Originally published in 2004, Red Diaper Baby is James Laxer’s compelling and extraordinary memoir of growing up in a communist family during the height of the Cold War. When Jim was born in a Montreal hospital, his father was living in hiding under an assumed name. And when it came time to begin school in Ottawa, Jim was enrolled under a false birth date. Throughout his childhood he was repeatedly instructed not to tell anyone what his father did for work.
Laxer’s parents were dedicated members of the Communist Party, true believers in an ideology that was generally reviled and had been outlawed during much of World War II. From an early age, Laxer was collecting signatures on ban-the-bomb petitions, delivering Party flyers door to door, attending eccentric left-wing Camp Naivelt, and campaigning for the charismatic J. B. Salsberg, a Communist MPP in the Ontario legislature.
Dramatic, humorous, and full of period detail, Red Diaper Baby offers a rare look at the McCarthy years through the eyes of a child. It also explains a great deal about Laxer’s eventual and crucial role in the founding of the Waffle faction of the NDP, his continued engagement with the left, and his evolution into one of Canada’s preeminent intellectuals.