standards of prisoner conduct, pretty much ran the clandestinencommunication system that made a prison societynpossible, planned and executed escapes, started riots onnsignal, and generally charged the bull head-on withoutncompunction. When the diehard underground choked upnthe system, had everybody refusing to do the same thingsnand thus shutting down the propaganda factory (nobody butn”willings” to be put before visiting dignitaries at pressnconferences), there were purges, where all diehards (remember,nI’m only talking maybe 25 or 30 out of maybe 300npeople), were illuminated and frequently had their bonesnbroken.nOver a period of months in 1970, it became clear tonall — not by announcement, but by deduction — thatnNorth Vietnam had given up torture as a matter of policy.nWhether the diehards or outside forces brought this about isna question, like the one Gorbachev brought up at StanfordnUniversity about who won the Cold War, that is still opennfor wrangling. This move came hard to the head commissarnwho, though left in office, became a scapegoat for hisnultimate failure to deliver mobs of chanting “Americannprisoners against the war” for Western consumption vianNorth Vietnamese movie cameras. I and other diehardsnknew this head commissar and his top henchmen well. Latenin the tough period, he had visited us regularly at a specialn”dark place” prison where most of us were by then confinednin solitary and leg irons. “There are new rules, Sto-dale,” hentold me, “but I have been assured that I can always demandnrespect and personal dignity.” And he knew that I knew himnwell enough to know exactly what he meant by those words.nAnd then what happened? Something I was totallynunprepared for. After gradual liberalization in our severalnprisons, the Son Tay raid of helicopter-borne Americanncommandos against one of those prisons — unluckily for us,nabandoned — frightened the Vietnamese so much theyncrowded us into the large cell blocks of the big downtownnHoa Lo penitentiary. After a week of sheer elation as wengreeted each other after years of separation, some of ournAmerican troops showed signs of growing restlessness in thisnlife of practically assured torture-free ease. Pockets ofnself-styled “freedom fighters” — and the following not beingncontrived, but being absolutely true — composed of then26/CHRONICLESnnnmost timid and laid back of the “partial willings” we hadnunsuccessfully been trying to arouse for years, demanded anstandoff show of force in the name of liberty.nThe “church riot” of 1971 was their game plan. Believe itnor not, though through the great and fast changes in thenconfinement regime of the previous weeks, we were beingnallowed to live together, 60 or 70 to big old cell blocks, thencommunists decreed that though we could converse freelynin small groups, no one’person could ever address a cellnblock population as a whole. (This regulation readilynconnects with their fear of those who, in their words, “haventhe innate ability to influence others,” and their fear ofnorganized resistance.) But of course among the precludednactivities were formal church services for the whole cellnblock — so church was chosen as a vehicle of defiance.nUs diehards were not congenitally built to talk ourncomrades out of spirited action, but we tried. “You can’tnstand prosperity,” I told them. The diehards knew thencommissars firsthand, and we knew in ways we could notnexplain to these neophytes fighting at last for their place innthe sun, that a reactionary crackdown that could set us backnat least a year was inevitable.nI never learned so much about human nature so fast as Indid that week as I watched the pressure building up — thentimid sitting in corners delivering “give me liberty or give mendeath” lectures to one another. They had not allowed theirnfrustrations to be relieved in the defiant abandonments ofnthe riots and face-offs when we had something to gripenabout during the hard years, but now that the word was outnthat the jailers had been de-fanged, they would be heard.nOne was known to shout “Screw Ho Chi Minh!” whenevernthe guards would deliver food. The old diehards shook theirnheads, half-snickering, half-griped, realizing we were sittingnon a bomb awaiting detonation for no purpose.nThe riot was staged and it happened. The Vietnamesencould easily sense its coming. They burst in, bayonnetsnfixed, wearing masks to counter the tear gas that pourednfrom the upper windows. The prison was clamped down.nThe next morning the prison yard was filled with fistclenchednand shouting civilians, standing room only (wenwere right downtown; they had heard the riot and werenbeing spurred on to counter-riot by their political cadres).nThe door of the cell block swung open, the names werencalled out by the supervising officer. “Sto-dale” was numbernone, followed by the senior ringleaders — most of whomnalready had had up to four years solitary as compared to ancell block average of about six months (the Vietnamesencouldn’t believe anybody could rally our compatriots butnus). We few were bound in ropes and handcuffed, paradednthrough the crowd, swung at, spat upon, then blindfoldednand taken back into the dungeons to be clamped back in legnirons for several more months. ,nCounter-riots back in the big cell blocks? Not a one.nDead silence. We later got word that playing cards had beennissued and that now bridge tournaments were becoming thenthing.nThis true story of human nature has stayed with me —nbelieve me, not with a sense of personal bitterness, but withnthanks for the opportunity to receive that rare education thatnallows me to better understand some of the events that arengoing on in many parts of the world today. ^>n