Halliday, Fred (Simon Frederick Peter) (1946–2009), academic, writer and public intellectual, was born on 22 February 1946 in Dublin, the youngest of three sons of Arthur Halliday, a quaker shoe manufacturer, and Margaret Mary 'Rita' Halliday (née Finigan), of Dundalk. He was educated at the Marist college in Dundalk (1950–53), then in Yorkshire at Gilling prep school (1953–7) and Ampleforth College (1957–63), the last two chosen as a compromise between the beliefs of his Yorkshire-born non-conformist father and his devoutly catholic mother. Embracing a rigorously classical education, Halliday was a star debater at Ampleforth and engaged deeply with contemporary world events. He would later reminisce of his childhood spent near the Northern Ireland border, noting that northerners 'had several kinds of breakfast cereal, we had only corn flakes; they had Mars bars, we did not … Many years later I was to develop a theory of the cold war based not, as many other theories were, on nuclear weapons or strategic conflict, but on the conflict between social systems' (Halliday, in Logue, 45). Studying politics, philosophy and economics at The Queen's College, Oxford (1963–7), he was political editor of the student magazine Isis and president of the University Labour Club. He embraced contemporary Marxism, abandoning earlier thoughts of a religious vocation, and was awarded a first.
While studying for an M.Sc. in Middle East politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1967–9), Halliday absorbed his supervisor Bill Warren's critique of the Leninist under-development thesis, positing that capitalism could stimulate positive social and political developments (not least as a bulwark against fascism) and ultimately engender socialism. He was a member of the editorial board of Black Dwarf (1968–70) with Tariq Ali and Sheila Rowbotham, and his 'Students of the world unite' (in Student power (1969; ed. Julian Nagel)) surveyed student insurrection around the world. Co-founding Seven Days (October 1970), a short-lived, collectively run Marxist weekly tabloid, Halliday served as its foreign editor. He also edited Russia, China and the West: a contemporary chronicle, 1953–66 (1970) by Isaac Deutscher – whose anti-Stalinist Marxist analysis of the Soviet Union influenced many, including Halliday, in the British 'new left' – and translated from German and edited Carl Korsch's Marxism and philosophy (1970). Closely attuned to the critical insights afforded by a rigorous engagement with Marxism, Halliday denounced its doctrinaire Soviet-controlled adherents.
In 1965 he visited Tehran, having met emigrant Iranian student radicals when studying German in Hamburg earlier in the decade. His possession of opposition Marxist journals (including a translation of Che Guevara's Guerilla warfare) saw him banned from Iran. A founding fellow (1973–83) of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, rising to assistant director, he wrote various studies for its US-based parent body, the Institute for Policy Studies. He was also a contributing editor from 1977 to MERIP Reports (latterly, Middle East Report), a roving foreign correspondent for the New Left Review (NLR) through the mid 1970s, and worked as an editor (c.1971–5) for New Left Books (latterly, Verso).
Halliday's Arabia without sultans (1974) established his reputation; Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence, kept multiple copies on his desk through the late 1970s (New Yorker, 26 June 1978). Based on extensive travel and research, it dispelled 'exotic, mystified flummery about sheiks and deserts, holy places and camels' (2002 ed., p. 3) and analysed the interplay of global and regional issues within post-colonial military strategy and the political economy of oil. Iran: dictatorship and development (1979), completed in 1978, offered a detailed analysis of Iranian society and politics; running to multiple editions, it was translated into nine languages. Having not foreseen the Islamic character of the Iranian revolution, Halliday personally witnessed the crushing of independent left and liberal groups there by the forces of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini through the summer of 1979. The Ethiopian revolution (1981), co-written by Halliday with his wife, Maxine Molyneux (they married in 1979, had a son in 1985, and separated in 2006), detailed how the Derg, the left-leaning military junta, overthrew the regime of Haile Selassie. Chronicling the repression of internal and external opponents and positing Ethiopia – the only African country successfully to have resisted colonialism – as a late example of the overthrow of an absolutist regime situated within a comparison of post-colonial and revolutions in developing countries, the study marked the expanding range and breadth of Halliday's interests. (Halliday consistently used the term 'third world' across his writing; common in international relations literature, the phrase is problematic in development studies.)
Having commenced a Ph.D. in international history at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1978, and becoming a visiting fellow at its Centre for International Studies (1982–3), Halliday was a temporary lecturer in international politics there (1983). Resigning from the NLR editorial board (c.1983) in protest against its insular dogmatism, Halliday continued to write for the Review, frustrated with the introspective nature of what he termed 'left enclosures', especially the absence of self-critical examination. In 1985 he was appointed to a newly created chair of international relations at the LSE. That same year he was awarded his Ph.D.; his thesis on aspects of South Yemen's foreign policy in 1967–82 was expanded and published as Revolution and foreign policy: the case of South Yemen 1967–1987 (1990). His scholarly versatility and prolific public commentary won acclaim from colleagues across the ideological spectrum and he continued to publish regularly. Arabs in exile: Yemeni migrants in urban Britain (1992) examined the syncretic behaviours of the oldest muslim community in the UK. Rethinking international relations (1994) sociologically addressed the world in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse. Islam and the myth of confrontation (1996) emphasised the diversity of the muslim world (stressing religious variation, ethnic rivalry, and military and economic tensions) and advanced an unapologetic secular belief in the universalism of equality, democracy and human rights. Halliday shared Bill Warren's deep suspicion of nationalism, noting that 'I owe much of what I feel about international relations to having been born and brought up in Ireland, not least my scepticism about nationalists, clergymen and merchants of identity' (Middle East Report obit). Drawing on his LSE colleague Ernest Gellner's sociological location of nationalism as a product of modernity, Halliday rejected Marxism as a set of answers, while continuing to deploy its analytical framework.
Influenced by Hannah Arendt's evocation of the innate centrality of war and revolution to the twentieth century, Halliday's M.Sc. course at the LSE on 'revolutions and the international system' was the first of its kind worldwide and informed his Revolution and world politics (1998). A cross-comparative analysis of the French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban and Iranian revolutions, positing revolutions as integral to understanding societal change alongside the broader dynamics of the international order, it was criticised by realist scholars for failing to offer a grand sociological theory of revolutions; Halliday did not believe such a theory of revolutions to be possible. Having outgrown catholicism and Marxism, his greatest strength lay in his expansive worldview, based on wide-ranging travel and deep engagement with vernacular languages and cultures.
In chronicling the influence of events in developing countries upon the wider cold war, and stressing that social progress (the student and civil rights movements; recognition of women's and gay rights) emanated not from the Soviet bloc but from America, Halliday argued that communism's greatest legacy may be its moderating effect on its foe: inducing an expanded suffrage, the welfare state, and the end of colonialism. He maintained that communism's failure was necessary owing to its absence of an autonomous ethical dimension and its inability to respect individual liberty or delineate the legitimate use of force by the state (he also denounced its repeated accommodation with nationalism). Disdainful of fashionable academic theory, while recognising the value of critical approaches, he decried post-modern navel-gazing.
In The Middle East in international relations: power, politics and ideology (2005), Halliday debunked conceptions of a 'greater Middle East', rejecting monolithic representations of Islam, muslim-majority states and the Arab world. Lambasting both Edward Said's 'orientalism' (positing western perceptions of Islamic culture as primitive and monolithic) and Samuel Huntington's 'clash of civilisations' theses, and sceptical of the efficient-markets hypothesis of the 1990s, Halliday stressed the persistent centrality of the nation state in opposition to both the Marxist critique of imperialism and neo-liberal 'globalisation'. His later work, self-consciously Habermasian, focused on expounding a conception of internationalist solidarity based on unmitigated respect for the absolute nature of human rights: 'I feel much happier with a copy of the UNDP Human development report than with the New Left Review' (quoted in Salmagundi interview).
His extensive publications (comprising over twenty books, eighty book chapters and one hundred journal articles), journalism (writing, inter alia, for the Financial Times, Guardian, New York Times, New Statesman, New York Review of Books, The Times, and the TLS), and broadcasts on UK, European and Middle Eastern media reached a substantial public audience. He was a key progenitor of gender awareness in international relations and a founder of the LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights. His essays published on the openDemocracy website (2004–09) were collected by Yale University Press as Political journeys (2012). Highly attuned to the political use of language, he had an expansive repertoire of satirical humour gleaned on his travels and emanating from his fluency in the major European languages alongside Russian, Persian, Arabic, Amharic and Catalan. He was unafraid of reconfiguring his thinking and rigorously grounded his work in evidence, often remarking 'At my funeral the one thing no one must ever say is that “Comrade Halliday never wavered, never changed his mind”' (Linfield, 'Journeys'). A brilliant researcher and inspirational teacher, he was a fellow of the British Academy (2002), and resigned in 2008 from the LSE to become ICREA research professor at IBEI (Barcelona Institute for International Studies). One of his last acts was unsuccessfully to advise the LSE against accepting a donation from Saif Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator's son. After enduring cancer, Halliday died on 26 April 2009 in Barcelona. His personal archive is housed in the LSE library, which has compiled an exhaustive bibliography of his works (1965–2011).