>I've heard though that local governments [in the USSR] were generally more democratic than than the national government
naturally, as it's easier to do so on a local level when we're looking at what was literally the BIGGEST country on earth, which was nowhere near the level of technological and general development (they were semi-feudal and war torn before the 20s-30s, and also WWII) to have a "more democratic" national government. the fact that this even needs to be explained—why the nature of the USSR necessitated a strong central government—demonstrates both people's inability to view things outside of abstractions not bound by material circumstance, and also general not knowing history as the soviets attempted
to decentralise and "democratise" more in the 50s-60s and it caused more problems than it fixed (sovnarkhoz.) it's not like the USSR was just some big entity that never tried working outside its box, and it wouldn't hurt for its leftist detractors to use their eyes and see "oh wow so the things i dictate a country do to be more or actually socialist was barely feasible oops."
market socialist countries still had planning. "planning" does not equal having a sole central organ like gosplan figuring the economy out; there can be several plans with various levels of importance (i.e. certain industries are prioritised and therefore must be followed closer, whereas "less important" plans are followed more loosely) as seen in yugoslavia. hungary can be considered "market socialist" at least during the NEM period but they had more of a soviet-style central plan, and china in the 80s... i don't know much about, but i assume they weren't on the level of decentralisation as yugoslavia following the 74 constitution.