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Life and career
Laxer joined the Communist Party of Canada during the Great Depression. He worked as a freelance journalist until 1941 when he joined the Canadian Army and served during World War II. Upon returning to Canada in 1947, he became a paid organizer for the Communist Party's successor, the Labor-Progressive Party. Following the Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the accusations by Nikita Khrushchev of crimes by Joseph Stalin, and the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, Laxer joined many other disillusioned Communists in resigning from the party.
He returned to school and ultimately obtained a doctorate in clinical and learning psychology from the University of Toronto. From 1960 to 1964, he was a lecturer in the University of Toronto's department of psychology and a clinical psychologist at Toronto General Hospital.
In 1969, he joined his son, James Laxer, and Mel Watkins to form the Waffle, a socialist group within the New Democratic Party. Through the 1970s, he wrote numerous articles and books advocating Canadian economic independence from the United States and, in particular, Canadian ownership of the oil industry. He was appointed by Pierre Trudeau to the board of directors of Petro-Canada which had been created as a state-owned crown corporation, in part, due to Laxer's arguments.