Communism as activity
Equality is a vital tenet of democracy. Its starting point is the existence of individuals: it compares them from one criterion and wonders if each of them is either inferior or superior to the other according to the chosen criterion. Old-time democracy contented itself with "One man, one vote". Modern democrats will ask for equal pay, equal rights in court, equal schooling, equal access to health service, equal job offers, equal opportunity to create one's business, equal social promotion, some would say an equal share of existing wealth. As soon as we get into real social and daily life, the list becomes endless and, to be comprehensive, it has to be negative at some point : equality implies the right not to be discriminated against on account of one's sex, colour, sexual preferences, nationality, religion, etc. The whole political spectrum could be defined by how much is included in the list. Right wing liberals might limit equality rights to electoral rights, while far left reformists extend equality to a guaranteed substantial income, a home, job protection, etc., in an endless debate between personal freedom and social fairness. The rejection of, and the search for social (and not just political) equality are two sides of the same coin. The obsession with equality is born out of a world laden with inequality, a world that dreams of reducing inequality by giving more to each individual, more rights... and more money.
Equality protects individuals. We'd rather start by considering what these individuals really are, what they share or don't share. What members of society have in common or not depends on what they are doing together. When they lose mastery over the material basis of their conditions of existence, they lose their mastery over the running of their personal and group life.
Our problem is not to find how to make common decisions about what we do, but to do what can be decided upon in common, and to stop or avoid doing whatever cannot be decided upon in common. A factory run according to Taylor's methods, a nuclear power station, a multinational or the BBC will never come under the management of its personnel. Only a bank that confines itself to micro-credit can remain under some degree of control by the people working there and by those who receive its micro-loans. When a co-op operates on a scale that enables it to rival large companies, its special "democratic" features begin to fade. A school can be self-managed (by staff and pupils) as long as it refrains from selecting, grading and streaming. That is fine, and it's probably better to be a teenager in Summerhill than at Eton, but that won't change the school system.
Whoever does not situate the problem of power where it belongs is bound to leave it in the hands of those who possess power, or to try and share it with them (as social-democracy does), or to take power from them (as Lenin and his party did).
The essence of political thought is to wonder how to organize people's lives, instead of considering first what those to-be-organized people do.
Communism is not a question of finding the government or self-government best suited to social reorganization. It is not a matter of institutions, but of activity.