, though Gletkin and the stenographer pay no attention to Rubashov’s own intellectual basis for his decision.