Now I can't honestly say I have the solution to the problem you have outlined Barry, I get the impression your grappling with the problem of whether communism may just be organised capitalism.
To be honest I have great sympathies with the anarchist, both reformist and revolutionary, tendency to view experimentation and ad hocary as the order of the day and the system in which people find the real maximisation of liberty and equality, the exercise of the freewill, they stick with and the socially constructed "orders" dont try to stamp each other out or compete to be the true system.
In this way you can have mutualism/market socialism existing alongside minature command economies, collectivist wage systems or even complete communism with the only precondition being that each acknowledge that the others "order" is their free choice. The only concern I'd have is to ensure that one region wasnt impoverished or overly subsidised at the expense of another.
However I personally believe communism, receiving according to need, is impossible because who defines need? If someone is a junkie or an alcoholic wouldnt they just exist in some hedonistic orgy to no ones benefit and to everyones expense?