This article challenges the restrictive association of critical theory with the Frankfurt School by exploring the differential reception of Hegel by German critical thinkers on both sides of the Iron Curtain after 1945. In the West, Theodor Adorno held Hegelian ‘identity thinking’ partly responsible for the atrocities of National Socialism. Meanwhile in the East, Ernst Bloch turned Hegel into a weapon against the communist regime. The difference between Adorno and Bloch’s positions is shown to turn on the relationship between speculation, dialectics and critique. Whereas for Adorno Hegelian speculation was the root of dangerous identity thinking, Bloch saw the repression of speculative thought as a cornerstone of totalitarianism. However, it is argued that ultimately Bloch and Adorno were united in their reception of Hegel by a shared understanding that the goal of critical theory, namely the transformation of the social totality, could not be achieved without utopian speculation.